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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, canto 2, chapter 4, part 2

Continuation of my review of Gopīprāṇadhan Dāsa's rendering of Sanātan Goswāmī's 'Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta'

2.4.107 Gopīprāṇadhan says in his commentary: "Second, the Personality of Godhead, for His various pastimes, requires different moods in His devotees." Sanatana Goswami simply says vicitra bhagaval līlānusāreṇa - 'This variety is there to facilitate the Lord's versatile pastimes'- nothing mentioned about any mood being required from (commanded to) a devotee.

2.4.117, purport: Śrī Maitreya describes this in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.11.38):

kālo’yaṁ dvi-parārdhakhyo nimeṣa upacaryate
avyākṛtasyānantasya anāder jagad-ātmanah

“The duration of the two parts of Brahmā’s life is calculated to equal one nimeṣa [less than a second] for the beginningless Soul of the universe, the unchanging and the unlimited.”
Gopīprāṇadhan writes that this scale of comparative time is only metaphorical, and here he is completely right because material time does not affect either the Lord or His abode, they are already called avyākṛta, immutable, in this verse. Sanātan Goswāmī does not discuss the metaphorical status of this śloka but his comment is interesting anyway - etad api tatra bhagavan madhuratara līlā rītyānusāreṇaiva kevalam upacāra mātraṁ na tv ayam api tatratyānām āyur gaṇana prakāraḥ avinaśvaratādi svabhāvakatvāt " 'There is no increase or decrease of time in Vaikuṇṭha - it is always there. Still, according to the Lord's sweeter pastimes there is counting of time- but that does not include counting the lifespan of the residents of Vaikuṇṭha - they are naturally indestructible." At any rate, statements like in this śloka must be metaphorical since God and His realm cannot be measured in terms of material time and space. There are also statements in Purāṇas and Upapurāṇas about supposed distances to travel to Goloka, that obviously just serve to give an indication that it is hard to reach. There is of course no rocket that could ever bring us physically to a place which is attainable only through pure devotional surrender, so such verses are obviously metaphorical. The Bhāgavata verse even ends with the words anāder jagad-ātma, the Lord is beginningless. Enough said. No lexicon gives 'planet' as the meaning of the word 'loka', or vice versa.

2.4.142-3, verses: "Having each attained sameness with a particular form of the Lord, they (the Lord's associates in Vaikuṇṭha) have gained the opulences of various kinds of bodies, as sages, demigods, fish, tortoises, human beings, and mystic seers. Some have become hogs, man-lions, or dwarfs, and some have three eyes, four arms—or thousands of eyes like the Mahāpuruṣa.

2.4.144 The translation of the quoted Bhāgavat-verse is not so good - the Lord is not 'sky-blue'. śyāma means indigo, deep purple, raincloud-colour instead.

2.4.147, purport: "Lord Nārāyaṇa has four arms and a dark-blue complexion, but because devotees are attracted to Him in other forms, the Lord’s all-powerful personal energies enable devotees to see Him in whatever forms they like. Thus in Vaikuṇṭha each devotee can cherish the Supreme Lord in his own way."

2.4.152  Even a lack of niṣṭhā is awarded: "Devotees not exclusively attracted to one form of the Lord, those whose affection is not focused on a single appearance of His, are ready to serve Him in any form." Commentary: Some devotees are attracted to all of the Supreme Lord’s appearances. Those devotees serve any one form of the Lord of Vaikuṇṭha, without any preference as to which. Other devotees are attracted to serving two, three, or several particular forms." The next verse explains what happens to them: "(And, ye ca) Some devotees dedicated themselves to the eight-syllable mantra or some other mantra for the husband of Lakṣmī, and when those devotees left their material bodies they all obtained the shelter of this Vaikuṇṭha."

2.4.157 The commentary gives a fascinating list of famous avatāras that appeared up to 5 different times, performing all kinds of līlās and duties.

2.4.155-157 Deities are also transcendental avatāras of the Lord.

2.4.158, Commentary: The Personality of Godhead is a vast ocean of many different moods of loving exchange. His various devotees respond to His various pastimes by developing individual varieties of ecstasy, and the Lord reciprocates with these ecstasies by showing Himself in different ways. His devotees are concerned with Him alone, and therefore whenever a devotee becomes extremely anxious to see Him in a particular form, the Lord at once shows that form to the devotee. These appearances of the Lord, although apparently ad hoc, are in fact eternal, real, and all-pervading.

2.4.187 The word avatārī ['origin of the avatāra'] in the purport seems to be in terms of aiśvarya, not in terms of who is the original Godhead, Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu.

2.4.210-211 Sanātan preaches deity-worship: "One can reach perfection by honoring even a blade of grass—provided one sees within it the presence of the Supreme Lord—or by just once uttering or hearing even a faint semblance of the Lord’s name. How then can one find fault in worshiping the Deity, in whom the Lord personally appears [adhiṣṭhāna], who evokes remembrance of the Lord, who has been consecrated by mantras, and who is the receiver of all kinds of devotional service?" The word adhiṣṭhāna in the text means 'base, abode, stand-by', the word mantra-saṁskṛte means 'consecrated by mantras' and the word smāraka means reminder. It does seem that there is an ādhibhautik aspect to the deity, an object of wood or metal, which is being spiritualized, not, as some devotees believe, that the deity itself is spiritual. arce viṣṇau śīlā-dhiḥ means 'the attitude [dhi] that the deity is a clump of stone instead of the Lord Himself appearing in a tangible form'. So it is the attitude towards the deity that counts.

2.4.212 Not every deity worshipper is a neophyte as described in SB 11.2.47 - a proper pūjārī can be madhyam or uttam adhikārī as well, it depends on the individual. Sanātan Goswāmī confirms this in verse 218: "When the Purāṇas and other scriptures make statements that belittle Deity worship, you should understand that all such statements refer to those particular [materialistic] worshipers, not to all devotees."

2.4.215, commentary quotes Śrīmad Bhāgavat 4.31.21 -


na bhajati kumanīṣiṇāṁ sa ijyāṁ
harir adhanātma-dhana-priyo rasa-jñaḥ |
śruta-dhana-kula-karmaṇāṁ madair ye
vidadhati pāpam akiñcaneṣu satsu ||

"Śrī Hari, who loves the destitute looking upon Him as their only wealth, and knows the bliss inherent in devotion, does not accept the worship of those foolish men who through their pride of learning, affluence, pedigree and deeds show disrespect to such destitute devotees."
Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments on this: "ātma dhana, the wealth of the soul, is devotion to the Lord - such persons are dear to the Lord. Another meaning of adhanātma is those who are free from material entanglements and desires - those who have that wealth of the soul are also very dear to the Lord - 'they give up their possessiveness towards wife and children and consider only Me to be theirs - those are the true rasikas." He then refers to SB 11.5.9 - sato vinindanti hari-priyān khalah "Rascals blaspheme Hari's dear saints". Devotees are often worshipped for their material qualifications - eloquent lecturers, skilfull kīrtanīyas (previously great rock musicians) big book-distributors (previously great salesmen) etc. are worshipped as pure devotees simply due to their material skills. It is a deep rooted disease in a result-oriented Vaiṣṇava-community. Often such materially qualified bhaktas look down upon real devotees, who may not be so skilful but may have much more devotion, which is simply a thing of the heart and has nothing to do with tangible accomplishments. Often the weak struggling devotees continue on as devotees their whole lives while the 'big' devotees - who top the hierarchy due to their material qualifications - good musicians, speakers and salesmen - fall down like a brick and are gone now for 25 years and counting. The panacea for this anartha of pratiṣṭhā is mentioned in Manaḥ Śikṣā (7): sadā tvaṁ sevasva prabhu-dayita sāmantam atulaṁ - 'Always serve the great generals among the devotees (the really big devotees, that is)." If such devotee-generals are not physically present, no problem. Just hearing or reading about their sacred activities will purify one and ignite the fire of renunciation and humility.

2.4.246, commentary: "Or alternatively it may be that Nārada is advising Gopa-kumāra to follow the rāgānugā method of devotional service by listening to the dictates of his heart, rather than mechanically following the injunctions of scripture." 'Listening to the heart' is there in Sanātan Goswāmī's text, but not that this is 'rāgānugā bhakti'. Gopīprāṇadhan is strengthening the misconception here that rāgānugā bhakti means returning to freewheeling hippyism, an idea which was condemned in Viśvanātha Cakravartī's Rāga Vartma Candrikā.

1 comment:

  1. You have:
    Manah Siksa (7): sadA tvaM sevasva prabhu-dayita sAmantam atulaM - 'Always serve the great generals among the devotees (the really big devotees, that is)."

    Very very beautiful. Thanks.

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