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Sunday, July 24, 2011


Bhakta: 'Tulasi is only offered to Kṛṣṇa's feet because Rādhikā does not like Tulasi?"

Advaitadas: 'No. The ācāryas have prescribed that Tulasi is offered to the feet of Viṣṇu tattva only. Although Rādhikā, as Kṛṣṇa's śakti, is non different from Kṛṣṇa [ śakti-śaktimatayor abheda], still She is āśraya tattva (subject of love) That counts even for Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, as is narrated in Caitanya Caritāmṛta [Madhya 15,7-9]:

ghore āsi prabhu kore nāma sankīrtan;
advaita āsiyā kore prabhura pūjan

sugandhi salile den pādya ācaman;
sarvāṅge lepaye prabhur sugandhi candan

gole mālā dey māthāy tulasī mañjarī

“When Prabhu returned to His abode He performed nām sankIrtan. Advaita then came to offer worship to Him. He offered pādya and ācaman with scented water and anointed Prabhu’s whole body with fragrant sandal paste. He hung a garland around His neck and placed Tulasī-buds on His head.”

Bhakta : 'There is a Vaiṣṇava home guide book which says that Tulasī is offered to the feet of Viṣṇu tattva like Nārāyan, Nṛsiṁha, Kṛṣṇa, Rāma etc. as well as to Gaura, Nityānanda, and Advaita but not to Rādhārāṇī or Gadādhar Pandit."

Advaitadas: "We agree with all of this except for Gaur, Nityānanda and Advaita, on the ground of the above quotation from Caitanya Caritamṛta, and another verse [CC Adi 1.14]

pancatattvātmakam kṛṣṇaṁ bhakta rūpa svarūpakam
bhaktāvatāraṁ bhaktākhyam namāmi bhakti-śaktikam

The Panca Tattva comes in the form of so many different devotee incarnations though they are Kṛṣṇa [panca-tattvātmakam kṛṣṇam]. So though They are ontologically Viṣṇu-tattva, they are approached as devotees."

Bhakta: 'But you can put Tulasī-Mañjarīs on Rādhā's feet instead of Tulasī-leaves?"

Advaitadas: "That does not make any difference. Manjaris should not be separated from the leaves. Śrīman Mahāprabhu instructed Raghunātha Dāsa Goswāmī: dui-dike dui-patra madhye komala manjari, 'Offer soft manjaris with 2 Tulasi petals on each side of them' (CC Antya 6.297)

Bhakta: "So Tulasī is not so surrendered to Rādhā that she will touch her feet?"

Advaitadas: 'No that is not the point. One cannot just draw a link from the goddess Vṛndā in the spiritual world to the sacred tree in the world of sādhakas, whose leaves are upacāras [ingredients] of pūjā. Just as we are male devotees here in this world but female in the perfected state. It does not mean we should dress like girls in this material male body, right? seva sādhaka rūpena siddha rūpena cātra hi. So the rule of offering Tulasī applies to the sacred tree, not to the goddess above. Also the Tulasī Mañjarī who is identified as Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī in Vilāpa Kusumāñjali has nothing to do with Vṛndā-devi, because Vṛndā-devī is not called Tulasi in Kṛṣṇa līlā but only as she incarnates as the Basilicum species of plants on earth."

Bhakta: "In the Puranas it is said Tulasi is a hair of Lakṣmī-devī and in another Purāṇa she was cursed to come down to the world."

Advaitadas: 'Yes there are so many conceptions, but here we speak just of Tulasī as a pūjopacāra, as a leaf from a small sacred tree."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Guru Pūrṇimā 2011

I phoned Sādhu Bābā's āśram yesterday on the occasion of Guru Purṇimā, the annual festival to worship Śrī Guru, and had a brief talk with my Guru-sister Tulsī Sāhā about the extraordinary position of women in the āśram. This inspired me to add the following paragraph to (p.33-34) Sādhu Bābā's hagiography on my website:

বাবার আশ্রমে মেযেদের বিশেষাধিকার বিষয জিজ্ঞাসা করিলে দিদি বলিল যে "বাবা বলিতেন যে 'ইহাই মেযেদের আশ্রম. ছেলেদের কত ভজন করার স্থান আছে, কিন্তু মেযেদের ভজন করার স্থান কোথায? সেই জন্য এটী মেযেদের আশ্রম হবে. ঠাকুর সেবায, রান্না সেবায ও কীর্তন সেবায মেযেদের এখানে বিশেষাধিকার আছে!"

Advaita Dās: “During my time in Sādhu Bābā’s āśram, I was surprised to see the prominent role given to ladies in the āśram. All kīrtans were led by ladies, all deity worship was performed by them as well as all of the cooking. When I inquired about the reason, my Guru-sister Tulsī explained: ‘Bābā said that there are already so many āśrams where boys and men can perform their sādhana, but where is the place where girls and women can perform sādhana? Hence this will be a ladies' āśram.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Regulating sleep and work

The Lord says in Bhagavad Gītā [6.17]:

yuktāhāra-vihārasya yukta-ceṣṭasya karmasu |
yukta-svapnāvabodhasya yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā ||

"Yoga removes all distress if one is regulated and balanced in eating, moving or mating, working, sleeping and waking."

Though it is glorious to sit down in deep meditation or chant a fabulous number of rounds all day, every day on one's back side, such a lack of physical activities leads to all kinds of physical and mental malfunctions - overweight, heart problems, constipation, lack of sleep or irregular sleep to name but some. Hence it is often seen that the physicians of great sādhus and mahātmās advice them to take a stroll in the afternoon at least. 'Work' need not be in a factory or office among non-devotees necessarily. One can also be physically active in the holy places by doing parikramā or visiting temples, or in the west by going on harinām sankīrtan.

As usual, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda provides a brilliant commentary to this Gītā verse:

yukto niyata evāhāro bhojanaṁ vihāro gamanaṁ ca "Yukta means disciplined or restrained. It counts for eating as well as gamana [the words vihāra and gamana mean both 'going' and 'sexual intercourse' and the advice applies to both.] yasya tasya karmasu vyavahārika-pāramārthika-kṛtyeṣu yuktā niyatā eva ceṣṭā 'There needs to be discipline too in activities, either material and spiritual.' Here the hint is given that activities can be spiritual too - one can pick flowers for the Lord, circumambulate the temple or a holy place like Rādhākund, or perform harinam sankīrtan. Material activities are things like working on a job, bringing the children to school etc. vāg-vyāpārādyā yasya tasya - also speech must be disciplined. One should avoid discussing gossip, which inevitably leads to some kind of Vaiṣṇava aparādha, or speaking [too much] about the latest news of the world. Even too much Kṛṣṇa-kathā is unnecessary. If a nice topic is briefly discussed it should lead to lengthy meditation on Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's rūpa-guṇa-līlā, too. Any extremity in either renunciation or sensual indulgence may lead to duḥka, distress, that is the point of the verse - na nirviṇṇo nātisaktis bhakti yogo'sya siddhi-da 'Bhakti yoga which is neither too renounced nor too materially attached, bestows perfection." See also my blog of February 20, 2009.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Śrīmad Bhāgavat, 9th Canto, part 1

The following is a selection of my favorite verses of and comments on the 9th skandha (canto) of Śrīmat Bhāgavata.

9.4.63 ahaṁ bhaktāparādhīno hyasvatantra iva dvija - I am subdued by [the love of] My devotee, I am not independent at all."
This verse also establishes that it is by the grace of such a great devotee, rather than by the Lord's own grace, that someone becomes a devotee. If the devotee comes to Vaikuṇṭha, Kṛṣṇa will ask the Guru 'Who is this?' Śrī Guru will say 'He is My śiṣya, he can be allowed in'.
yasya prasādat bhagavat prasādo yasyāprasādān na gati kuto'pi - 'By Guru's grace there is the Lord's grace and without Guru's grace you are not going anywhere.'

9.4.64 nāham ātmānam āśāśe - Kṛṣṇa says that even His own internal and innate bliss does not give Him as much happiness as the love of His devotees. Even in the most intimate part of the Bhāgavata, during the Rāsa-līlā, this is described as ātmarāmo'pi līlayā - He performs līlā even though He is self-delighted. Though the jīva was never created at any point in history since it is beginningless, this is nevertheless the function and, if you like, reason for the existence of the jīva. Only a loving relationship between the jīva and Īśvara can make either happy. Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī says in Prīti Sandarbha (63):

"Bhagavan's ānanda is of two kinds: 1. The bliss that is part of His nature (svarūpānanda), and 2. The bliss that comes from His internal potency (svarūpa-śakty-ānanda). The second of these is again divided into two kinds: 1. The bliss of the heart (mānasānanda) and 2. The bliss of the Lord's power and opulence (aiśvaryānanda). Mānasānanda is the kingdom of bliss the Lord feels in His heart because of the devotional service offered by His devotees."

9.4.65 The Lord says: "How can I forsake a person who has given up house wife and children for My sake?" But how can this verse apply to Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, who was a great king instead of a renounced sadhu? The Lord explains in Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda's purport:

"You (Durvāsā) created a demon to destroy Ambarīṣa Mahārāja but Mahārāja did not move one step as he is totally detached from his body. You, however, may be a so-called renounced saint but you ran all over the universe to protect your body, when I unleashed My invincible Sudarśan Cakra."

A tyāgī can be attached to his Loṭā [waterpot], while a devotee-tycoon may be totally detached from his business empire and beautiful wife. It is not a question of official āśram-status but of the heart. Mahārāja Pratāparudra was willing to give up his entire kingdom just to have the darśan of Śrīman Mahāprabhu. Affection need not always mean attachment - one can and should be affectionate to one's near and dear without being attached to them - separation is inevitable in due course of time. Speaking of quality rather than birth [or āśrama] – many gṛhasthas live very austere lives, sleeping on straw mats on the floor, while many sannyāsīs bathe in luxury, wear gold Rolex watches and silk garments, have huge bank accounts and travel business class. Speaking of the substance versus the form! Ambarīṣa stood still and told Durvāsā - 'Kill me - I am not this body. I don't care.' and he was a big big king. Ambarīṣa had no more defense-attitude left, as he was fully in love with the Lord and ready to join Him at any time, without any attachment to this world. For a sādhaka it is a healthy attitude to want to protect his/her body as it is the instrument for self realization,the boat to cross over the ocean of birth and death [nṛ-deham ādyam sulabhaṁ sudurllabham plavaṁ sukalpaṁ guru karṇadhāra]. Śrīman Mahāprabhu said 'prema prayojana' - love of God is the goal. If that is established what is the use of the body? If someone wants to destroy it at the stage of prema, the premika bhakti will see it as a release arranged by the Lord.

9.4.68 In Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda's purport Durvāsā Muni asks Lord Nārāyaṇa: “Was I not right in getting angry with Ambarīṣa? What is more important? Respecting a brahmin [Ambarīṣa, as a kṣatriya, should not have eaten before a brahmin] or observing Dwādaśī [breaking the fast of Ekādaśī in time]?"
The Lord replied: 'You must ask Ambarīṣa. I do not know these things. Ambarīṣa is an expert bhakta, he knows. The śāstra says that drinking water is both eating and not eating, so Ambarīṣa has equally respected the brahmins and the Dwādaśī."

It is not that Lord Nārāyaṇā really did not know things and Ambarīṣa knew it better. The opening verse of the Rāmānanda Samvāda says that the ocean gives water to the cloud and the cloud returns the water to the ocean through rain. Similarly, the cloud-like Rāmānanda Rāya 'gave his knowledge' to Śrīman Mahāprabhu though of course he got that knowledge within the heart from Mahāprabhu Himself again. Pradyumna Miśra approached Mahāprabhu for teachings in bhakti, but, to glorify His devotees, Mahāprabhu humbly said: "I do not know anything. Go to Rāmānanda Rāya, he knows it much better than Me." The Lord was similarly approached by Raghunātha Dās Goswāmī and he, too, was forwarded to Śrī Swarūp Dāmodara. Each society needs it scholars and although scholarship is not the nucleus of bhakti, still each devotee-community also needs its scholars to provide scriptural support to their sādhana and sermons. One should and cannot approach God directly. mad bhakta pūjyabhyādhika - "My devotee is to be worshiped first and foremost". Even in the jñāna mārga the worship of Guru is compulsory, Śaṅkarācārya wrote this Gurvaṣṭakam - guror aṅghri padme manaś cen na lagnaṁ tataḥ kiṁ tataḥ kiṁ tataḥ kiṁ tataḥ kiṁ - 'If the mind is not fettered to the lotus feet of the Guru, then what is the use of anything?'

9.8.16 Asamañjasa behaved as badly as possible in order to keep people away. We have seen in the activities of great souls often before that they deliberately behave badly just to be left in peace. However, only a great transcendentalist could do this without committing aparādha. If any ordinary sādhaka does this he will surely commit aparādha.

9.9.7 "Lord Rudra, the very Self of embodied souls, into whom this universe is woven, warp and woof, as a piece of cloth into its threads, will bear your [the Ganges] force." This verse again confirms the non-difference between Shiva and Nārāyaṇa.

9.10.44 - puṣpaka does not mean flower plane but a plane stolen from Kubera by Rāvana, and taken by Rāma to return to Ayodhyā. Rāmāyaṇa narrates that it is constructed with gold and Vaidurya-jewels by Viśvakarmā.

9.10.46 The gurūn mentioned in the ṭīkā is not a single spiritual master, gurūn is in plural case here and means the host of superiors, like parents, parents-in-law, brahmins etc.