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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, Canto 2, chapter 7 [final part]

This is the 11th and final part of my review of Gopīprāṇadhan Dās’s rendering of Śrīla Sanātan Goswāmī’s Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta.

2.7.115 Is a quotation from Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.21.14 -

“O mother, in this forest all the birds have risen onto the beautiful branches of the trees to see Kṛṣṇa. With closed eyes they are simply listening in silence to the sweet vibrations of His flute, and they are not attracted by any other sound. Surely these birds are on the same level as great sages.”

Normally speaking one should not close one's eyes during sadhana due to the danger of laya and vikṣepa [falling asleep and spacing out], but I suppose the bird-like Munis in this Bhāgavat-verse are siddhas that need not fear sleep. This danger of sleep can be largely avoided if a sādhaka is allowed to get sufficient sleep - it is a myth that everyone should sleep 6 hours or less - it is medically well proven that some persons are naturally long sleepers and others short sleepers.
Sanātan Goswāmī comments: "According to the commentary of Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī, all sages, even if content in their own selves, should become birds in the Vṛndāvana forest." This may seem ordinary for us modern Vaiṣṇavas, but in his time, when nearly all sādhus were brahmavādīs or māyāvādīs, it was quite revolutionary. It may be one of the oldest references to a siddha svarupa.

2.7.119, commentary: "Apparently Kṛṣṇa was walking vigorously, because the kumkum became firmly attached to the grass and stones." This is not correct. Sanātan Goswāmī writes: prācuryāt sammarda viśeṣeṇa padābjayoḥ sampṛktatvāc cākṣīyamāṇaṁ sadā vana-sthalīṣu tata itaścaṁ krameṇa tābhyāṁ tṛṇādiṣu saṁlagnaṁ - 'Because Kṛṣṇa's lotus-feet intensely rubbed the gopīs' breasts and because there was so much kumkum on these breasts, the kumkum remained on His feet even though He walked all over the place with it...'

2.7.121, quoting SB 10.12.11: "These gopīs could see Kṛṣṇa only as an attractive youth (nara-dāraka). They gave no thought to His godly omnipotence. As if ordinary girls, they simply focused their attention on Him as the sole object of their desire and affection. Or— another reading—the same Kṛṣṇa who is the constant companion of the cowherd boys is also amorous appeal personified for all human females (nara-dārāḥ). Or else Kṛṣṇa figuratively tears apart all persons (narān dārayati) by filling their hearts with unique love for Him. Of course, Kṛṣṇa's attraction in the conjugal rasa is most appropriately described in relation to women, but because the gopīs presume every human being to be like themselves, they think that Kṛṣṇa tears apart the heart of everyone and fills it with love. This presumption is suggested by the use of the masculine form nara-dārakeṇa, which can be grammatically understood to include both males and females."

2.7.133, ṭīkā: "Of course the days [the gopīs] spent without Kṛṣṇa didn’t literally last hundreds of yugas, but, as indicated by the word iva [just like], such was the gopīs’ subjective experience while in the pain and anxiety of separation."

2.7.136 The gopīs were riding swings (inkana) in this Bhāgavat verse (10.44.15), but those leasurely activities are never disconnected from Kṛṣṇa as it could not stop them from drinking the nectar of Kṛṣṇa. They were going about their daily lives without it obstructing their Kṛṣṇa consciousness, as did Ambarīṣa, Prahlād and the Pāṇḍavas.

2.7.138, commentary: Dividing the phrase sva-sādhu-kṛtyam differently yields yet another understanding. su-asādhu-kṛtyam (which changes to sv-asādhu-kṛtyam) means “very un-virtuous acts.” Thus Kṛṣṇa indicates that even the things the gopīs do that lack virtue, such as behaving cruelly toward Him, are glorious."
What those cruel acts of the gopīs were is not explained; perhaps some of the harsh words they spoke to him before, in chapters 31 and 32 of the tenth canto?

2.7.140, commentary: "Kṛṣṇa assures Uddhava that even though the gopīs have for His sake abandoned loka and dharma, He watches over them and protects them. He continues to provide them the same worldly and superworldly benefits they have rejected. Thus when Uddhava reaches Vṛndāvana he will find the gopīs at home with their husbands and children, and of sane mind." Sanātan Goswāmī uses the word dhairya here [patience] for 'sane mind'. This seems to contradict this statement in the commentary of verse 141: "Unable to think and act coherently, they become as if insane." However, although the gopīs are very upset, when Uddhava comes to see them, Kṛṣṇa arranges for it that they are at least patient [dhīra] enough to hear him out, so that they understand that Kṛṣṇa cares enough about them to send Uddhava to them to console them.

2.7.144 "The moonlit autumn nights when Kṛṣṇa danced with the gopīs passed quickly for the gopīs, but not other nights. On other nights the suffering they underwent from Kṛṣṇa’s absence seemed to last millions of years. Or if we accept that Kṛṣṇa, almost every night, would find ways to sneak out of the house to meet the gopīs, then every night passed quickly, not just the nights of the Rāsa-līlā season. Only the day times were excruciatingly long." Since in aṣṭakālīya līlā there is Rāsa līlā every night this may all apply to the prakat līlā here, as described in Śrīmad Bhāgavat. This is anyway a verse quoted from the Bhāgavat (11.12.11), which deals with prakat līlā.

2.7.148 The first sentence in the commentary is by Gopīprāṇadhana; “It is obviously with irony that Uddhava speaks these words.” the word 'irony' is not well chosen, 'creating a big contrast' would have sounded better.
Further on in the commentary, "Uddhava thinks that they are Kṛṣṇa’s dearmost devotees whereas he has deviated in so many ways from the path of devotion: he has committed serious aparādhas, refused to carry out Kṛṣṇa’s instructions, and failed to develop confidence in the process of bhakti-yoga." It is not clear what this refers to, if this is narrated in other Purāṇas or it is just a statement of humility by Uddhava.

2.7.150, commentary: "In the opinion of some authorities, the Upaniṣads earned the right to become gopīs out of intense hankering to worship Kṛṣṇa in the gopīs’ special mode of prema. But this should be rejected as an untenable theory. Why? Because the Upaniṣads are inferior in devotion even to the goddess Lakṣmī. Thus the Upaniṣads, on their own merit, do not deserve the good fortune of becoming gopīs. Only on the strength of Kṛṣṇa’s special mercy could any of them ever attain that perfection."

2.7.154, end of the commentary: "Those trees cry unhappy tears because they cannot receive the nectar from Kṛṣṇa’s lips." There is bhāgya-bheda among the trees in Vraja - the trees that hang above Rādhākuṇḍa are most fortunate, because, unlike most gopas and all parents, they can actually witness Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's jala-keli and provide shade and even ornaments (stored in their pumpkins), as well as offer seats to birds, peacocks and monkeys who can thus also witness the līlā.

Thus ends the review of Gopīprāṇadhan Dās’ rendering of Sanātan Goswāmi’s Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta. 

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta Second Canto, chapter 7, part 1

Continued book-review of the English edition by Gopīprāṇadhan Dās –

2.7.14 The verses about brahman at the end of this long commentary are about hypocrites, not about brahmānandīs in general.

2.7.29 gaja-mukta is not a pearl from the elephant's brow, according to the wiki, its dentine, not mollusk [see picture]. It is not a pearl really but a globule of ivory.

2.7.30 After musk, sandal and kumkum-tilak, we now also find a description of Kṛṣṇa's tilak being made of Yamunā-clay. Speaking of tilak, according to the Goswāmīs' books Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa do not have tilak on 12 parts of the body, only on the forehead.

2.7.48-50 Here may be the first mentioning of hiding in the lotus-patch [padma-vane lukko-curi] during water-pastimes, though here it is with the gopas, not the gopīs as in Govinda Līlāmṛta, Vilāp Kusumāñjali and Sankalpa Kalpadruma.

2.7.55 rasāla means mango. Gopīprāṇadhan could and should have known that.

2.7.69 A stava is not prayer but praise, like (the gopas chanting) "Jai Govinda Jai Gopāl!"

2.7.76. Verse: "It’s not that just anyone at any time can achieve those perfections at once just by traveling to the district of Mathurā on earth. Rather, only a rare person achieves them, when he has obtained full mercy from the Lord’s dear devotees. O mother, please, therefore, gather dust from the feet of devotees who have exclusive love for the lotus feet of the Lord."

The verse confirms one cannot just attain perfection by travelling to Vraja. The (Nāradīya, Skanda) Purāṇas say that the faithless, the atheists, doubters, hetu-niṣṭhā (ultra-rationalists), imposters, those who lust after others' wives (or go there to rendez-vous with them), travelling merchants (Garuda Purāṇa) and heretics do not receive benefit from visiting a holy place. The tīrtha yields benefit if the soul is pure, has conquered lust, fury, greed etc. The śāstras also say that one should go on pilgrimage on foot (pada-yātrā) and will have no or much less benefit if one uses a vehicle (though this has become the norm in modern days. It clearly does not feel good to sit in a taxi circumambulating Govardhana, and soon also Vṛndāvana, once this Yamunā bridge is completed). I suppose if a person is handicapped there would be more benefit in using a vehicle. Nārada Purāṇa [4.62] says that pilgrimage on the back of a bull is like killing a cow, riding on a man’s shoulder yields just half the yātrā’s benefit and travelling on foot yields four times the benefit. Nārada Purāṇa says: “If the path is gravelly or thorny one can wear shoes…” This sounds a bit strange, as I have never seen people go around Girrāja with shoes on, though there are many thorns and pebbles on the road, especially on the old dust paths. Nowadays, of course, huge roads are built to facilitate Delhi-Sunday-drivers who don’t even get out of their Humvees anymore but just cause obstruction for sādhakas doing daṇḍavat parikramā or try to go around doing their daily business in the holy dhāma. If such visitors do take a holy dip this will be their only benefit. One should also not perform tīrtha yātrā for others - the sādhaka has to do it in person. Going on tīrtha yātrā for others yields just 1/16 of the benefit. However, paying for someone else’s tīrtha yātrā will yield 4x the benefit. Makes sense…

Back to Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta. Sanātan Goswāmī's commentary on the above verse says: "Only during the short time of Kṛṣṇa’s avatāra —when He makes Himself visible on earth, at the end of but one Dvāpara-yuga in each day of Brahmā— can anyone who simply visits Vraja become perfect. At that time, Kṛṣṇa  descends to earth to bestow causeless good fortune to all the jīvas. At other times, one can achieve the full realization of Kṛṣṇa consciousness only by receiving a flood of mercy from a dear devotee of Śrī Gopīnātha."

2.7.80, commentary, Gopīprāṇadhan writes: "....beyond them is the abode of liberation (mukti-pada), then comes Śrī Shivaloka, and then the spiritual world." This is wrong. Shivaloka is already the spiritual world, described here as beyond muktipada. Sanātan Goswāmī says 'tad upary eva śrī vaikuṇṭha-lokaḥ', he speaks of Vaikuṇṭha in particular, not the 'spiritual world' in general.

2.7.82, commentary: "In contrast to the tiny sky of the material world, the spiritual sky is infinite." ‘Tiny’ here means in quality, not quantity, as in the ekapāda-and tripāda vibhūti concepts - they are clearly metaphorical and ontological.

2.7.86 The Goloka where Mother Surabhi lives is the destination of fortunate cows who do not live in Mathurā-maṇḍala and associate with Kṛṣṇa and His gopas but who belong to Brahmā and other demigods. Since Kṛṣṇa  is always present in Mathurā (yatra nityaṁ sannihitaḥ), the cows with whom Śrī Gopāla-deva shares His eternal pastimes in Gokula later become eternal residents of the Goloka above Vaikuṇṭha." The Goloka mentioned in chapter 27 of the Tenth Canto had already been ascertained as this heavenly planet by Jīva Goswāmī and Viśvanātha Cakravartī in their Bhāgavat-ṭīkās.

The latter part of the 7th chapter show that Viśvanātha Cakravartī did not initiate the practise of sometimes far-fetched svārasikī vyākhyās [creative purports] - Sanātan Goswāmī was a formidable forerunner of his.

2.7.94-95 quote the two long Brahma Saṁhitā-verses at the end of chapter 5 (55-56). Gopīprāṇadhan says: "In some manuscripts of Brahma-Saṁhitā we find the variant word parama-puruṣāḥ, which is in the plural form. With that word the verse can be understood to mean either that the husbands of the gopīs in Goloka are all mahā-puruṣas, fully surrendered devotees of Govinda, or that Govinda expands Himself into numerous duplicate forms to associate with each gopī simultaneously." The words cid ānandaṁ jyotiḥ param api tad āsvādyam api ca are not clearly translated here: "The supreme spiritual entities are all to be tasted and enjoyed" - this leaves you scratching your head. The explanation of Sanātan Goswāmī is well translated by Gopīprāṇadhan and gives more insight: "In Goloka the paraṁ jyotiḥ (“supreme light”), comprising perfect consciousness and bliss, is directly perceivable (āsvādyam). This jyotiḥ can be identified either with Kṛṣṇa Himself, or with the unique prema that pervades Goloka, or even with the lamps and other sources of light in Goloka, all of which radiate absolute light and ecstasy because they emanate from the bodily effulgence of Para-brahman, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It can also be identified with the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s lips, which in Goloka is able to be tasted (āsvādyam) by His most worthy devotees, the divine gopīs."

Jīva Goswāmī comments on this that the luminous vastu (objects; perhaps hence the word 'entities' in the translation) in Goloka are called 'relishable' due to their transcendental nature. Then the text says, "transcendental time, ever present, without past or future, eternally exists, not subject to passing away even for the space of half a moment." - though strictly speaking this is not in the original Sanskrit, it is actually siddhānta. Goloka is an eternal now - though it is said that Rādhikā married Abhimanyu, and Her cooking was blessed by Durvāsā Muni, this actually never took place, because where there is eternity there is no past. Time in the material world causes fear but not in the spiritual sky - when Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are in anxiety when it is time to leave the kuñja in the morning or time to leave Rādhākuṇḍa in the afternoon, this is different. This is all ecstasy, just like Their separation. na ca kāla vikrama (SB 2.9.10).

About Goloka being Svetadvīp in the Brahma Saṁhitā, Sanātan Goswāmī comments: "It is a dvīpa (“island”) not only in the sense of being a place separate from all others but also because it is a secluded place, a shelter, the residence of exalted pure souls such as Nanda Mahārāja. Like Mathurā-maṇḍala on earth, Goloka is shaped like a round island, bordered by the shores of the river Yamunā. And in Goloka milk flows so abundantly that the whole Goloka world seems to be an island floating in the middle of an ocean of milk." In Sanātan Goswāmī's original text of this comment the words 'secluded place' is not found. Interestingly a shape of Goloka is given here, which is different in śloka 2 of Brahma Saṁhitā: sahasra patraṁ kamalaṁ gokulākhyāṁ mahat padam - Gokula is shaped like a thousand-petalled lotus flower. The round shape does conform with the many diagrams the Bābājīs have made of the Yogapīṭha of Vṛndāvana, which show a globular Vṛndāvana surrounded by a semi-circle Yamunā. Whether this is really experienced by the sādhana- or nitya-siddhas that reside there.........?

2.7.99 Here Sanātan Goswāmī quotes a verse from the Bhāgavata (10.14.33):
“Yet even though the extent of the good fortune of these residents of Vṛndāvana is inconceivable, we eleven presiding deities of the various senses, headed by Lord Shiva, are also most fortunate, because the senses of these devotees of Vṛndāvana are the cups through which we repeatedly drink the nectarean, intoxicating beverage of the honey of Your lotus feet.”

In the beginning of his commentary, Gopīprāṇadhan says 'in the material world', but that is not in Sanātan Goswāmī's ṭīkā. Sanātan Goswāmī says na bhavatu puṁsām upasthendriya-dvārā tat gopīnāṁ kila sākṣād eva sampadyate - 'Men do not serve Kṛṣṇa with their genitals, but the gopīs surely do this directly and personally....." This about the men is not mentioned by Gopīprāṇadhan. Some cautious devotee leaders in the past have suggested that Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs do not have full intercourse but only kiss and caress, but it is shown here by Sanātan Goswāmī that the gopīs do engage their genitals in Kṛṣṇa’s service.