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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vidyābhūṣaṇa's last words

Kṛṣṇacūḍa flowers - once grew in Sādhu Bābā's ashram

Deenanath Das posted a nice article on fall-vada on Sampradaya Sun today, which is interesting and largely acceptable, but there were some flaws in the Kuśakrath-translation of the final prose paragraph of Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa's Vedānta-commentary. The corrections are interspersed in bold below:

"In this way the scriptures explain that the Supreme Personality of Godhead will never abandon His devotee and the devotee will always ardently love the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always truthful and His desires are always at once fulfilled. He is an ocean of love for they who take shelter of Him. He washes away the ignorance that made His devotees turn from Him [the original text says sva-vaimukhyakarīm avidyāṁ – it means that ignorance causes the conditioned soul to be turned away from God, period, not that once they turned away from Him, they simple are turned away from Him indefinite]. Once He brings back to Himself [svāntikam upānīya does not mean ‘taking back’, but ‘taking to Himself’] His dear devotees, who are His parts and parcels, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will not again let them go [kadācid api na jihāsati means ‘never even will He let them go’, the word ‘again’, [punaḥ] is not there] . In the same way the individual soul, who had been searching for happiness and who finally has turned from the pathetic, wretched, pale reflection of happiness he had for many births sought in the material world in many ways, and who now, by the mercy of the bona-fide spiritual master has understood the truth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, of whom he is a part and parcel, who now has no desire apart from the Supreme Lord, who is now purely engaged in devotional service to the Supreme Lord, and who has now attained the Supreme Lord, whose spiritual form is filled with limitless bliss, and who is the merciful friend and master, will never desire to leave such a Lord. In this way the truth is understood from the scriptures. This truth is understood only by taking shelter of the scriptures. The words of the sUtra are repeated to indicate the conclusion of the book."

It is really astonishing that though the pūrva-pakṣa [opponent who will be refuted by the śāstra] speaks of fall from the spiritual world [see article at the link] Kuśakrath Dās still speaks of such a fall.

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.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, Canto 2, chapter four, part I

My review of chapter 4 of canto 2 is so lengthy that I decided to post it in two parts, to keep it surveyable –

2.4.4 See my blog of October 24, 2009

2.4.5 In the purport, which is supposed to be Sanātan Goswāmī's, Gopīprāṇadhan speaks of 're-establishing one's connection with the Lord's lotus feet'. That seems to support fall-vāda, but no such a thing is mentioned by Sanātan Goswāmī - he writes 'bhaktir eva yogaḥ sri vaikuntha loka prāptyupayaḥ bhagavac caraṇāravinda samyoga rūpo vā - 'Bhakti-yoga is the means to attain the Vaikuṇṭha world or the lotus feet of the Lord'. Nothing about re-establishing here.

2.4.20 Gopakumār flew into Vaikuṇṭha with his plane and then he was told to wait to get permission to enter. In the purport Gopīprāṇadhan writes: "This is the standard etiquette for introducing someone to the supreme opulence of Vaikuṇṭha: specific permission should be obtained for him either from Lord Vaikuṇṭha-nātha directly or from a proper deputized authority." But why he needed permission again if he had already been allowed to board the plane to Vaikuṇṭha on earth? Here Gopīprāṇadhan jumps to conclusions again. Sanātan Goswāmī simply says that Gopakumār is asked to wait a while (tvaṁ kṣaṇam ekaṁ tāvat tiṣṭha) so a manager (adhikārī) can tell Vaikuṇṭhanāth of his arrival (prabhuṁ vaikuṇṭha-nāthaṁ svayam eva sākṣād vijñāpya kenacit tad adhikāriṇā vā kṛtvā vijñāpanaṁ) because such is the etiquette in this most majestic realm (paramaiśvaryāviskāra rītyanusārāt). Nothing said about permission here.

2.4.24 Gopīprāṇadhan writes in the purport that a resident of Vaikuṇṭha "Covering his ears with his hands and sticking out his tongue, he waved another hand at Gopa-kumāra to stop him. Sticking out one's tongue is an insult in the west. Actually Sanātan Goswāmī wrote 'jihvāgra-saṁdaśana', he bit on the tip of his tongue, which in India is a sign of shock and outrage, but not an attempt to insult.

A refutation of the misconceptions about BB 2.4.25-41 has already been presented in my blog of June 24, 2009.

2.4.35 The residents of Vaikuṇṭha can contract or withdraw their own families within themselves. How does that work? I suppose it is like Kṛṣṇa expanding Himself into the boys and the calves during the Brahma Vimohan Līlā and then withdrawing them into Himself again.

2.4.36  "The Vaikuṇṭha-devotees not only acted in many different ways but also assumed many differing forms, including even those of animals, birds, and trees. Some devotees would show one form for some time and then change into another." The Vedanta Sūtra says liberated souls can have so many spiritual bodies at once (see my blog of August 5, 2006

2.4.45  In the purport Sanātan Goswāmī quotes Śrīmad Bhāgavat 3.15.18-19 - bhṛṅgādhipe hari kathām iva gāyamāne - it is as if the bees sing the glories of Hari. They temporarily stop their noise. Noise here also means glorification of Kṛṣṇa - kolāhalair vividha vandi-kalāvatam - the cowherds of Nandīśvara make a lot of noise too (Vilāpa Kusumāñjali 60). This is spiritual noise, it is not comparible to the blaring of Bollywood music from Indian megaphones, polluting the skies of Vraja nowadays. Its all a question of perception - for us kīrtan is the most ecstatic sound vibration but for non-devotees it is just a lot of noise, since they fail to catch the transcendental nature of the sound vibration. So this noise is a pleasant noise, not a disturbance. Viśvanāth Cakravartīpāda comments on the Bhāgavat verses that the bees humming sound like 'hari hari' is like Hari-kathā. He takes it literally. In Vaikuṇṭha everything centers around Nārāyan, so the singing of the birds and the bees must be about Him too. Śrīdhara Swāmī comments on this verse: anena tatratya-pakṣīnam api hari-kathā-śravaṇādi-paramānando darśitaḥ  'Here we see even the birds present showing topmost ecstasy in hearing and chanting Harikathā. Śrīdhara Swāmī speaks of a temporary lull in the noise, but Viśvanātha glosses it as śīghra, they swiftly stop the noise - 'the different birds like cuckoos, cranes and flamingos are totally non-envious, so they say: "Ham Ho! The bees are singing about Hari now, so let us be quiet now!" Birds aren't able to form words but Kṛṣṇa-conscious birds naturally sing about Hari, so it is understood to be such. Viśvanātha compares it to the ghūṇākṣara nyāya - termites may accidentally bite into wood in such a pattern that it is shaped as a letter in the alphabet. Similarly, even the flapping of the birds' wings may sound like Hari Hari and is understood as such. If even the flapping of their wings is adorable then what to speak of if they directly sing of Kṛṣṇa? "

2.4.46  The Vaikuṇṭha-vāsīs enjoy in connection with Kṛṣṇa, as in the samañjasā- and sādhāraṇī-rati of the Lord's consorts.

2.4.48 Gopīprāṇadhan says in his purport - "Thus the airplanes, trees, houses, and so on are all perfect living beings, qualitatively one with the Supreme Lord and with all other living persons, and they appear in whatever forms the Lord requires for His pleasure."
Sanātan Goswāmī's text is different- 'Although all objects there - forms, places, airplanes and so - are one compact Brahman (brahma-ghanatvenaikyatvaṁ bhagaval-līlānusāreṇa ca bahu-vidhatvam) they manifest in various forms. According to this brahma-ghanatva [being compact Brahman] it is one, and according to the pastimes of the Lord it appears in a multiple variety." That leaves the question whether the objects in Vaikuṇṭha are jīva-souls or some transcendental substance called brahma-ghana.

2.4.83 'For so long, hope had me dancing....' seems to say that Gopakumār was once with Kṛṣṇa, and had not been in the material world not since beginningless time, but the words 'for so long' are not there in the śloka, instead the word sadā, always, is there. He had always been hoping. In the commentary, Sanātan Goswāmī seems to say, "Even though Gopa-kumāra had forgotten his Lord for many lifetimes, which also indicates a beginning to his conditioning." That is in Sanātan Goswāmī's ṭīkā too, but searching for Kṛṣṇa for many lifetimes means there was a beginning to the search but not necessarily to the conditioning. This does not prove fall at all. Imperfection is absolutely absent from a perfect world because if it were even minutely imperfect it would immediately cease to be a perfect world. For this simple reason it is impossible for anyone to fall from the spiritual sky, since falling, becoming envious etc. is deeply imperfect. Mercy is always causeless - to say 'causeless mercy' is double - causeless is an unnecessary adjective to mercy. It is something you do not deserve but you get anyway.
The phrase “Gopakumār was returning home” at the end of the purport of verse 84 is also not there in the original Sanskrit ṭīkā of Sanātan Goswāmī."
At the end of the purport of verse 83, Gopīprāṇadhan writes "the Lord had always been to regain the association of His devotee." Here the word 'regain' is also not there in the original text. It may not be deliberate fraud, though. The same for the words 'returning' in the comment on verse 84. Some translators are so conditioned to fall-vāda that they see it in every text, though in fact it is nowhere. It is just a jump to conclusions. In Bhagavad Gītā, too, nowhere it is said 'he comes back to Me', but instead it is always 'he attains Me' - mām evaiṣyasi, mām upetya, te'pi yānti paraṁ gatim, etc. etc.

In the purport of BB 2.4.86, Gopīprāṇadhan writes "The Lord does not interfere with the independence of the rebellious jīvas." It becomes almost tedious, but this too is not in the text. In that place of the comment Kṛṣṇa Himself speaks - tasmād mad viṣayaka bhavad upekṣaṇāt - "Because of your upekṣā towards Me...." upekṣā in the dictionary says: "overlooking, disregard, negligence, indifference, contempt, abandonment, endurance, patience, dissent, trick, deceit." Though dissent and abandonment are mentioned here, neither of them are the primary meaning of the word, nor does it belong in the contextual mood of the story. Kṛṣṇa says in the previous verse 'tat te mayy akṛpām' - "you (Sarūpa) showed Me no mercy" - not "you rebellious soul became envious of Me and wanted to imitate Me so you left Goloka".

2.4.94 In the purport it is said: "This is the nature of Vaikuṇṭha—it is free from the constraints (kuntha) of material bondage." Vaikuṇṭha is translated sometimes as 'no fear or anxiety' and sometimes as 'no limitations', but actually all the dictionaries say that kuṇṭha means dull, blunt, lazy and stupid - symptoms of tamo-guṇa. So Vaikuṇṭha is the opposite of tamo-guṇa - lively, smart and sharp.

2.4.104 In his comment on this verse Gopīprāṇadhan writes: "The Supreme Lord may sometimes play tricks by pretending to assume forms that are not actually His eternal forms (svarūpas). For example, Lord Visnu showed Himself disguised as Mohini, the most attractive woman, but in fact the Personality of Godhead is always male, never female."

However, Sri Rupa Goswami quotes from Padma Purana nityāḥ sarve pare dhāmni ye cānye ca divaukasaḥ , "Even the demigods in the spiritual sky are eternal" - then what to speak of the Supreme Personality of Godhead - all His/Her forms and activities are eternal, otherwise how can they be God? This reeks of māyāvāda. And why God is never female? The śāstras say śakti-śaktimatayor abhedhaḥ - "There is no difference between the energy and the energetic." Indeed, we mention the śakti first and then the śaktimān - Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, Sītā-Rām, Lakṣmī-Nārāyan. Anyway, just because we only know of a few activities of Mohinī - distributing nectar, beheading Rāhu and deluding Shiva and a few activities of Nṛsiṁha - ripping up Hiraṇyakaśipu, blessing Prahlād and receiving prayers from the Devatas - does not mean They are not eternal deities. Every breath God takes is eternal. Indeed, that is coming in the purport of verse 158: "These appearances of the Lord, although apparently ad hoc, are in fact eternal, real, and all-pervading." The Mohini-paragraph of that purport is by Gopīprāṇadhan himself, not from Sanātan Goswāmī,  and clearly contradicts this. If Mohini is not eternal then what is she, if she is not God then what is she? Some Vaiṣṇava groups do two Nṛsiṁha-kīrtans a day, every day of their lives, and always find ecstasy in it - so because Nṛsiṁha had an ad-hoc functional līlā, does that mean He is not eternal?