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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nityānanda Ādi Guru, bhajan at home, astrology and dormant love

Kusum Sarovar in 1865, photo by W. Henry Baker

Bhakta: Caitanya Caritāmṛta [Adi 1.9] says that Advaita Prabhu [as Mahaviṣṇu] emanates from Nityānanda Prabhu -

māyā-bhartājāṇḍa-sańghāśrayāńgaḥ
śete sākṣāt kāraṇāmbhodhi-madhye
yasyaikāḿśaḥ śrī-pumān ādi-devas
taḿ śrī-nityānanda-rāmaḿ prapadye

"I offer my full obeisances unto the feet of Śrī Nityānanda Rāma, whose partial representation called Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, lying on the Kāraṇa Ocean, is the original puruṣa, the master of the illusory energy, and the shelter of all the universes."
Should not the family of Nityānanda get precedence then in giving dīkṣā?"

Advaitadas: "Advaita Prabhu took disciples before Śrīman Mahāprabhu even appeared in this world. What should He have done after Nityānanda's family starting accepting śiṣyas - send his disciples over there and 'resign' as a Guru or so? The sequence of cosmic creation is not the same as the historical sequence of Gaura-līlā."

Bhakta: "But then there is the Vyāsa Pūjā-description of Lord Nityānanda in Caitanya Bhāgavata (Madhya 5) - does that not prove that Nityānanda is the ādi Guru?"

Advaitadas: "This needs to be seen in context. Nityānanda was of course Mahāprabhu's right hand, yet it is also well known that Vṛndāvan Dās Ṭhākur, who wrote this Caitanya Bhāgavat, was highly biased in favor of Nitāi Cāṅd. He calls Mahāprabhu āmār prabhur prabhu - the master of my master (Nityānanda). This bias is not a dūṣaṇa (pollution), but a bhūṣaṇa (ornament). It is technically called bhāvollāsa. There is no official theology in our Sampradāya, either in the Sanskrit scriptures of the Goswāmīs, or in the Bengali caritas of Mahāprabhu, including the Vyāsa-pūjā story, that Nityānanda is the Ādi Guru."

Bhakta: "Is it really easier to do sādhana in an ashram than at home?"

Advaitadas: "It depends on the sincerity and strength of the sādhaka. Compare it with a schoolboy - if he makes his homework in the school-library he will not get distracted, but if he makes his homework at home he will have his broadband connection, his mp3s, TV and his brothers and sisters and so to distract him. He will make his homework at home as well, but not as easily as in the school library. Of course if the boy has no interest in distractions anyway he can make his homework at home just as well. Similarly if a sādhaka is strong or just fed up with material life anyway, he can do sādhana at home just as well."

Bhakta: "What value does astrology have for a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava?"

Advaitadas: "The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas are the 6 Goswamis - they have written large volumes on rules and philosophy, as the Sandarbhas, Haribhakti Vilāsa and Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu. Nonetheless none of these huge works mention anything about jyotiṣa, so it is safe to assume it need not be consulted or heeded by a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava."

Bhakta: "You said that love of God is not dormant within the heart but is a potential only. Can you illustrate that with an example?"

Advaitadas: "First of all we must examine śāstra on this dormant love theory - in Sanskrit 'dormant love' means 'supta prema' or 'nidrita prema' - such words are not found anywhere in śāstra.
As for an example - a child who is born with a high IQ can only exploit it if he gets a good education and good grades. Or a little girl has the potential of motherly love within her though she is too young to have children of her own. Hence she plays with dolls. Later she will be a real mother. That is potential. Some girls and women will never have children but they still have the potential of being a mother. Similarly, a spirit soul needs to receive the mercy of Guru and Kṛṣṇa (guru-kṛṣṇa prasāde pāy bhakti latā bīja) and to perform an offenseless sādhana to achieve prema. Having just a field without sowing in it and irrigating it will not yield crops. The crops are not dormant in the soil - they need to be sown there first. That is Guru Kṛpā. Jīva Goswāmī writes in Bhakti Sandarbha that a soul needs to cry out for Kṛṣṇa. That is the beginning of devotional service and Guru Kṛpā." (See also my blog of August 18, 2007)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some important corrections to Govinda Līlāmṛta

Govindaji Temple in Vrindavan in 1865. Photo by Samuel Bourne

I have been going through the translation work of my friend Haricaraṇa recently and this helped me to correct my own humble bid at translating śāstra a bit. These are some of the main improvements I made in my Govinda Līlāmṛta translation-

6.24 Original version: "Looking all around Him, Kṛṣṇa became glad and agitated by thirst from seeing the ripe grapefruits, pomegranates, Bael fruits and oranges, imagining them to be the beautiful breasts on Śrī Rādhikā's body."

6.24 Corrected version: "Looking all around Him, Kṛṣṇa became glad and agitated by thirst from seeing the ripe grapefruits, pomegranates, Bael fruits and oranges. Imagining them to be the beautiful breasts on Śrī Rādhikā's body, He wondered if Her body was all-pervading!" (vibhūtvaṁ saśaṅke)

6.43 Original version: Kṛṣṇa considered the six martial arts of conquering the great kingdom of Rādhā's bodily association (making allies, scattering the enemy, surrounding the city, performing battle, making peace and riding out against the enemy), consulting experts like Vṛndā, Dhaniṣṭhā, Subala and Madhumaṅgala.

6.43 Corrected version: Kṛṣṇa considered the six strategies of conquering the great kingdom of Rādhā's bodily association (making allies, scattering the enemy, marching, halting, division and annexing), consulting experts like Vṛndā, Dhaniṣṭhā, Subala and Madhumaṅgala.

6.69 Original version: "Today Candrāvalī will hold a festival for Durgā's worship and she has sent me here to invite Rādhā!

6.69 Corrected version: "Today Candrāvalī will hold the concluding festival for Durgā's worship and she has sent me here to invite Rādhā! (udyapa = concluding)

6.72 Original version: Having come there, She was entrusted with all the responsibilities for the festival's execution, along with all of Her girlfriends.

6.72 Corrected version: Having come there, She was humbly entrusted with all the responsibilities for the festival's execution, along with all of Her girlfriends. (vinayaiḥ = humbly.)

7.119 Original translation: All this can be seen in its real form (svarūpa) by those who are favorable to these pastimes and by practising devotees, but others see it as just a material place.

7.119 Corrected translation: All this can be seen in its real form (svarūpa) by those who are favorable to these pastimes (nitya siddhas) and by practising devotees (who have developed bhāva bhakti), but others see it as just a material place.

This new translation is based on the commentary of Vṛndāvana Cakravartī – līlānukūleṣu ye teṣu nitya-siddheṣu janeṣu tathā sādhaka-bhaktānām utpanna bhāveṣu citteṣu svarūpataḥ.
Yadunandan Thākur (who was manifest before Vṛndāvan Cakravartī) glossed 'favorable' also as 'parikara-gaṇa' (Kṛṣṇa's eternal associates). It shows that ‘favorable to the pastimes’ does not refer to your regular hippie visiting Rādhākuṇḍa from Poonah, saying Rādhe Rādhe while smoking a bīḍi on the bank of the kuṇḍa. It refers to nitya siddhas no less, and the sādhaka bhaktas mentioned in the verse, are on the bhāva bhakti stage, which makes sense, since all ācāryas have taught that on the stage of bhāva bhakti things become revealed. These corrections, along with a number of minor adjustments, are added to the digital correction sheet on my website.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Is bhakti ever selfless?

Kusum Sarovara at around 1855


This is a purely philosophical discussion which is not meant to influence devotional sentiments or attitudes - bhakti should of course be practised in a selfless mood.

Bhakta: Smt. Rādhārāṇī is described as niḥsīma hari mādhurya saundaryadyeka bhoginī - She enjoys unlimitedly the endless beauty and sweetness of Hari. Is it not the mood of Dwārkā to enjoy Kṛṣṇa?"

Advaitadas: The deeper the bhakti is the deeper the relish of Kṛṣṇa's sweetness and beauty. Much of chapter 4 of Adi Līlā of Caitanya Caritāmṛta explains this, for instance,verse 198: gopī preme kore kṛṣṇa mādhuryera puṣṭi - "The gopis' prema nourishes Kṛṣṇa's sweetness." The topmost devotion is ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśilanaṁ bhaktir uttamā - just acting favorably for Kṛṣṇa. It does not mean one should not desire happiness, because that desire is innate - everyone seeks ānanda (though most seek it in the wrong place). You cannot separate service from bliss, like you cannot separate your shadow from yourself. It is our adhikāra (right) to be happy. The ācāryas say there are three types of happiness - sensual happiness, happiness of brahman and happiness of prema, but everyone searches for happiness, it is unavoidable. Śrī Śukadeva explained to King Parīkṣit what is true selfishness in Śrīmad Bhāgavat (10.14.51-55):

"To all created beings, O protector of men, their own self alone is dear; others such as one's progeny and wealth are dear only because of being loved by oneself. Hence, O King, the same love as is seen in the heart of the embodied souls for their own self, they do not have for their sons, wealth, house etc, which are regarded as their own. Even in the eyes of those who speak of the body as the own self, those (persons and objects) that are connected with the body are not so dear to them as their own body. If even the body comes to be recognized as one's own, it would not then be loved like the self whereas the desire to survive was very strong even when the body was worn out. Thus one's own self is supremely dear to all embodied souls; this entire creation, mobile and immobile, is loved for the sake of the self alone. Know this Kṛṣṇa to be the Self of the selves......."

The love of Dwārkā is different because there is some reservation there in surrender - the Queens will love Kṛṣṇa conjugally too but on the condition that He preserves their reputation and marries them first. This is called samañjasa rati, second class love. The gopīs of Vraja have first class love, samartha rati - they give Kṛṣṇa everything without reservation and without demanding anything in return. That automatically leads to the supreme relish of Kṛṣṇa's sweetness too. Then there is also the factor of awe and reverence, of the devotees in Vaikuṇṭha, Dwārkā and Mathurā - this also contracts their relish of Kṛṣṇa's sweetness and causes Kṛṣṇa to appear to them in a less relishable form. Look at the very title of the Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu - 'The ocean of nectar of the taste of devotion" - he did not call it 'The ocean of poison'..... It is like a box of chocolates when you open it - nougat, nuts, caramel etc in the form of dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya etc - to preserve a devotional attitude one should not talk too much about relish though. Look at what Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta says on relishing rasa:

BB 2.2.152-

tathāpi brāhmya-kṛtyābdhi- bhanga-magno na pūrvavat
lebhe bhagavato bhakti- sukhaṁ cintāturāntaraḥ


"Even so, I was immersed in the waves of the ocean of Brahmā’s duties, and therefore unable to enjoy devotional service to the Lord as I had before. My mind was too disturbed by anxious concerns."

BB 2.2.203-

tad-bhakti-rasikānāṁ tu mahatāṁ tattva-vedinām
sādhyā taccaraṇāmbhoja- makarandātmikaiva sā


"And for those great souls who know the truth and are rasikas, that nectar of serving at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet is itself the goal (sādhya)."

BB 2.3.127-

tathāpi tad-rasa-jnaiḥ sā bhaktir nava-vidhānjasā
sampādyate vicitraitad- rasa-mādhurya-labdhaye


"Yet devotees who understand the rasas of devotional service may practice all nine forms of bhakti to easily obtain the sweetness of its diverse tastes."

Sanātan Goswāmī's commentary: "Although devotees can attain Vaikuṇṭha by any one of the nine practices of bhakti, they often like to engage in all nine to enjoy the supreme, indescribably blissful taste of those transcendental activities. Each of the practices, beginning with śravaṇa and kīrtana, gives a sweet satisfaction of its own."

BB 2.3.133-

nijendriya-manaḥ-kāya ceṣṭā-rūpāṁ na viddhi tām
nitya-satya-ghanānanda rūpā sā hi guṇātigā


"You should not consider devotional service merely an activity of the body, senses, and mind. It is in fact the eternal absolute reality, manifesting itself as the most intense ecstasy, beyond the material modes." The word bhakti is mentioned in the previous verse and is the central topic here - it shows that 'devotional service', implying activities, is not an apt translation for the word 'bhakti'.

Bhakta: "Is service in separation higher?"

Advaitadas: "See my blog of March 2, 2009. Separation being a higher ecstasy than union does not mean one does not want to see Kṛṣṇa, and that one wants Kṛṣṇa to leave in order to experience a higher ecstasy. According to Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī (in his commentary on Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.3.1), bhāva bhakti has three features: prāpty-abhilāṣa, sva-kartṛkānukūlyābhilāṣa and sauhārdābhilāṣa - desire to attain the deity, desire to act favorably for the deity and a desire to love the deity."

Bhakta: "Should'nt we act in such a way that Kṛṣṇa will want to see us instead of us wanting to see Him?"

Advaitadas: "That does not mean that you will not see Kṛṣṇa or that you don't want to see Him - He comes to see you instead, according to this philosophy. It is the same thing, either way. This saying is meant to enhance and stimulate a devotional attitude. The ācāryas clearly say that ecstatic love involves a desire to see Kṛṣṇa."

Bhakta: "The last verse of Śikṣāṣṭakam says "I just want to serve even if You don't show Yourself to me."

Advaitadas: "This is said to make sure to Kṛṣṇa that He can count on you, not that you don't want to see Him - that is already shown in the first paragraphs of my 2 march 2009 blog. The Gosvāmīs would not contradict Mahāprabhu, would they? Look at Raghunātha dās Gosvāmī's yearning to see Rādhārāṇī - in Stavāvali he says he would fly to Dwārkā at the speed of the mind just to be with Rādhikā, now matter how unfavorable the atmosphere there is. There is no mentioning of any higher or lower in prāpty-abhilāṣa, sva-kartṛkānukūlyābhilāṣa and sauhārdābhilāṣa. There is sambandha (relationship), abhidheya (practise to realize that relationship) and prayojana (the goal of prema), and the earlier stages have their scriptures like Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu and Haribhakti Vilāsa. Raghunātha Dās Gosvāmī was the prayojanācārya, the teacher of prema, and he craved for Rādhārāṇī's darśan more and more towards the end of Vilāpa Kusumāñjali. Look at verse 16 -

sakhyāya te mama namo'stu namo'stu nityaṁ 
dāsyāya te mama raso'stu raso'stu satyam - 

In one breath the desire for relish and the desire for service are mentioned - 'I offer my respects to Your friendship but truly, truly let me get the flavor of Your service instead'. It comes simultaneously, they are inseparable. The desire to enjoy material pleasures fades out in the course of our sādhana, but the desire to relish transcendental rasa never fades out. See my blog of November 26, 2009. In Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, verses 58 and 76, Tulasī Mañjarī just wants to relish Swāminījī's sight, she does not always pray for service. At the climax of the Six Goswāmī-aṣṭakam it is said: he rādhe braja devike ca lalite he nanda sūno kutaḥ - kutaḥ means "Where are you?", not : "I don't want to see You because I am so advanced!"

Bhakta: "What about serving in separation in a mission?"

Advaitadas: "If you say you don't want to see Kṛṣṇa but I want to serve in separation you do so because you know it will be an even higher ecstasy. It's not that there is no desire to make Kṛṣṇa happy, though. We go to the kīrtan knowing it will make us happy. The desire to be happy is merged with the desire to please Kṛṣṇa. It is like putting the left hand in the right hand, or salt or sugar merging with transparent water. prema is the fifth puruṣārtha, goal of life, above even mukti, but the goal of life is happiness still. Intelligent people know that sense pleasure leads to sorrow (ye hi saṁsparśaja bhoga duḥkha yonaya eva te, Bhagavad Gītā 5.22), so they renounce it and practise bhakti instead - that is also an attempt for happiness. These verses [Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 2.1.6-10] show how to relish rasa -


prāktanyādhunikī cāsti yasya sad bhakti vāsanā
eṣa bhakti rasāsvādas tasyaiva hṛdi jāyate
bhakti-nirdhūta-doṣāṇāṁ prasannojjvala-cetasām
srī-bhāgavata-raktānāṁ rasikāsanga-rangiṇām
jīvanībhūta-govinda-pāda-bhakti-sukha-sriyām
premāntaranga-bhūtāni kṛtyāny evānutiṣṭhatām
bhaktānāṁ hṛdi rājantī samskāra-yugalojjvalā
ratir ānanda-rūpaiva nīyamānā tu rasyatām
kṛṣṇādibhir vibhāvādyair gatair anubhavādhvani
prauḍhānanda-camatkāra-kāṣṭhām āpadyate parām
kintu premā vibhāvādyaiḥ svalpair nīto'py anīyasīm
vibhāvanādy avasthāṁ tu sadya āsvādyatāṁ vrajet


"The taste for bhakti-rasa arises in the heart of a person who has experiences of pure bhakti in previous and present life. rati, which is the very form of ānanda, appears in the hearts of devotees who have been purified of all faults by bhakti, whose hearts have become joyful and bright, who have developed great relish for the Śrīmat Bhāgavat, who enjoy the blissful company of rasika saints, whose very life is the blissful wealth of devotion to Govinda's feet, who always discharge the confidential duties of love like hari nāma saṅkīrtana, associating with rasika saints, hearing transcendental topics from them and remembering these topics throughout the day are qualified to relish bhagavat-rasa (the flavour of God). This rati then attains a state of relish by realizing vibhāva, anubhāva, sāttvika bhāva and vyabhicārī bhāva (in relation to Kṛṣṇa)  and finally attains the highest, astonishing peak of profound bliss. However, prema, even becoming slightly pleasurable by a slight mixture of vibhāva and the other ingredients. quickly becomes fully tasteful."

Bhakta: "Then what about the Caitanya Caritāmṛta-verse: krsna bhakta niṣkāma - ataeva śānta; bhukti mukti siddhi kāmī sakalei aśānta? "The devotee of Kṛṣṇa is without desire therefore He is peaceful, while those who crave for sense enjoyment, liberation or mystic perfections are all bereft of peace."?

Advaitadas: "This is a philosophical statement. This verse is not about material śānti, it is spiritual or philosophical śānti - again, look at how Rāghunāth Dās Gosvāmī craved for Rādhārāṇī's darśana - it is not surface śānti. Look at all the evidence I quoted above, here....Once, on the roof of the ashram, Sādhu Bābā told me privately that even the gopīs have their own desires. Perhaps the above statements explain this."
Śrīman Mahāprabhu said during His topmost Gambhīrā-pastimes (CC Antya 20.37):


"prema-dhana vinā vyartha daridra jīvana
'dāsa' kori' vetana more deho prema-dhana"


"Without prema My life is useless. Therefore I pray that You accept Me as Your servant and give Me the salary of prema."

Happiness is always the pursuit, even in the highest realms of devotion.

Thanks to Acyutānanda for the photo of Kusumsarovar