The Enquirer

by Vraja Kishor dās

Author Archive

Time

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Time

“Prabhu,” Devahūti would request, “please also answer my question about time.”

“The supernatural thing which causes all forms to evolve from the great primal origin is called ‘Time,’” Kapila explained. “It is feared by those with separatist vision.”

“Why?” She would ask.

“Time is the powerful master,” Kapila explained. “In comparison to time everyone and everything is weak and subordinate. It destroys the very things it sustains, and is inescapably omnipresent.”

“Surely some good comes from time, also.” She would say.

“Yes,” Kapila explained. “Time is also known as “Viṣṇu,” since, like Viṣṇu it causes good deeds to bear fruit.”

“Does time discriminate and show partiality,” she would wonder, “giving harsh results to some and gentle results to others?”

“No,” Kapila explained. “Time loves no one, hates no one, and makes no treaties. Time never sleeps, and thus it impartially ruins those who sleep.”

Devahūti understood that if we are “awake” and make good use of time, we can evolve towards auspiciousness. If we “sleep” and neglect to make good use of time, we devolve towards inauspiciousness.

Everyone should observe time respectfully, as if fearful of its punishment. Even the forces of nature obey time, for if they don’t there will be no sequentiality, and nothing will ever happen. Kapila explained, “The wind blows, the sun heats, the heavens send rain, the stars shine, the trees, vines and bushes bear their seasonal flowers and fruits, the rivers flow, the ocean remains contained, fire burns, the mountain-bearing earth does not sink, space holds the atmosphere, seven substances grow into bodies for living creatures, the gods create, maintain, and destroy this world… aeon after aeon everything animate and inanimate evolves and functions due to obeying the sequentiality of time.”

Kapila concluded, “Time is endless, but ends everything. Time is beginningless, but begins everything. Time is never born, never ages, and never dies, but it causes people to give birth to other people, who age, and are finally destroyed by death.”

— From Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.29.3745.

True Authority, According to Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī

This is a translation of Tattva-sandarbha 10 & 11, with “my” comments inset. Please think about the implications of excluding “Statements of Scholars” and “Tradition” from śabdha-pramāṇa and the significance this has on 95% of what is most often spoken on contemporary disscussions of śāstra (like Bhāgavatam classes or public lectures).

~ ~ ~ ~ = ~ ~ ~ ~

People have four flaws, beginning with misperception.

The four perceptive flaws are (1) misperception (bhrama), confusing one thing for another, (2) delusion (pramāda), believing in our misperceptions, (3) dishonesty (vipralipsā), hiding or ignoring evidence of the flaws in our misperceptions, and (4) perceptual ineptitude (karaṇāpāṭava), the foundation of misperception.

Therefore, our ability to ascertain the veracity of anything is limited, particularly in regard to things of a spiritual nature which are, by their very nature, beyond the boundaries of normal perception. For that we certainly require assistance from the uncommon words of the Veda.

All the numerous ways of trying to know reality can be classified as a particular blend of the these three fundamental strategies: 

1) Empirical perception (pratyakṣa) 
2) Logical deduction  (anumāna)

3) Expert instruction  (śabda)

“Empirical perception” involves many forms of direct measurement (pratyakṣa) as well as indirect observation of the remote effect one entity exerts upon another (ceṣṭā).  

“Logical deduction” involves many forms of extrapolation. Some examples are comparisons (upamāna), probabilities (arthāpatti), inferences (abhāva), and inclusions (sambhava).

“Expert instruction” means to receive valid information from someone who is an expert authority on a subject. However, this does not deserve to be a separate category unless the expert authority ascertains veracity on the basis of something other than empirical perception or logical deduction. For example, statements of scholars (ārṣa) seem like “expert instruction,” but it is relegated to Perception or Deduction if the scholars base their instruction primarily on their own empiricism or logic. Tradition (aitihya) is similar. Many people may accept an idea for a very long time, but this sort of authority is differentiated from “expert instruction” and relegated to the other two categories if the source of the tradition is someone’s perception or deduction.


If “expert instruction” does not originate from empirical observation or logical deduction, where does it originate? Śrī Jīva explains…

The beginningless and perfect words of the Veda are self-manifest and communicated to all people through paramparā.

Knowledge (“Veda”) is inherently contained within objects manifest by Viṣṇu, it simply takes a very developed and clear intellect to perceive all the knowledge inherent in the universe. The clearest, most developed intellect, in the person of Śrī Brahmā Jī, makes exactly such perception and then expresses his understanding in words, thus putting Veda into a spoken form accessible to those with less superhuman intellect. Brahmā’s explanation becomes inaccessible to the intellects of humans at certain points in history, which is when Vyāsa reconfigures Brahmā’s Veda into a myriad of Veda, Upaniṣad, and Purāṇa.
The Veda grants accurate knowledge of all things, worldly and transcendent. Therefore the ultimate basis upon which we can ascertain the validity of a statement is the Veda, in all places, at all times, and for all subjects both wondrous and common.

“Logic and argument cannot prove or disprove transcendent things.”

— Vedānta Sūtra 2.1.11

“Argument is not capable of determining things that are beyond comprehension.”

— Mahābhārata Bhīṣma.5.22

“Such knowledge is born from Śāstra.”

— Vedānta Sūtra 1.1.3

“The Śruti is the ultimate root of the veracity of all concepts.”

— Vedānta Sūtra 2.1.27

“The Veda is the only eye through which anyone — human, ancestor, or god — can see the Supreme and come to understand the ultimate objective and means.”

— Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.20.4

What does “Krishna” mean?

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What does “Krishna” mean?

The meaning is immediately evident to anyone who knows any of the thousands of śāstric statements like “The All-Attractive himself is Krishna” (kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam). It is immediately clear to anyone who has been able to hear Krishna’s glories described by a realized paramparā. It is even immediately obvious to anyone who has heard about Krishna from countless conventional sources. As soon as we hear this name, “Krishna,” the object that immediately becomes manifest in our mind (i.e. the person, Krishna) is the primary meaning of the word. As soon as we pronounce even the first syllable of this name, “Krishna,” our minds immediately comprehend the direct and obvious meaning.

Krishna: (1) His complexion is blue-black like the Tamāla tree, he is breast-fed by Yaśoda, and he is the Supreme Spiritual Substance.” — Nāma Kaumudī

“Viṣṇu, Nārāyaṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Vaikuṇṭha express the same meaning… Kṛṣṇa is Vasudeva’s son.” — Amara-kośa

Kṛṣ is a word that means ‘existence.’ Ṇa means ‘carefree.’ Taken together, as Kṛṣṇa, they denote the Supreme Spiritual Substance.” — Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣada, Pūrva 1.1

[The above is translated from Tattva-Sandarbha 47.2. Amara Kośa and Gopāla-tāpanī references are given in the commentary of Śrī Satyanārāyaṇa dāsa Bābājī.]

Is Guru More of an Authority Than Śāstra?

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Is Guru More of an Authority Than Śāstra?

I encounter a lot of people who feel that Śrīla Prabhupāda (our guru) is the primary authority, and all other gurus before him and even the śāstra itself have to be understood in a way that conforms with his teachings.

This is a complex and delicate issue although in theory it is very simple.

The Simple Theoretical Truth

The very simple theoretical fact is that śāstra is the ultimate authority, and guru represents śāstra and therefore carries the authority of śāstra. Guru conforms to śāstra. This conformity establishes equivalency, endowing guru with the “weight” of śāstra.

Vedic culture is unequivocal on this point: śāstra is the ultimate authority. To suggest that guru (not śāstra) is the ultimate authority is against the Vedic conclusion. Period. If you are doubtful about this, I recommend you read the opening section of Śrī Jīva’s Tattva-sandarbha, which is itself replete with elaborate references.

The Complicated Practical Reality

The complicated reality is that teachers (guru) and textbooks (śāstra) are inseparable. By studying the textbook a student comes to better understand the lesson given by the teacher. And by paying attention to the teacher’s lessons, the student better understands what is written in the textbook.

Teachers teach the textbooks, therefore they are as authoritative as the textbooks. However, if a teacher contradicts the textbook, the school district corrects or terminates him and his authority in the school becomes nil. So although the guru and śāstra share the same authority, it is the śāstra which is the root source of the authority, and the guru which shares that authority by virtue of conformity to it.

I Think My Teachers Taught Something That’s Not In The Textbook

This means either (a) your teacher needs to be reported to the district, or (b) you misunderstood. Being that the teacher is an authorized graduate, option B is far more likely.

“OK, but what did I misunderstand? (a) the teacher, or (b) the textbooks?” Or (c) both?

Probably C, so the next question: “What should I do about it?”

The answer is not “Nothing, just accept what you think you heard your teacher say, there is no need for textbooks when you have such a great teacher.” Nor is the answer the opposite extreme, “Nothing, there is no need for teachers when we have textbooks.”

So, what’s the answer? What should we do when it seems like our teacher is at variance with his teachers and their textbooks? The answer is study harder.

If you know that your teacher is a bonafide master of his subject, then you have to study both his teachings and the textbooks he uses, until you realize how he has masterfully expressed the textbook science in a way that is relevant to a very specific time place and circumstance.

The Telephone Effect

If you let students graduate with the idea that its OK to understand the teacher in a way that is variant from the previous teachers and the textbooks, what is going to happen soon to your school? It’s not going to be “your” school anymore. It’s going to change dramatically very soon, and start teaching all sorts of things you never originally intended.

Even if the guru is pure and bona-fide, the disciple is not. We disciples understand guru’s instruction through our own knowledge-filters and with our own bias. What happens when such a disciple acts in the role of guru (by trying to communicate what he or she has learned to others)? They can only give the version they comprehended – which is slightly different from the original version (śāstra). Now, what will happen on the next iteration? The “slight” differences will become less slight. And after a few iterations? The original teachers would hardly recognize it as their own subject.

Thus, it is catastrophic to believe that śāstra conforms to guru. Such a theory destroys paramparā and demotes it to the status of a pantha (a systematized idea without conformity to śāstra).

How to Study

Śāstra is the ultimate authority.
The guruevery guru — must conform to it.
The disciple — every disciple — must make the effort to harmonize the divergent statements of his guru and śāstra.

It is not an easy or simple thing to do. Śāstra has many apparently contradictory statement, because they are directed to different people in different circumstances. Similarly, guru often appears to contradict himself, because he speaks to many different people in many different circumstances.

Therefore it takes a great deal of scholarship and humility to really understand either and both guru or śāstra. “Cut and paste paṇḍits,” “FaceBook commentators,” and “WWW mudslingers” will only prove exhausting for those making the effort. We have to find living gurus who have realized the conformity and harmony of all the above, and we should study in their study-groups. But this will be impossible without purely sincere and humble motive.

More About Advancing in Bhakti-Yoga

Chanting

More About Advancing in Bhakti-Yoga

This continues my previous article.

Unsteady Practice

Utsāha-mayī, the very first stage of practicing bhakti, is a state completely made of enthusiasm, with very very little real substance besides the enthusiasm of being involved in something new and exciting and attractive.

The rest of Unsteady practice (aniṣṭhitā-bhajan) boils down to not really having a clear picture what “devotion” really is, and not really bing particularly convinced (therefore) that its really worth the effort to pursue . The four phases of unsteady practice after the initial excitement wears off, are all about developing the determination to pursue bhakti, and the stage that follows that is all about getting a clear picture of what devotion really is. Specifically, this final stage of unsteady practice is about being able to differentiate genuine devotion to Krishna, from “devotion” employed as a device to get three-meals and a cot in an āśrama, or better (to get disciples, admirers, fans, etc.).

Purification

Once we are (a) fairly convinced that bhakti is worth the effort, and (b) can really distinguish sincere from insincere devotion – the next stage focuses on the effort to rid ourselves of insincere devotion and become fully sincere.

This stage is called anartha-nivṛtti – purification (“getting rid of unwanted things,” you could say).

Sri Viśvanātha points out four categories of impurities, and puts them in a certain order, the order in which they naturally become our main focus.

The First Group of Anarthas: Negative Things

The first category is duskṛtyuttara-anartha — impurities arising from “bad deeds.” Thankfully, he also defines what he means by this term. He says it refers to the five ”kleśa (calamities):

1) avidyā — “Ignorance”

2) asmitā — “Selfish worries”

3) rāga — “favoritism”

4) dveśa — the opposite of favoritism, maybe we call it “partiality.”

5) abhiniveśa — being “wrapped up” in the external world.

All five are consequential. In other words, the later results from the former, and the first is the root of them all. So, it would seem clear that a key trait of attaining the stage of anartha-nivṛtti (which I would make, by the way, as the point at which we pass beyond being a “beginner”), is that we start to work hard to get vidyā.

This means we start to work hard to clearly understand Śrī Bhāgavata, and the explanations and elaborations of Śrī Bhāgavata given by Śrī Caitanya’s followers, especially the six Gosvāmī of Vṛndāvana. So, a real key to digging into anartha-nivṛtti is study.

Not everyone is a bookworm, so study isn’t always about books. But somehow or other, we need to really get clear about what Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta is, and what it’s not.

Clarity about the philosophical essentials will deflate the other four kleśa (always being worried about oneself, showing favoritism and partiality, and being so wrapped up in nonessentials and externals.

The Second Group: “Positive” Things

The second group of anartha is sukṛtyuttara — its the stuff that comes as a result of “good deeds.” This means all the wealth and beauty and power and good fortune that we have.

Why is this ”anartha”? It brings a sense of importance and prestige which is antithetical to the fundamental mood of bhakti.

Even if we are wealthy, we should live simply, like an ordinary person, and use our money charitably.

Even if we are beautiful, we shouldn’t flaunt it. We should dress and ornament ourselves modestly and help others feel beautiful.

Even if we are powerful, we should only use power when our responsibilities require us to do so. We should in all other circumstances give space for other people to freely express their will and intention.

By (a) not over-indulging in our good fortune, and (b) sharing our good fortune with others, we become purified from the second group of anartha.

The Third Group: Offenses

Mainly we have to concentrate, Śrī Viśvanātha explains, on offenses regarding Krishna’s names. Other kinds of offenses are also to be considered, but the main thing is far and away offenses to Krishna’s name.

He gives an elaborate explanation of the offenses and how to avoid them. I’ve tried to represent his advice in my book, To Dance in the Downpour of Devotion.

The primary offense is offenses towards people who chant Krishna’s name. The primary remedy is the attempt to chant sincerely and attentively.

The Fourth Group: “Perks”

The fourth group is quite similar to the last stage of aniṣṭhitā-bhajan — trying to use bhakti as a means for earning a livelihood, keeping a roof over our head, filling our bellies, getting respect, etc.

The cure here is not to accept remuneration for devotional service. We should not accept salary for our bhakti seva. Remuneration is not limited to finance. We should not accept praise, we should divert praise to its rightful sources. We should not accept special accommodations, meals, seats, garlands, etc in Krishna’s temples and in āśrama’s of devotees.

Some degree of preferential treatment can be accepted in lieu of social standards (like being an older person) or practical matters (like being ill). But these should always be reduced to bare minimum.

For example, we may be older, more advanced and more learned than the rest of the devotees in an āśrama or temple, but this doesn’t mean we deserve our own apartment in the ashram with a french maid, and a royal throne. It is enough to accept a special blanket or cot that is slightly more than what the others use. It is enough to sit on a slightly more decorated mat.

In this way, we destroy the fourth category of unearth.

Steady Bhajan

When we have made significant progress uprooting the four types of impurities, we naturally begin to concentrate on our devotional practice itself. (which by the way is remembrance,smaraṇ, as a result of hearing, śravaṇa, affectionate glorification of Śrī Krishna’s name-form-qualities-pastimes, kīrtan.)

Here Śrī Viśvanātha says that there are five things that prevent steady kīrtan-śravaṇa-smaraṇa:

1) Sleepiness — this is very blatant and only happens when we are just barely beginning to aspire for steady bhajan (or in very extremely challenging circumstances).

2) Distraction — we aren’t concentrating on the kīrtan (etc), we’re just going through the motions, but thinking about (and even doing) other things.

3) Apathy — though we’re not distracted, we’re also not particularly paying much attention to the kīrtan, not feeling much for it.

4) Faults — being apathetic, our focus is quickly overthrown by our faults. What faults? Śrī Viśvanātha says “anger, greed, pride, etc.” In other words, we focus on chanting for a moment, but then start thinking about something that makes us angry, or something we really want to accomplish, or something that would enhance our pride, etc.

5) Tasting Pleasure — This is the last vestige of unsteady bhajan. Surpassing this one is rightfully called fully situated in niṣṭhā. Here, our focus is able to remain for some time away from being diverted into anger, greed, pride, etc. — but when some opportunity comes to enjoy something, we lose focus and even stop the chanting to enjoy it. When this tendency is surpassed, one is truly at the stage of niṣṭhitā-bhajan.

There is a secret embedded in the way Śrī Viśvanātha terms “Tasting Pleasure”. He calls it rasāsvāda. The secret is that all five faults remain because we as yet have no ruci – no actual ability to taste the joy of devotion of Krishna, therefore we are distracted and so on.

The next stage after niṣṭhā is titled ruci — and is all about developing a taste of the actual beauty and bliss in bhakti-yoga. Hopefully that can be a topic of a post in the near future.

What is Śāstra?

What is Śāstra?

This question is the first topic of Jīva Gosvāmī’s Ṣaḍ-sandarbha. I’ll summarize and include a concept or two borrowed also from Nāma Cintāmaṇī of Kānupriya Govāmī.

Śāstra is valid-knowledge, which in Sanskrit is called veda. Veda is embedded within creation itself from the source of creation, Viṣṇu. Thus a great deal of knowledge comes automatically, instinctually (as in, how to balance, how to regulate heart beat, how to repair wounds, how to grow, how to breathe, how to mate, etc.). But the more complex knowledge available mainly to species beginning with human beings is not imposed by instinct but is available only to those who want it and seek it.

Brahmā is the first seeker and realizer of the higher knowledge embedded by Viṣṇu in the universe. He explains what he realizes in words, and those words constitute the verbal “Veda.”

Gradually, Brahmā’s veda becomes confusing to people, and as Dvāpara Yuga advances it becomes almost completely messed up. Therefore towards the end of every Dvāpara Yuga, someone fills the role of “Vyāsa” (Editor) and recompiles Brahmā’s veda.

The main topic of the Veda is “Sacrifice” — how to live in such a way as to not be “sinful” or “evil” yet also achieve what you want to achieve. There are four parts to Sacrifice, so the Vyāsa’s create four books about Sacrifice, Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma and Atharva.

Then Vyāsa and his followers compile elaborations on the four Vedas, consisting of the parts of Brahmā’s Veda which are not directly about sacrifice. These mainly become known as the Upaṇiṣads.

But a special section is compiled which is easy to read, speak, and understand, but which contains all the knowledge of Brahmā’s veda completely (Pūrṇam), this section is called the Purāṇa, sometimes known as the “Fifth Veda.”

There are 18 major Purāṇa compiled by Vyāsa. They are superior to the Upaṇiṣad’s and Veda because (a) everyone can relatively easily access them, and (b) the Vedas and upaniṣads quickly become degraded and large portions of them disappear immediately as Kali Yuga arrives.

Of the Puāṇa, 6 are primarily directed towards those with tamasic inclinations, 6 for those with rajasic, and 6 for those with sattvik. The most sattvik is the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa.

This Bhāgavata Purāṇa is a prototype of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, it is not the full Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

In some Dvapara-Yugas, such as this one, rarely (once in 1000), Krishna himself appears, so the Vyāsa feels a special impetus to create an appropriate Śāstric compilation to serve his appearance. After consulting with Nārada and achieving a special samādhi under his inspiration, Vyāsa then recompiles the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which becomes known as Śrī Bhāgavata / Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the highest form of all Brahmā’s original revelations, and in fact is even higher than the original, because the Vyāsa who compiles it (Kṛṣṇa Dvaipayaṇa) is a śaktyāveśa avatāra of Viṣṇu, and the speaker Śuka, is uniquely realized.

Vyāsa teaches the essence of Śrī Bhāgavata to his son, Śuka. Śuka uses it to answer all of Parīkṣit Mahārāja’s questions. Sūta is present there, and recounts it to answer the questions of Śaunaka and the Naimiṣāraṇya Ṛṣis. This is the form of Śrī Bhāgavata we have today.

No one except Viṣṇu, Brahmā, and Vyāsa writes śāstra. Actually, no one but Viṣṇu creates śāstra. Brahmā and Vyāsa simply give specific form to what Viṣṇu creates.

What are the Writings of the Goswāmīs, Etc?

In the 1 in 1000 times that Krishna appears in Dvāpara, he soon thereafter realizes that he didn’t accomplish the objective of his descent (to spread Vraja-prema), so in Kali-Yuga he then becomes a premī-bhakta and again appears (as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya). He appears with his confidential assocaites.

He and those associates provide the inspiration that makes full use of Vyāsa’s Śrī Bhāgavata and allows Krishna prema to spread relatively widely throughout the world.

The writings of the Goswāmīs are direct expositions of the content of Śrī Bhāgavatam. This is a literal statement, and as you study the Bhāgavata deeply and the Goswāmī books literally, this fact stands clearly right in front of your nose.

What about “Sādhu” and “Guru”

These people explain and exemplify the Śrī Bhāgavata and other Śāstra. If they write or say things that are not completely supported by the conclusions of Śrī Bhāgavata, then their teachings and their followers are not counted among “Vedic” schools of thought. Buddhists are an example.

Sādhu and Guru have no independent authority apart from the śāstra. All philosophical authority is in the Śrī Bhāgavata and not elsewhere.

The members of a particular school or line will of course take full avail of the explanations of Śrī Bhāgavata given by their founders and ācāryas. Thus we approach the Śrī Bhāgavata through the Six Goswāmīs and their faithful followers. “Faithful” means “with fidelity.” One who comes to conclusions other than the conclusions arrived at by Śrī Jīva, Śrī Rūpa, etc. is not “faithful” – other credentials having no bearing to counterweight this judgement.

Thus no “new śāstras” are ever made, but something like that appears to happen in the attempt to explain the fundamental śāstra to new points of view. In time this inevitably causes the śāstra to lose coherence and integrity, which is why there is a scheduled necessity for Vyāsa.

The works of the six goswamīs, are not śāstra, but they are elaborations and explanations of Śrī Bhāgavata, by the followers of Śrī Caitanya.

Progress in the Early Stages of Sādhana Bhakti

Progress in the Early Stages of Sādhana Bhakti

In Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu (1.4.15–16) Śrī Rūpa divided the progress of bhakti-yoga into nine stages from its seed (śraddhā, conviction/attraction) to its mature fruit (prema, full-fledged love). Some generations later, Śrī Viśvanātha wonderfully elaborated on this nine-stage progression in a book titled Mādhurya Kādambinī.

Let’s discuss the early stages of development, as they are the most relevant to 99.9% of us.

First of all, when you get an initial interest in bhakti it is called śraddhā. When this interest is strong enough, it makes you seek the company of bhaktas, so you can learn more about bhakti. The company of bhaktas is called sādhu-saṅga. When you get their company sufficiently, they begin to help you actually practice bhakti-yoga. This practice is called bhajan which is a synonym for bhakti-sādhana. The stage where we begin bhajan is called bhajan-kriyā.

Śrī Viśvanātha says [MK 2.7]:

tato bhajana-kriyā sā va dvividhā – aniṣṭhitā niṣṭhitā ca.

This bhajan-kriyā has two stages: unsteady and steady.

Unsteady Bhajan

tatra prathamam aniṣṭhitā kramena – utsāha-mayī, ghana-taralā, vyūḍha-vikalpā, viṣaya-saṅgarā, niyamākṣamā, taraṅga-raṅgiṇi – iti ṣaḍ-vidhā bhavantīti svādhāraṁ vilakṣyati

The first stage, unsteady bhajan, goes through six sequential stages…

He describes the six stages of unsteady bhajana as:

1) Novice enthusiasm.

2) …which, when it wears off, turns into unsteady interest

3) …to get beyond which, we have to face myriad doubts

4) …after somewhat satisfying those doubts, we struggle with sense objects – trying to give up bad habits not conducive to bhakti-yoga.

5) …then we struggle to adopt disciplines that are conducive to bhakti-yoga

6) …finally, we are distracted by popularity and respect that comes as a result of passing successfully through the above five stages.

Purification

When we get beyond the sixth phase above, we come to a new major stage called anartha-nivṛtti (“clearing useless things from our character”). In this stage our focus turns firmly towards self-purification.

Śrī Viśvanātha describes it [MK 3.1] :

atha anarthānāṁ nivṛttiḥ. te cānarthāś catur-vidhāḥ: duṣkṛtotthāḥ, sukṛtotthā, aparādhotthā, bhakty-utthāś ca.

Now, in anartha-nivṛtti we get rid of unwanted things. There are four types of unwanted things: (1) The results of our bad deeds, (2) The results of our good deeds, (3) The results of our lack of affection and respect, (4) The side-effects available from practicing bhakti.

He describes [3.16] that the first two clear out relatively easily. The fourth takes longer, and the third is the most difficult to root out.

Steady Bhajan

Once we purified ourselves significantly , we begin to much more effectively focus on making our bhajan itself more deep and steady.

Śrī Viśvanātha describes [4.2]:

niṣṭhā naiścalyam utpannā yasyā iti niṣṭhitā

”Steady bhajan is fixed and unwavering.

naiścalyaṁ bhakteḥ pratyahaṁ vidhitsitam apy anartha-daśāyāṁ lay, vikṣepa, apratipatti, kaṣaya, rasāvādānāṁ pañcānām antarīyāṇāṁ durvāratvān na siddha āsīt.

Although trying every day to become unwavering in devotion, the remaining unwanted character traits present five obsticles, preventing you from achieving the goal of steadiness.

These five are:

1) Drowsiness

2) If we are not sleepy, we are Unfocused.

3) If we are focused, still it is an Apathetic focus.

4) This apathetic focus is frequently, easily interrupted by Troubles & Worries about unpleasant things.

5) …or by Hopes & Ambitions for pleasant things.

He also explains:

kīrtana-śravaṇa-smaraṇeṣu uttareṣv ādhikyena

The problems are progressively worse in attempts to deeply practice kīrtan, śravaṇa, and smaraṇa.

In other words, it is easiest to attain niṣṭhitā in the practice of Kīrtan. It is harder to attain in while practicing śravaṇa (for example, listening to someone speak Śrīmad Bhāgavatam). It is the most difficult to attain in japa, where the focus is entirely on contemplation (smaraṇa)

And he says:

anartha-nivṛtty-anantaraṁ teṣāṁ tadīyānāṁ nivṛtta-prāyatvāt naiścalyam sampadyate iti, layādy-abhāva eva niṣṭhā-liṅgam.

”Because anartha-nivṛtti is not fully complete, now one has to focus on removing these five unearths, then drowsiness and so on will disappear and one will truly attain niṣṭhā.

By the constant effort (“every day”) to keep steady focus, not so apathetic that it can be distracted by our self-centered hopes and worries — this decreases the apathy. Decreasing apathy later becomes positive, “increasing sympathy.” As we become “sympathetic” to bhakti, we develop taste for it ruci.

This begins the next stage of bhakti-yoga (with two parts, ruci and āsakti) which I would describe as “advanced.”

I would call “novice” the stages of śraddhā and sādhu-saṅga and aniṣṭha-bhajan-kriyā. “Intermediate” bhakti-yoga I would describe as anartha-nivṛtti and niṣṭhā. “Advanced” is ruci and āsakti. And “perfect” is bhāva and prema.

Thank you for reading!

I made a follow up post on this subject, too.

Clearing a Few More Misconceptions about Rāgānugā Sādhana.

title

Clearing a Few More Misconceptions about Rāgānugā Sādhana.

There seems to be a lot of interest in my previous article on the subject, and some discussion has cropped up, which makes me realize there are many other misconceptions about Rāgānugā-Sādhana that gradually have to be addressed before anyone can gain a clear, confident, and wise understanding of Śrī Rūpa’s blessings to the world.

No Rules

The biggest misconception is that Vaidhi follows rules, but Rāgānugā doesn’t. That’s just wrong. BRS 1.2.296 and 1.2.101 prove that it is a misconception. The difference between the two sādhanas in this regard is simply that Vadhi is motivated by the desire to follow God’s rules, where Rāgānugā is motivated by desire to love God in a very intimate way – and it utilizes rules and methodologies as tools to attain that intimate love.

Any so called bhakti that doesn’t follow śāstra is “bogus-bhakti”, not ”rāgānugā-bhakti.”

”Spontaneous”

A similar misconception is that the execution of rāgānugā is “spontaneous” (and therefore doesn’t follow rules).

It is true that rāgānugā is svabhāvikī (natural, spontaneous). But it is bhāva-bhakti which begins to be svabhāvikī in execution. Rāgānugā-bhakti is svabhāvikī (spontaneous) in its motivation, not in its execution. This is proven by BRS 1.2.291 and 292 as well as by Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti’s explanation of ŚB 3.25.32.

“Spontaneous motivation” specifically means that you have a natural, undeniable interest in pursuing a specific type of intimate relationship with Krishna. You don’t get this interest because you theoretically know its a good thing to have, or because someone says you are supposed to have it – you just have it naturally (as a result of having heard a particularly beautiful līlā which awakens your specific attachment to the love demonstrated in that līlā)

One should note carefully that all the original archetypes of rāgānugā-sādhana — for example the six goswāmīs — rigidly observed vratas and vidhis, like counting a certain number of recitations of mahāmantra on beads daily, daily offering a certain number of praṇām to people, limiting very strictly their sense-gratification, and so on. ”saṁkhya pūrvaka nāma… Not that they just did whatever they wanted whenever they felt spontaneously inspired to do it.

Rāgānugā is just About the Motivation

Rāgānugā is based on spontaneous motivation, but it also differs from vaidhi-sādhana in the ways described in BRS 1.2.294 and 295: that the focus is on the internal significance of ones external deeds.

Basically, in vaidhi-sādhana we see the external deed as the whole package. “OK I did 16 rounds today.” Or, “OK I offered the chapattis to Krishna.” But in rāgānugā-sādhana we are mainly focused on the internal significance of the deeds. While chanting 16 rounds we are praying to become freed from our imperfections that keep us from attaining a specific intimate loving relationship with Krishna. Externally we may be sitting in front of an altar with marble deities, but internally we are sitting in our rooms, behind locked doors with mother-in-laws and husbands blocking all the exits so that we cannot leave and answer the flute’s call, so we are chanting the name, because that is all we have, and the fire the name ignites in us, will burn the impurities that cause us to be so blocked.

Or we may be meditating that Rādhā and Krishna have come to sit privately with us and hear us privately express our love for them by reciting their names with attention and focus. In this way, whatever the specifics, there is some internal significance to the external deed, and the internal significance is nourishing to the particular mood one aspires for. These are example of Rāgānugā relevant to mādhurya-rati. Every individual Rāgānugā-sādhaka will have different internal significance in their external practices. But the key is that the rāgānugā-sādhaka is focused FIRST of all on the internal aspect, and the external aspect is facilitating the internal meditation.

Kāmānugā is the variety of Rāgānugā inspired by the the hope of attaining a love for Krishna like the gopīs have. Sambandhānugā is the variety of Rāgānugā that is inspired by the hopes of attaining other relationships. So, one inspired by the hope of attaining a motherly relationship with Krishna could offer capatis to the deity just like any vaidhi-bhakta, but the internal activity going on which externally offering chapatti on an altar may be that she has taken chapati that Rādhārāṇī cooked on Yaśodā-devī’s request, and is carrying it into the dining area where Krishna is seated with his father and brother and some of their friends, and is serving the chapati to them as they joke, etc.

So, Rāgānugā is not just about having a spontaneous motivation to attain a particular loving relationship with Krishna, it is also about practicing the vidhis in a way that facilitates achieving that relationship.

Rāgānugā Sādhana Naturally Happens When You Are Purified by Vaidhi

I think this is a useful thing to explain to someone who is overly zealous to imitate rāgānugā-sādhana when factually they have no inclination to love Krishna in any mood, but are only inclined to be loved and adored by others. It is useful because it puts the person “in his place” and makes him focus on more honest bhakti. However it is not an objective philosophical fact that Vadhi leads to Rāgānugā.

The objective fact is that Vaidhi-sādhana leads to vaidyottara-bhāva-bhakti which blossoms as maryāda-prema. On the other hand rāgānugā-sādhana leads to rāgottara-bhāva-bhakti which blossoms as kevala-prema. The two paths don’t cross at any time.

If you don’t have spontaneous inspiration to love Krishna in a particular way, and you want to get it, you won’t get it by “following vaidhi-sādhana — but you can get it by following BRS 1.2.296, which means to adopt an approach to rāgānugā-sādhana which relies very heavily on the vidhis common to vaidhi-sādhana but under the guidance of a rāgānugā-guru who aims your vidhi towards exposure to kīrtan of the nāma, rūpa, guṇa and līlā of Krishna in a genuine, pure way. By that exposure we soon get the initial spark of spontaneous inspiration, and then be able to proceed more towards BRS 1.2.294 and 295.

This is exactly the system our Guru, Śrīla Prabhupāda, set up as the ideal for ISKCON, but a lot of his followers seem not to understand it, and mistake his program as vaidhi-bhakti.

As shown in BRS 1.2.309 the ultimate cause is the mercy of Krishna’s devotee who has some spontaneous love, or aspiration for spontaneous love, at least. For its really only when we hear kīrtan of the nāma, rūpa, guṇa and līlā by someone who really loves Krishna that we stand any chance of any of that love inspiring us to attain something similar.

Thus we are very fortunate to have Śrī Bhāgavata (spoken by Śuka, who is full of prema), and we are very fortunate to have explanations of the Bhāgavata by the Goswāmīs and their followers. We are very fortunate that Śrī Bhaktivinoda prepared the way for sharing this loving access to Krishna-līlā with the modern, Westernized world. And we are very fortunate that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta and Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda have furthered that work. Especially we are lucky for all the writings Śrīla Prabhupāda left for us. Because its by hearing about Krishna from someone who really loves Krishna that we hope to catch the spark of spontaneous inspiration to also love Krishna.

We should always be looking everywhere and anywhere for someone who can speak about Krishna with genuine love. Finding such person we should open our ears wide! I am most fortunate to have been able to meet pure devotees in this very lifetime, and to hear from them with open ears. I don’t know how this was possible.

You Can Understand Rāgānugā by Debating About it

The “cool” and “advanced” club is well outside the umbrella of pure devotional service, and far below the feet of even the simplest sincere vaidhi-bhakta. You can’t get anywhere near Vṛndāvana Krishna by feeling smarter, better, more advanced than other people.

The person who debates more forcefully or with more bravado then the next, is not the person we want to align ourselves with, unless we want to follow them into their karmic spiral.

As your servant and a mere sweeper in the gutter of the Gauḍiya Paramparā, I offer whatever feeble services I can to any and all who request or avail of it. There is no need to debate with hotheaded people who already feel convinced they know everything there is to know. Better to sign a document consenting defeat to such persons, and assemble sincere seekers of Krishna in a private place, and carefully discuss the teachings of our guides and exemplars.

To purify myself I have taken this opportunity to discuss the wonderful subject of Rāgānugā Sādhana. Holding to my chest and on my head the stones from the places where followers of Śrī Rūpa have walked, I tend to remain a fool.

How and When to Practice Rāgānugā-Bhakti

Ragatmika

HOW TO PRACTICE RĀGĀNUGĀ-BHAKTI

1. kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya… tat-tat-kathā… [BRS 1.2.294]

“Remember Krishna with a particular Vṛndāvana devotee who exemplifies the type of love you seek.”

how?

“By always doing kīrtan of their līlā, guṇa, rūpa, nāma.”

What is the remembrance for? To provide internal relevance to external practices…

2. seva-sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi… [295]

“Execute your seva so the external actions have internal significance to the vraja-bhāva you seek.”

What external actions?…

3. śravanot-kīrtanādīni vaidha-bhakty uditāni tu… [296]

“The actions described in relation to Vaidhi-bhakti, headed by śravaṇa and kīrtana.”

These three verses are Bhakti-Rasāmṛta-Sindhu’s complete disclosure on how to practice rāgānugā-sādhana. Śrī Rūpa describes no further practices here, in his magnum opus. No ekādaśa-bhava. No siddha-praṇālī. No smaraṇa-paddhati techniques. No aṣṭha-kāla-līlā-smaraṇa. The implication is simple and clear: the other, more elaborate systems of rāgānugā-sādhana developed by subsequent ācāryas, and supporting poetry written by Śrī Rūpa and other ācāryas are indeed supra-wonderful, but they are not absolutely essential. The above three instructions are fundamental, the rest are elaborations on the fundaments — elaborating on ways to do these three items.

WHEN TO PRACTICE RĀGĀNUGĀ-BHAKTI

Śrī Rūpa identifies a common starting point for all forms of uttama-bhakti (pure devotion). He says, “adau śraddhā”  — “It starts from conviction/faith.” [BRS 1.4.15–16].

He doesn’t stipulate any exceptions, like, “adau śraddhā rāgānugas tv adau niṣṭhā.” (“It starts from conviction/faith, but Rāgānuga starts from niṣṭhā.”)

So rāgānuga has its own type of śraddhā (convictions), which comes from its own special type of kṛpā (mercy) and which results in its own special type of sādhu-saṅga (good association), from which we get advice and direction about its own special type of bhajan-kriyā (devotional practices), etc.

Then why is it very commonly taught (at least among ISKCON and Gauḍiya Maṭha circles) that rāgānugā begins from niṣṭhā? If we examine how Śrī Rūpa describes rāgānugā-śraddhā we will see that he does include a concept relevant to niṣṭhā.

rāgātmikāika-niṣṭhā ye vraja-vāsī-janādayaḥ |
teṣāṁ bhāvāptaye lubdho bhaved atrādhikāravān.

“The qualified person has an eager greed to obtain the bhāva (loving mood) of Vraja-vāsī, specifically fixed upon a particular Vraja-vāsī.” [BRS 1.2.291]

The qualification for practicing rāgānugā is “eager greed.”

Eager greed for what? Eager greed to obtain a certain state of being (teṣāṁ bhāvāptaye).

What state of being? The state of prema especially held by those who are residents of Vṛndāvana (vraja-vāsī-janādayaḥ).

Just any resident of Vṛndāvana? No, the eager greed is “fixed upon a specific exemplar of Rāga” (rāgātmikā-eka-niṣṭhā).

You can see the use of the word “fixed” (niṣṭhā). However this does not imply that rāgānugā begins as niṣṭhā for this would contradict BRS 1.4.15–16 explained above. In this sentence about the qualification for rāgānugā, the word “fixed” is not the main focus. The main focus in the sentence is on the word lobha (“eager greed”).

It’s good to note that “eager greed” (lobha) is a type of conviction (śraddhā), which is uniquely strong and specific.

In the next verse Śrī Rūpa explains how to measure this “eager greed.”

tat-tad-bhāvādi-mādhurye śrute dhīr yad apekṣate |
nātra śāstraṁ na yuktiṁ ca tal-lobhotpatti-lakṣaṇaṁ

“When ones mind hankers to hear about the sweetness of that loving mood, without any prodding or forethought, this is the sign that you are awakening eager greed.” [BRS 1.2.292]

Śrī Rūpa does not indicate that the arousal of this lobha has any pre-requisite (such as the attainment of niṣṭhā in vaidhi-bhakti), although in the next verse he does say, “Until this eager greed arises, you are qualified to practice vaidhi-sādhana.” [293]

In conclusion, lobha (the type of śraddhā which enables rāgānugā-sādhana) can appear at any point. The only prerequisite Śrī Rūpa identifies is:

kṛṣṇa-tad-bhakta-kāruṇya-mātra-lābhaika-hetukā

“The cause of gaining the ability to practice [and perfect] Rāgānugā is simply the kindness of a specific devotee of Krishna.” [BRS 1.2.309]

All of the above counteracts the idea that one has to first become purified by anartha-nivṛtti before one can obtain clear and specific lobha.

THEN, WHAT ABOUT NIṢṬHĀ???

So why is it sometimes said that the true qualification for rāgānugā bhakti doesn’t come until niṣṭhā, after anartha-nivṛtti?

I think this is a practical statement, and a very good one at that. Everyone is eager to rush into something that will include them in the “cool” club (or the “advanced” club), so, when dealing with new converts, it is very wise and prudent to say something like Prabhupāda sometimes said, something like, “first get rid of your anarthas, then your eager greed to follow a specific resident of Vṛndāvana will become clear.”

I also think there is practical validity to the observation that rāgānugā-sādhana and vaidhi-sādhana may not differ all that much in application until one starts to attain some medium level of advancement (like niṣṭhā) on either path.

However, to be faithful to Śrī Rūpa I believe we have to accept that anyone can begin rāgānugā-sādhana at any stage — immediate beginner, or otherwise. Practicing rāgānugā-sādhana is not a sign of “advancement,” this is a misconception that has bewildered devotees for long enough. Devotees practicing rāgānugā-sādhana still have mountains of advancement to make before they can hope to realize the goal: bhāva-bhakti. One has to begin as a fledgeling rāgānugā-sādhaka and diligently make progress by hearing about the objects of one’s spiritual attraction, and trying to apply the essence of what one learns to the practical viddhis one performs.

If it is a “sign” of anything, practicing rāgānugā-sādhana is simply a sign of extremely auspicious good fortune.

There is an awfully suffocating idea that rāgānugā-sādhana is anathema to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s line. The idea that Śrīla Prabhupāda created a society for vaidhi-bhakti is a sad mistake, held by many of his critics but even more unfortunately held by many of his disciples and followers as well. If given any chance, I would boldly and perhaps “proudly” declare that Śrīla Prabhupāda, as the empowered representative of Śrī Caitanya, created a society for rāgānugā-sādhana without being gaudy and overt about it. He created an implementation of rāgānugā-sādhana that is very realistic and practical for the audience ISKCON mainly serves: the modern globalized world (Though I think we, his followers, have done lousy at realizing and implementing his vision on this). All the viddhis adopted by Śrīla Prabhupāda for ISKCON are done so under BRS 1.2.293 & 296, cited above.

Nectar of Devotion

Monism is Absurd

Vivekananda

Monism is Absurd

Monism is completely absurd.

It claims that pure knowledge itself (Brahman) is subject to ignorance and illusion. It claims that such illusion divides the indivisible — producing individual souls (jīva). And although it here claims illusion to be the parent of the individual soul, it next claims that illusion is the child of the individual soul, existing only within the soul’s mind.

As for God (īśvara, the Supreme Master)… They claim that illusion creates God, because it needs a master. Yet they also claim that God is Brahman without ignorance or illusion. How can something without illusion be the product of illusion? How can a product of illusion be the master of it?

Monism’s illogic is so extreme, it borders on weird glamor. Nonetheless we should carefully study how illogical and absurd it really is.

– Translated from Anuccheda 40 of Śrī Tattva Sandarbha by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī Prabhupāda

Weird Glam, Bowie

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