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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Jala-keli, nostalgia, sectareanism and devatās



The point of the pastime in Caitanya Caritāmṛta Antya līlā, chapter 18, in which Mahāprabhu saw the jala-keli (Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s watersports) standing on the shore of Yamunā, not participating, is not whether He was in sakhī bhāva or mañjarī bhāva - the point is that it showed the difference between the three stages of consciousness – antar (internal), bāhya (external) and ardha bāhya daśā (half-external). Surely there is no harm in seeing mañjarī bhāva in it, it is not an apasiddhānta, but I personally doubt if this was Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja's intention.

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Devotees reminiscing the past, in which they personally associated with their now deceased Guru are not sentimental old men. To accuse them of living in the past is guror avajña, disregarding Guru, thinking the Guru is dead. All bhakti-activities and thoughts are eternal. To think otherwise is māyāvāda or materialism.

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Śrīla Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī’s Vraja Vilāsa Stava is the ultimate index of sambandhānugā (generic, non-amorous) bhakti, while his Vilāpa Kusumāñjali is the ultimate index of kāmānugā (purely amorous) bhakti. Both are essential reading.

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There is no condemnation of ‘sectarianism’ in bhakti śāstra – instead there is a glorification of niṣṭha, fixation. Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī speaks of ekāntīs, or focused ones, in Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu (1.2.58) –

 tatrāpyekāntināṁ śreṣṭha govinda hṛta mānasāḥ
yeṣāṁ śrīśa prasādo’pi mano hartuṁ na śaknuyāt

 “And again, of all those devotees of one-pointed loyalty, those whose minds have been stolen by Govinda are the best. Even the grace of Lord Viṣṇu cannot steal their minds.”

This focus is based on rasa, but it shows exclusivity nonetheless. Surely we must respect others’ practices but it is also not so that for a soul surrendered to Mahāprabhu and the 6 Goswāmīs that everything and everyone is right. Bhagavad Gītā makes these points:

 aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā dharmasyāsya parantapa
aprāpya māṁ nivartante mṛtyu-saṁsāra-vartmani

 “O afflicter of enemies, those who have no faith in this dharma do not attain Me but return to the path of transmigration and death.” 9.3

and –
yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya vartate kāma-kārataḥ
na sa siddhim avāpnoti na sukhaṁ na parāṁ gatim

“He who giving up the rules of scripture acts according to his own whim does not attain perfection, happiness, or the supreme goal.” 16.23

 These verses clearly say that deviants will not attain Krṣṇa – māyāvādī, karma niṣṭha (fruitive workers) kutārkika gana (sophists) ninduk (critics) pāṣaṇḍī (agnostics) and poruwa adham (fallen eggheads) are excluded by Mahāprabhu. C.C. Ādi 7.29

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Objections have been raised against the use of the English word 'demigods' for 'devatās', as ‘demigods’ is an English term for persons in Greek mythology who had half god-half human descent. In the Vedic context that would make the Pāṇḍavas demigods, but devatās 'gods' with a small ‘g’. either the word ‘gods’ can be used or the original term ‘devatā’ can be kept, because most readers of English translations of śāstra will know what that means, just like the word ‘guru’ needs no English translation.

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