https://www.createspace.com/6251033 <– you can get the paperback here, now. If you are going to see me in May, it’ll be cheaper to buy it directly from me. If you want a kindle or pdf, please hang on till June. Rādhe Rādhe Śyāma !
https://www.createspace.com/6251033 <– you can get the paperback here, now. If you are going to see me in May, it’ll be cheaper to buy it directly from me. If you want a kindle or pdf, please hang on till June. Rādhe Rādhe Śyāma !
Question 1) In Raganuga bhakti we aspire for the passion present in an eternally perfected brajabāsī – a devotee like a cowherd boy/ gopī/ Krishna’s parents, not a perfected devotee in this world?
Rāgānugā is the method of striving for a specific type of passionate relationship with Krishna found in Vṛndāvana-līlā. People like Prabhupāda, Rūpa Goswāmī, and Śrī Caitanya are the ones who explain this, and guide us in how to do it. They are not the Rāgātmikās but they are the guides to the rāgātmikās. We follow their teachings and examples in our own worldly form, our sādhaka-rūpa. Their example is not the goal of sādhana, but it illustrates how the sādhana is to be done effectively.
Question 2) A very popular notion propagated by many senior leaders in ISKCON these days (one of the ways they “avoid Raganuga topics”) is that we are all practicing Raganuga sadhana already because we are following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who is Radharani and Radharani is the “perfect Ragatmika bhakta”, so we are following the topmost Ragatmika bhakta-Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Can you clarify this?
This is potentially half-correct. They may be doing the sādhaka-rūpa seva correctly, but that is not the complete picture. Rāgānugā sādhana has two simultaneous and complimentary aspects: the external practice (sādhaka-rūpa seva) and the internal significance (siddha-rūpa seva).
One thing that is perfectly correct is that Sri Radha “is the perfect Rāgātmikā bhakta.” Therefore the conclusion is that we should follow her for the internal significance of our devotional practices. Sri Krishna Caitanya, her manifestation, is “the perfect realized Sādhaka.” We should follow him for the practicalities of how to tangibly practice with cognizance of the internal relevance of our practice to the ideal bhāva we are inspired for.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu considered himself a follower of Radharani. So if you claim you are following him you have to also do so, or at least do something very similar and complimentary (like being a follower of another Vrajabāsī). Otherwise, you are only claiming that you follow Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s contribution to Vedānta is the Rāgānugā mārga. So, one who avoids the Rāgānugā-mārga is not Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s follower.
Question 3) Is it possible that a devotee first gets attracted to the passion of a sādhaka like Ramananda raya or Sri Rupa Goswami, and later, as a result, gets attracted to the passion of a corresponding siddha like Srimati Vishaka devi or Sri Rupa Manjari? Or should it always be the other way round (first having passion for mood of a Vrajabāsī and therefore emulating the sādhakas of Gaura līlā)?
Our attraction to a sādhaka devotee leads us to become attracted to what they are attracted to – a perfect, passionate relationship with Krishna in Vṛndāvana Līlā. Our attraction to those passionate relationships with Krishna will attract us to sādhaka devotees who very perfectly aspire for them. So, it goes both ways.
Question 4) We feel forced into the understanding that we have to develop attraction to Gauranga Mahaprabhu, but unfortunately, we are attracted to Radha-Krishna lila.
It is essential to study from the source material rather than relying on heresay. From heresay you may develop misshapen ideas that it is unfortunate to be attracted to Radha Krishna līlā. The truth is there is nothing more fortunate than being attracted to Rādhā Krishna līlā! It is the rarest fortune in existence.
Question 5) Where exactly does the sadhana-siddha first go, after achieving perfection in this life, Gaurlila or Vraja līlā?
The sadhakas who have attained bhāva take birth from gopīkās in the pastimes of Krishna manifest in this world. When that manifestation de-manifests from this plane, they go with it into the eternal manifestation of Krishna līlā.
Question 6) ISKCON propagates the understanding that in Goloka Vrindavan there is a subset or section or a part where Caitanya Mahaprabhu is having his pastimes eternally and devotees who are attracted to Gaur Lila will go there and others who are attracted to Krishna, will end up in Vraja. Is this correct?
Frankly, I don’t know if this is “correct” or “incorrect”, but I know that it is not said in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam nor have the Goswāmīs of Vrindavana said it in any literature that I have had the fortune to study so far.
My understanding is that Gaura-līlā is an aspect of Vraja-līlā. They are not two separate things. When the angle on Vraja-līlā is to relish the sweetness, it manifests as gopīs, etc. When the angle is to share the sweetness, it manifests as very advanced sādhakas like Śrī Caitanya, Ramananda Raya, Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī, etc.
“Sharing the sweetness” implies that it is given to those who don’t yet have it – so how would this manifest in a perfect environment like the “spiritual world”? It doesn’t seem relevant or even possible in that setting. It necessarily manifests where consciousness is bereft of Krishna – this world. This does not mean it is not eternal, this world is also eternal. But in the “spiritual world” it is an intrinsic part of the Vrindavana-bhakti, not distinctly or separately manifest.
Look at the cover of Aindra’s book. If you look at it from one angle you see Gaurahari and his associates. If you look at it from another angle you see Śrī Rādhā and her associates. This is how it really is, as far as I am able to grasp the subject.
Question 7) For a new bhakta like us, who lacks specificity in our attraction to a particular relationship with Krishna, we should go on reading and hearing Krishna Lila until we are eager/greedy to aspire in the footsteps of a particular passionate Vraja-jana, is this right?
Yes, that is in the third of the three verses we are discussing. While you are still developing a specific attraction, then rely on your intellect and wisdom to keep hearing about all of them.
Question 8) Why it is sometimes said that only the āsakti sādhaka (very advanced sādhaka) can appreciate Rādhā Krishna līlā?
People who are very advanced and conversant with any subject are the only ones who can fully appreciate that subject, but this doesn’t mean no one else can appreciate the subject at all.
We develop āsakti, in fact, by beginning to appreciate Krishna from whatever śraddha we initially have. We will develop āsakti for Rādhā Krishna by cultivating our śraddha for them. It’s not that by hearing about Varāha-līlā somehow we suddenly get intense attraction to gopī-bhāva. Yes, a person with gopī-bhāva can nourish their gopī-bhāva even by hearing Varāha-līlā, but a person without gopī-bhāva is not at all likely to get it by hearing about Varāha or Nārāyaṇa. If you want a relation with Gopīnātha, you have to hear about Gopīnātha.
Question 9) What role does hearing play in developing an aspiration for a particular passion?
Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī explained that hearing Krishna līlā is the crucial foundation of developing an aspiration for its passion.
Question 10) Whom should we hear from?
We should hear about it from a person who sincerely appreciates its passion and also clearly understands its tattva.
Hear at least from Śrī Śukadeva Goswāmī and Śrī Vyāsadeva by hearing the verses of Srimad Bhagavatam from beginning to end. This is absolutely essential. It is one of Sri Rupa Goswami’s “five most important aspects of sādhana.”
Question 11) How do we find such classes that are focused on arousing our attraction to Krishna?
Oh, this is the biggest problem in the universe! We are wandering through the universe life after life, until by some incredible luck, we finally get an answer to this question. Such kathā is the rarest thing to find anywhere.
Hear about the wives of the brāhmaṇas of Vraja, they got their intense aspiration for Gopīnātha as a result of hearing the “classes” of the gopīs themselves.
At least we can hear the verses of Srimad Bhagavatam.
Question 12) In ISKCON, we find the classes are more universal and general in order to suit the needs of everyone which arise from variation in the advancement.
In my opinion, this is the biggest flaw of ISKCON. Krishna consciousness cannot exist without Krishna Kathā, but I have found the Krishna Kathā in ISKCON to consistently be extremely dissapointing (although on rare occasion it can be very good). It is the greatest dissapointment and the worst failure. A “society for Krishna consciousness” is such in name only if it is not a society of Krishna Kathā. Our Krishna consciousness cannot possibly be deeper than our Krishna Kathā.
Question 13) How does one generate the “lobha” (the qualification) to practice Raganuga bhakti?
Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī explained that. We generate the aspiration for a passionate relationship with Krishna by hearing about passionate relationships with Krishna.
Vraja Kishor das
Question: Did Radharani marry someone else, or are they simply engaged?
She is married to Abhimanyu (lit. the “Proud One” or the “Supposed Husband”).
Her sister-in-law is Kuṭila (lit. “Crooked”, “Fradulent”, “Dishonest”).
Her mother-in-law is Jaṭila (lit. “Hairy”, “Twisted”, “Problematic”).
viz. Radha Krishna Gannodesha Dipika 2.174
The marriage is an abhiman (the husband is Abhimanyu). Abhiman means “an idea.” In the realm of pure consciousness, ideas are immediate realities – so saying that the marriage is an abhiman doesn’t mean that she isn’t really married. She is “really” married, but the reality is that this marriage is a ruse. It is simply a prop to make her relationship with Krishna so much more thrilling, primal, desparate, and passionate.
In the realm of pure consciousness, ideas are immediate realities – so saying that the marriage is an abhiman doesn’t mean that she isn’t really married.
Question: Did her marriage to Abhimanyu happen during the period when Brahma kidnapped the cowherd boys?
Maybe. But this doesn’t change the fact that they wedded people other than Krishna. It does, however, very nicely illustrate that even these people who are “other than Krishna” are actually manifestations of Krishna’s śakti and therefore, in a philosophical sense, are not different than Krishna.
It is very important to understand that the gopīs are married to other men.
Ordinary people think this is a scandalous flaw, but these people can only comprehend conventional morality (dharma) and have no concept of ānanda (bliss) and prema (pure love).
Most people love God because he is God. They love him because it is right and proper. This is wonderful but lacks the intensity and passion of Vraja-prema.
Outside of Vrindavana, there is always some trace of how proper and right it is to love Krishna.
Outside of Vrindavana, there is always some trace of how proper and right it is to love Krishna. Even Krishna’s Queens in Dvārakā have some trace of this, and thus their prema lacks the incredibly intense passion that only the gopīs of Vraja have. The gopīs love for Krishna is so passionate that it actually manifests an environment in which they have to break conventional morality. Not only is their love not motivated by something extraneous (like morality), it actually shatters everything extraneous. Their love for Krishna goes against what is good for them in a conventional sense, and what is moral in a conventional sense.
Ordinary people don’t understand this, therefore it is kept hidden for billions of years, and only occasionally revealed by Srimad Bhagavatam in the kali-yuga where Sri Krishna Caitanya comes to clarify it.
The gopīs love for Krishna does not factually break any moral principle, because they are Krishna’s śakti and therefore his eternal consorts / wives. But the intensity of their love manifests an environment where the abhiman (mood / idea) is that they have to break their moral principles and potentially ruin their lives for the sake of Krishna. This allows the highest, purest, most passionate love to manifest. This enables the supreme ānanda – premānanda.
Kāmarūpa-rāgātmika prema – “a divine love which epitomizes passion to the point of resembling lust”
It is called rāgātmikā prema and it is found only in Vraja, Vrindavana. In Vraja it is found most fully among the gopīs (where it is known as kāmarūpa-rāgātmika prema – “a divine love which epitomizes passion to the point of resembling lust”).
Question: Did Krishna meet Radharani again after leaving Vraj? Is that connected to Ratha yatra?
He does not leave Vraja. This is another abhiman.
But, as the abhiman plays out, he returns to his royal birth-family in Mathura and soon thereafter relocates accross the subcontinent to Dvārakā. There is an incident where there was an eclipse and the two (Radha and Krishna) went to the same place at the same time (Kurukṣetra) to perform ceremonies pertaining to the eclipse.
But this person called Krishna at Kurukṣetra is not exactly the same Krishna who is in Vraja and never leaves. Outside of Vraja, this person named “Krishna” carries a sense of majesty and royalty, and thus there is a lack of the intimacy that exists in Vrindavana. So none of the Vraja-bāsī, none of the gopīs, felt they were really seeing Krishna there. They therefore wanted to pull his charriot forcefully back with them to Vrindavana, where he could manifest his true self tangibly once again.
For Sri Krishna Caitanya and his followers, Ratha Yatra is a dramatic enactment of that mood: pulling the cart from the royal city-like mandir to the rural vraja-like Gundica.
Question: Is Srimati ji older than the Lord?
There are different opinions.
What makes it complex is that exalted souls mature more quickly than normal people. Krishna and the gopīs mature at 150% the normal rate. Sometimes their age is described via their actual maturity level. Sometimes it is decribed via chronology. And sometimes these are mismatched. For example, by Chronology Krishna was 11-12 when he left Vraja, but by maturity he was 16-18.
According to Sri Krishna Caitanya’s beloved Sri Rupa Goswami, whom I accept as the most knowledgable about these things, Srimati Radharani is “āpañca-daśa-varṣam” – fifteen years old, which he describes as “vaya-kaiśorikojjvala” – the most splendedly romantic age.
So, in my opinion she is only very slightly younger than Sri Krishna.
viz. Radha Krishna Gannodesha Dipika 2.167
Question: Which is the age she was married?
I am not sure. It would be as conventional for the culture of that time (the time during which they manifest their līlā on our plane). Probably at around 12 or 13.
Question: I’m perplexed as I have taken Srimati as my mother please reply all about her in authentic form
Approaching Krishna śakti with a spirit that she is our mother will direct us to a manifestation of Krishna śakti more suitable for reciprocating our specific affection – possibly a queen of Dvārakā – an example of Krishna’s hlādinī śakti in a manifest form that includes motherhood.
To take Srimati Radharani as our mother may be reasonable in some sense. There is vatsala rati (parental affection) mixed in sakhya-rati (friendly affection) when the friends are slightly inferior/superior to one another. So when Srimati is seen as our superior, protective friend, there is some legitimate sense of motherliness in that. But even there, the predominant mood is friendship and companionship with Sri Radha. The vatsala-rati is an adjunct to that.
Sri Radha does not have any children, but she has billions and billions of very confidential and intimate friends, so to manifest within Vraja in connection with Sri Radha, it is probably better to approach her as a friend rather than a mother.
I believe that what you identify as feeling her as your “mother” may very well be the seed which blossoms into feeling that Srimati Radharani is your most special, sacred, well-wishing friend.
Vraja Kishor dās
First of all, let’s be clear that men and women are not identical.
Some of the differences between them can be discared as social impositions, but not all. There are, for example, very basic physical differences that cannot be denied. To be blunt, men have a penis and no breasts while women have a vulva and breasts.
The body and mind are intimately related. The undeniable physical difference between men and women generates and/or reflects a very basic underlying difference in their minds. The male sexual organ penetrates and ejaculates. Similarly the male psyche is more assertive and has more immediate goals. The female sexual organs receive and cultivate. Similarly the female psyche is more receptive (perceptive) and has longer-term goals.
This is a basic inherent difference between men and women, but it can be exaggerated or minimized based on culture, upbringing, etc.
Every individual man or woman winds up with a very complex combination of masculine and feminine principles. Nonetheless, there is a different baseline in the bodies, and thus the minds, of male and female.
Women excel at some facets of intelligence and men excel at others. So it appears that male and female intellect is different, but not that one is categorically superior or inferior to the other.
Current psychology recognizes that intelligence is multifaceted. Women excel at some facets of intelligence and men excel at others.
One may argue, “The great geniuses of history are mostly men.”
One reason may be a bias in the recording of history and in how we asses “genius.”
This explains why many of the most outstandingly genius humans have been males.
Another fascinating factor here is that men statistically deviate from their average IQ more widely than women. This explains why many of the most outstandingly genius humans have been males. It also explains why many of the most outstandingly stupid humans are also males.
One may argue, “Almost all the great leaders of history are men.”
Again, one reason may be the bias of historians, and the assesment of “leadership.”
Another answer simply reminds us that men and women are not identical. The male body and mind – with its muscular strength, immediate goals, and assertive nature tends to take leadership roles in more obvious and measurable ways.
One may say, “Women are better at emotions, not intellect.”
Women are more emotional, but this does not indicate that they are irrational. “Irrational” is a negative emotional condition.
Women are more emotional, but this does not indicate that they are irrational.
Women are more receptive – more perceptive. This acuity certainly extends into the emotional realm.
What makes Vedic culture “Vedic” is that it defines itself from the Vedic śāstra (sacred texts). So the real question is, Does Vedic Śāstra conclude that women are less intelligent than men?
Does Vedic śāstra (sacred text) conclude that women are less intelligent than men? Let us look at a few contentious quotes.
One statement from Queen Kuntī is sometimes cited as evidence that Vedic culture considers women less intelligent than men. This statement, however, does not appear in a section concerned with a comparison between men and women, nor does it even have a direct statement regarding intelligence.
The statement is the third verse in her very poetic outpouring of petition to Krishna. In the first verse she said, “You are beyond perception.” (alakṣya) The second continues, saying, “A curtain of delusion covers our eyes, making them incapable of perceiving you, Adhokṣaja.”
The verse in question then says,
tathā paramahaṁsānāṁ munīnām amalātmanām
bhakti-yoga-vidhānārthaṁ kathaṁ paśyema hi striyaḥ
“Thus only the greatest swans amongst scholars, who are not covered by that curtain of delusion, can see you through the conduit of devotion (bhakti-yoga). So, how can we ladies see you now!?”
It is unfounded to consider this a comparison between men and women. It is a comparison between paramahaṁsa and regular people.
One may ask, “Is it a comparison between paramahaṁsa and women?”
Yes, but this does not imply that women cannot also be paramahaṁsa. Such a conclusion would contradict the well-established siddhānta that anyone can become perfect in bhakti and attain the highest spiritual realizations (paramahaṁsa).
One may ask, “Why does she say striyaḥ (women) and not lokāḥ (ordinary people)?”
Because she is a woman. When we speak we often identify ourselves by the groups we belong to.
One may ask, “Why does she say striyaḥ (plural) and not strīḥ (singular)?”
There are three complimentary reasons:
(A) In Sanskrit “we” is often used for “I.”
(B) Similarly, people often talk from the perspective of being a member of a group.
(C) She was speaking to Krishna via addressing the women who surrounded her. [1.8.45 indicates that she was standing with other women.]
Śrīla Viśvanātha’s comment indicates that she is speaking on the basis of being a member of a group.
One may say, “The point of her identification with women as a group is because women are less intelligent. That is why she expresses surprise that she can see Krishna.”
It is unfounded to consider this a comparison between men and women. It is a comparison between paramahaṁsa and regular people. Nor is it a comparison of intellect, it is a comparison of realized spirituality: bhakti.
Nothing in the verse or anything surrounding it suggests that Kuntī is comparing her intelligence with the intelligence of paramahaṁsa munīs. Kuntī devī identifies the outstanding trait of a paramahaṁsa munī (distinguishing him or her from the more common munī) as their devotion (bhakti) not their intellect. She has said so explicitly, by describing the paramahaṁsa munī as bhakti-yoga-vidhānārtha.
A statement made by Śrī Sūta is sometimes cited as evidence that Vedic culture considers women less intelligent than men.
strī-śūdra-dvijabandhūnāṁ trayī na śruti-gocarā
karma-śreyasi mūḍhānāṁ śreya evaṁ bhaved iha
iti bhāratam ākhyānaṁ kṛpayā muninā kṛtam
“Women, Laborers, and the so-called educated classes cannot grasp the three Vedas. These fools therefore certainly could not comprehend what was in their best interest, what they should strive for. This is why the Muni [Vyāsa] compiled the Tale of Bhārata [Mahābhārata].”
Again the context here is not to compare men and women, it is to explain why Vyāsa compiled the Mahābhārata and, subsequently, the Bhāgavatam.
The verse does call some people “fools” (mūḍha), indicating that someone is “less intelligent” than someone else. But it does not say that women are less intelligent than men. Specifically it says that women (strī), laborers (śūdra) and the so-called educated classes (dvija-bandhu) are fools.
This verse is not a comparison of men and women, it is a comparison of the people of kali-yuga with the people of previous ages.
Thus the verse does not support the claim that women are more foolish than men. It supports the idea that women and men are more foolish then they need to be to understand the Veda effectively.
One may ask, “Does this mean that there are some men who are intelligent enough, but never any women?”
A few verses prior to this (17-18), Sūta stated that all people in this age (kali-yuga) are bereft of potency and are dvija (“educated”) in name only (dvija- bandhu). The phrase kalau śūdra sambhavāḥ confirms this. Thus the verse actually means that everyone in kali-yuga is unintelligent.
One may ask, “Why are women mentioned distinctly?”
Strī literally means expanders, procreators. It indicates women in the role of mothers. Other words can indicate women in other ways, nārīnām, for example. These statements group people according to their primary duties. Mothers have certain duties, so they are listed as a group when mentioning the other groups of duties, such as laborers, farmers, governors, and priests.
One may ask, “Does this indicate that women are not educated in Vedic culture?”
Some cite a statement of Krishna in Gītā as evidence that Vedic culture held women to be of lower birth, and therefore inferior to and less intelligent than men.
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye ’pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim
“Pātha, if someone turns to me he can certainly attain the supreme destination, even if he might be from a sinful family, or a woman, or a merchant, or a laborer.”
Again, the context here is not a comparison of women and men, nor is there a direct statement that women are less intelligent than men.
The obvious thrust of the verse is that everyone can attain the supreme spiritual perfection through bhakti-yoga. Even those who are not qualified for other paths of yoga — those with a sinful family background (pāpa-yonaya), those who are mothers/ women (striya), those who are money-minded (vaiśya), and those who are simpletons (śūdra).
We must note that there is no mention of intelligence in this verse. These classes of people are disqualified from other paths of yoga for reason which may or may not include intelligence. On the whole, mothers/housewives and the money-minded, for example, are simply too busy and distracted to do the study and discipline required for jñāna-yoga. On the whole, simple laborers lack intellect. And, on the whole, those without culture (pāpa-yonaya) lack the inspiration.
One may ask, “Does this statement show that it is sinful to be born as a woman?”
It may seem that women, laberors and businessmen are described as three examples of “sinful births” (pāpa-yognaya). But it is more accurate the “sin-born” are a fourth group, a distinct group of people outside the Vedic culture.
Even if we think of women, laberors and businessmen as three types of “sinful births,” still we have to see that it is not a comparison between men and women, for two of the three so called sin-born are male.
In fact it is quite willfully ignorant and ludicrous to interpret 8.33.17 as a denigration of women, it is quite the opposite.
Sometimes Rig Veda 8.33.17 is quoted in hopes of establishing that the Veda considers women unintelligent. We can only arrive at this conclusion if we take 8.33.17 away from the verse before and the two verses after it, in other words, this conclusion can only be supported when the verse is divorced from its context.
8.33.17 is a hymn to Indra. The first 15 verses glorify Indra and invoke / invite his presence. The 16th verse introduces the purpose of the hymn.
“She will not accord with my order nor with yours
She accords with someone else, someone who has ruined our relationship.”
The purpose of this hymn is to deal with quarrel and disharmony in a married couple, especially that which arises from an extramarital connection.
Verse 17 (the verse in question) further describes the wife being disharmonious with the husband.
“Thus even you, Indra, will agree that her mind cannot be changed
by reason or argument.”
Verse 18 and 19 say what is to be done about it. 18 says:
“I will make a great effort to yoke these two horses together again
so that their wild, divergent course will once again pull the cart forward.”
This indicates that, if the wife will not align with the husband, the husband has the responsibility to align with the wife. Thus the “pair of horses” are “yoked together” and begin to cooperate.
“I will cast down my eyes humbly and not look up.
Within I will become the woman.
The woman shall become my essence, my God.”
It should now be clear that this hymn from Ṛg Veda is not a comparison between the intellect of men and women, and certainly does not draw the conclusion that women are “less intelligent.” In fact it is quite willfully ignorant and ludicrous to interpret 8.33.17 as a denigration of women, it is quite the opposite.
Certainly there are cases where the Vedas describe women as being foolish, uneducated and so on, but there are just as many or more cases where they describe men in the same way. In the end, I simply do not find a statement saying that “women are less intelligent than men.”
There are clear, direct statements that women are especially intelligent.
Though we could not find a clear, direct statement that women are less intelligent than men, we can easily find a very clear and very direct statement that Krishna considers women to epitomize intelligence.
kīrtiḥ śrīr vāk ca nārīṇāṁ smṛtir medhā dhṛtiḥ kṣamā
“Among women I am the goddess Kīriti – the epitome of venerable reputation, Śrī – the epitome of beauty and opulence, Vāk – the epitome of excellent speech, Smṛti – the epitome of memory and contemplation, Medhā – the epitome of intelligence, Dhṛti – the epitome of forbearance, and Kṣamā – the epitome of forgiveness.”
The goddesses Sarasvatī, Vāk, Medhā, and Smṛti epitomize the highest standards of education, verbal excellence, intellect, and contemplation respectively. Krishna associates these qualities not just with the goddesses but with their facsimiles, human females (nārīṇām).
Indeed the important Vedic mantra like Gāyatrī and even the Vedas themselves are personified in female form.
It would be very difficult to explain why the most educated, expert and qualified spiritual beings would appear in a form even resembling women, if women are truly inferior and less intelligent.
It is also quite conspicuous that Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas consider females to be the most perfected and accomplished spiritualists. This refers, of course, to the gopīs and their epitome, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī – who have unparalleled expertise in all the 64 departments of education, and who are the supreme vedāntists.
It may be argued that the gopīs are not ordinary women, but they are women nonetheless. It would be very difficult to explain why the most educated, expert and qualified spiritual beings would appear in a form even resembling women, if women are truly inferior and less intelligent.
A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda, ISKCON’s founder, always behaved in an egalitarian and elevated manner towards the women amongst his followers, but he did seem to fairly often and fairly clearly describe women as less intelligent than men. This presents a problem because we weren’t able to find this conclusion in śāstra, yet a bonafide guru must represent the conclusions of śāstra.
So, something must be wrong somewhere. Here are some possible places where the errors may lie:
Maybe Prabhupada is wrong?
But this is hard to swallow, because we love him and it is obvious that he was so right in so many ways.
Maybe our analysis of the Veda is wrong?
This is also hard to swallow because we are not illiterate, and the evidence in this case seems clear. But there certainly may be some error here.
Maybe we are wrong – specifically, maybe our understanding of Prabhupāda is wrong?
This is also a little hard to swallow because Prabhupada said “women are less intelligent” often enough and in enough different ways that it seems clear what he meant. But it does honestly seem that Prabhupāda’s followers took his statements and ran with them way beyond the context and application that Prabhupāda intended. So part of the error does seem to lie here.
Maybe what we focus on when we approach Prabhupāda’s teachings is also wrong?
I think most of the problem lies here.
Prabhupada came to teach us how to develop a deep, intimate relationship with Sri Sri Radha Krishna, but we spend so much time focusing on his incidental teachings about the moon, the size of women’s brains, and so on. I think this is a mistake on our part.
Why must we insist that Prabhupada has to be an expert on the details of male-female psychology, etc.? Is it not enough that he is an expert on the most important topic in life: Krishna-bhakti? I think it is wrong of us to insist that he must be an expert in every feild.
I feel it is also quite wrong and unfair of us to insist that the guru cannot be an individual with his or her own subjectivity. In fact the subjectivity of the guru is very important, for it gives them the ability to perform their key function: connecting certain other subjective individuals to the absolute truth.
The context of a thing describes its subjective relevance, and by so doing reveals it’s truth more fully. When we try to understand anything, we must understand it in its own context. This principle holds true for understanding the statements of a guru, certainly.
Some of what Prabhupāda said about women comes from semi-Vedic sources like the misogynist political strategist Cāṇakya. Some comes from cultural sources such as his upbringing in post-Moghul and post-British India as well as his early 20th century British education at Scottish Churches College. And some may come from his own subjective experience of women and marriage, which has been documented as being unpleasant.
We do not need make it more of an issue than necessary. Let us focus on Krishna bhakti, avoiding the disrespectful and offensive mentality that other people are inferior to us. This is crucial. Amānena mānadena kīrtaniya sadā hariḥ.
Vraja Kishor dāsa
The first vilāsa of Haribhakti Vilāsa explains quite a bit about the qualities of a guru.
It begins with the most essential, core quality… HBV 1.35 quotes the Upaniṣads, “tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet…” The essential qualifications of the guru is…:
1) to personify the conclusions of the Vedas,
2) to be expert in explaining those conclusions,
3) and to be fully dedicated to pursuit of those conclusions.
HBV 38-40 give more details about important qualities of a true guru, quoting from Mantra-Muktāvalī. The guru…:
1) has a pure lineage (referring to the parampara more than the birth family)
2) is pure (isn’t blamable for serious things)
3) is dutiful (doesn’t abandon their responsibilities)
4) is “in āśrama” (may clarify #3, and/or may mean that they pursue spirituality)
5) gives up anger
6) is very knowledgable
7) knows every śāstra
8) is faithful/convinced (of śāstra’s conclusions)
9) does not hate or envy anyone
10) speaks with endearment/ pleasantly (“is nice to hear”)
11) is pleasant in gesture and body language (“is nice to see”)
12) is clean / honest / innocent
13) dresses well (i.e. makes endeavor to please others by appearance)
14) is youthful (may also mean “young”! May also mean youthful-spirit)
15) loves to help every creature
16) is pensive, introspective, intellectual
17) humble character
18) is content
19) is not selfish
20) is deliberate and careful
21) has other good character traits (forgiveness, etc.)
23) resolute (follows through on intentions and conclusions)
24) is respectful
25) is like a mother or father to students
HBV 41 suggests that a guru must instruct the disciple using a balance of both praise and correction.
HBV 42-44 quote Agastya-Saṁhitā about the guru’s qualifications. The guru…:
1) worships divinity
2) is peaceful
3) has no interest in external objects of pleasure
4) understands spirituality
5) can explain the Veda
6) expertly understands the meaning of the Veda
7) both corrects and encourages as appropriate
8) is dedicated to spirituality
9) understands reality
10) understands the true essence of things, understands the heart
11) understands mysteries and secrets
12) can perform rites and rituals with perfect mantra
13) understands how to accomplish things (how to accomplish “yoga”)
14) is minimalist and spartan in personal habits
15) speaks only the truth
16) maintains a household
HBV 45-46 quote Viṣṇu Smṛti, explaining that even if someone has all these qualifications, they shouldn’t go out looking for disciples or advertise themselves. They must only accept disciples out of compassion for and affection for the students.
HBV 47-55 clarify that for Vaiṣṇava dīkṣa the most important qualification is that the guru recieves a Viṣṇu mantra from a proper lineage, and uses that mantra faithfully to worship Viṣṇu.
In his comment on HBV 54, Śrīla Sanātana Goswāmī quotes the pañcarātra stating that it is advisable to reject dīkṣa from a person who is not a Vaiṣṇava, and take the opportunity to receive dīkṣa from one who is.
HBV 56-58 quote Tattva-Sāgara to illustrate additional circumstance in which it is not advisable to accept a person as guru, or in which is may be advisable to reject the guru. These may be taken as evidence that the person is not truly a Vaiṣṇava. This is when the guru…:
1) desires excessive sex and other greeds for external pleasures
2) espouses mundane philosophies justifying vile behavior devoid of good character
3) pursues behavior not fit for their āśrama – which could be evidenced in physical ways like their becoming too hairless or hairy (a gṛhastha being too renounced or a tyāgi becoming too opulent), and/or in their developing bad teeth, discolored lips and bad breath.
4) becomes full of bad traits (lying, stealing, anger, hatred, etc.)
5) who accepts donations even though already well-off
HBV 59-72 clarify that a guru can also refuse to accept, or can reject a disciple under circumstances where the disciple displays refusal to learn, etc. In fact, if a guru does not reject such people, it is evidence that the guru wants the prestige of having many disciples, and is a sign that the guru is fallen.
HBV 73 – 78 clarify that a guru must not accept a disciple before the two of them actually live together for one to three years and mutually decide on their compatibility.
As I see it, if a person has all the above qualifications, they are a perfectly qualified guru and it would be extremely easy to be a very good disciple of such a person. Therefore we should try to find a guru with all the qualities, or at least a great many of them. The core property (as evidenced by the Upaniṣad quote at the outset) is a very clear understanding of the Veda, and ability to clearly explain that. Without this core quality, even with the other qualities, a person is not qualified to be guru.
Thus, the main quality of a guru is the ability to explain the Vedas and clear up doubts various people will have about their conclusions and meanings.
Vraja Kishor das
Duty… A dictionary defines it as a “moral or legal obligation or requirement.” A thesaurus lists synonyms like, “Responsibility, obligation, commitment.”
Essentially, “duty” means to do what is required of you.
What’s required of you?
That depends on who you are. If you are a student it’s your duty to study. If you are a parent its your duty to care for your children. If you are a driver, its your responsibility to get to the destination safely. Etc. Etc.
The specifics of Duty are different for everyone, the essence is the same – to do what is required of you, rather than doing whatever you might feel like doing at the moment.
The result of duty is to reduce selfishness, which is the basis of kāma, which is the primary effect of avidyā. So, following one’s duty gives rise to vidya (knowledge). Thus by following duty selflessly one gradually becomes qualified to more fully utilize the tools and techniques of jñāna-yoga (the yoga of knowledge/consciousness) such as study of philosophy and meditation upon the root of consciousness. By such meditation and study, one’s knowledge transforms into realization, and one is very likely to develop a sense of emotional attachment to the root of consciousness, paramātmā. Thus from jñāna-yoga, one can ascend to bhakti-yoga.
So duty is an initial precursor to bhakti and therefore everyone in society should be very warmly encouraged to adhere to their various duties under all circumstances.
Those who are at the stages of jñāna and bhakti already act only on the selfless platform, so there is no separate need to specifically encourage them to ordinary duties. Such people are rare, but they tend to perform ordinary duties anyway, to set the proper example for the masses.
Duty is the essence of dharma, morality. It therefore generates all the essential moral qualities such as humility, tolerance, forgiveness, nonviolence, compassion, etc. Jñāna- and bhakti-yogas, being successors to the duty-yoga, karma-yoga, generate these essential moral qualities even more deeply.
Vraja Kishor das
This continues directly from the previous excerpt; We Do Not Eat Fruits Washed by Karmīs
Then we went to other European countries and everything was so different. The devotees were kind, generous, and helpful. The parents of the straightedge kids whose homes we sometimes stayed in didn’t seem so terrified by the “Hare Krishna sect.”
I remember sitting on the grassy hill of one of the Krishna farms somewhere out there in I-forget-where, twirling a dandelion flower between my fingers, wondering how Viṣṇupāda could be the leader here, were everyone was so sweet, and over there too, where everyone was so mean? I realized that the center of a circle is perceived through its circumference. Unless we are personally very close to someone, we only experience them through those who are close to him.
I imagined the fanatical book-distributing non-karmī-fruit-eaters from over there approaching their guru saying, “Shelter is coming, but is this punk rock bonafide?” I imagined their guru saying something relative to their mood. Something like, “Well, Prabhupāda stopped Viṣṇujana from doing the same thing…” Then, I could see them coming away with the conclusion, “Our guru says you are bogus.”
On the other hand I imagined the simple, down-to-earth people from over here approaching their guru saying, “What should we do to help Shelter when they come?” Responding to their mood, the same guru might say, “Bring them prasādam and see if you can coordinate some book distribution and harinām.”
I decided to suspend my previous judgement on Viṣṇupada’s character. Maybe he was who I initially thought he was, maybe he wasn’t. Until I got to know him and his surroundings, I couldn’t know for sure. And why should I be in any rush to find out? I should have better things to do.
Then I thought of Prabhupāda. He was so different at 26 2nd Avenue and during the very early years of ISKCON, when his circumference was so much smaller and women like Yamuna Devī, Mālatī, and Jadurāṇī were an important part of it. Later, the circumference so much larger and so very different, and he too seemed very different. I began to realize that what ISKCON accepted as “Prabhupāda’s Mood” was really only the mood of the circumference at a given point in time. Even what they saw as “Prabhupāda’s Teachings” was only the teaching they had managed to evoke from him, and was only what they had managed to comprehend of it.
This gave me some hope that I might be able to get close to Prabhupāda himself, without the circumference, if I studied his books carefully – especially the earlier ones.
– Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
Available May 2016
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com ]
The Hare Krishna world in Europe was quite different from the one I was used to. The ‘80s hadn’t devastated it as fully as in America. I guess that’s because their main post-Prabhupāda guru actually managed to “keep the dream alive” and continue acting as their unquestionable divinely-anointed leader. Harikeśa Swāmī, a.k.a. Śrīla Viṣṇupāda, made rock albums himself. They were completely awful in every way, and the fact that his disciples could listen to them made me really believe in brainwashing. Yet, despite being a wannabe rocker himself, he declared 108 an affront to Śrīla Prabhupāda. If we were real devotees, he said, we would be selling Prabhupāda’s books on the streets, not rocking out on stage.
His followers looked down on us. We knew it right away because it was one of the first things they told us. “Śrīla Viṣṇupāda says you are not bonafide.”
Oh, thank you. Nice to meet you, too.
Some of the ISKCON’s most prolific booksellers were here amongst his disciples. When we walked into the temple room they welcomed us with their backs.
Of course, our lack of bonafidity didn’t stop them from coming to our shows to sell books and so on. Somewhere in Germany, we pulled into a club and they were already there, somberly eyeing the peculiarities of our decidedly un-bondafide selves. They hadn’t brought anything to eat, but, as usual, the person in charge of the show had cooked us a vegetarian meal.
The devotees sat along the wall, glaring as we sat at the table.
It was exceedingly awkward, so I made a plate and carried it over to offer it to them.
“We eat only prasādam.” their spokesman said, renouncing my offer with a German accent that was almost cartoonish.
“This is prasādam.” I replied, already a bit insulted.
“No. It is cooked by the karmīs,” he declared. “Krishna does not accept it. And we do not eat karmī grains.”
I handed him an apple from a basket of fruit on the table.
He refused it, “It has been washed by the karmīs.”
Devotees all over the world are guilty of fanaticism, but this was just beyond imagination. I sat down and ate as much karmī grain as I could, in as boisterously joyful a mood I could possibly muster. We then informed they were welcome to stay for the show, but they were not welcome to sell books or do kīrtan. We would do the preaching.
Hey, if you are going to be “unbonafide,” you might as well do it without the hassle of having people breathing down your neck.
– Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
Available May 2016
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]
QUESTION: I once read somewhere, but I cannot remember where, that Kubja was attracted by Krishna in a selfish way of sensual satisfaction, and still Krishna fulfilled her desire. And then it is said that this intimate contact with Krishna purified her, so that her love later transformed into pure prema, as that of the gopis. Do you perhaps know where is this described?
Her love became like the prema of the gopīs but is actually not on the same level of quality.
In Bhakti Rasamṛta Sindhu, First Division, Second wave, in the section about Rāgātmikās of the Kāmarūpa type, Śrī Rūpa goswami specifies that Kubjā is not a Kāmarūpa Rāgātmikā. Her love is “kāmaprāya” (almost kāmarūpa prema). It has a semblance of the gopī’s love because it is also passionate and sexual (kāmarūpa rāga), but the purity of what Śrī Rūpa calls Krishna-śukhārtha (the intention to make Krishna happy) is not clear enough in her case to qualify her as being similar to the pristinely clear and pure motivations and intentions of the Vraja gopīs.
As such Kubjā doesn’t quite exist within Vṛndāvana with the gopīs, but close by in Mathura with the women of that city.
In describing the divisions of rāgānuga-sādhana, Sri Rupa and Sri Jiva (the commentator) explain that those who aspire for romantic love with too much focus on the external physical details (“sambhoga-icchāmāyī”) actually wind up emulating kāma-prāya persons, like Kubjā. Those who focus primarily on the pure sentiment of selfless love at the core of that sexual passion (“tad-bhāva-icchāmāyī”) are the better examples of kāmānuga-rāgānuga-sādhakas (those who aspire to love Krishna like the gopīs do).
Kubjā was extremely, extremely blessed, but still there is an experience that is higher and more intensely blissful than what she attains. That is the mood of the Vraja gopīs, whose best is Śrī Rādhā.
QUESTION: Could you talk about the relationship of the bhakta’s sexuality and his/her sadhana. How to spiritualize sex?
Observance of regulation is the beginning of discipline, and discipline is the beginning of yoga. Thus sex begins to gain spiritual utility through religion – which regulates and refines sex through principles, rules and sacraments like marriage.
Sex has spiritual utility in karma-yoga, because this yoga is all about performing one’s duties without selfish motive, and sex as part of one’s duty as a spouse and ones duty to produce children.
Tantra-yoga, a non-mainstream subset of karma-yoga, goes further and deals directly with sexuality as a tool for realizing one’s actual relationship to the external world.
Tantra blended with sahaj-buddhism came into the Vṛndāvana area a few centuries ago and became the sahajīya sect. They practice tantra-yoga with the nomenclature and context of Vrindavana bhakti – adopting “Rādhā / Krishna” in lieu of the standard “Prakṛti / Puruṣa” male / female concept. Although this may have validity as tantra-yoga, it is generally despised by those who practice sādhana as Sri Rupa defined it in Bhakti-Rasāmṛta-Sindhu.
Jñāna-yoga is characterized by cessation of activity, including sex. But Krishna does say in the Gītā (6.17) that even a jñāna-yogī doesn’t immediately abandon every basic bodily function, and should strive to be moderate and practical in their approach to things like eating, sleeping, and sex (“vihara”).
The same principle defined in Gītā 6.17 operates in bhakti-yoga as well, expressed by Śrī Rūpa in Bhakti-Rasāmṛta-Sindhu as the 8th aṅga of sādhana: “Being moderate in worldly affairs.” Different gurus define “moderation” in different ways, often differing even from one disciple to the next.
One or two sādhanāṅgas have aspects which give some allowance for elements of karma-yoga to become practices of bhakti yoga when done to please Krishna by performing the duties he has assigned through the śāstras (#51, “doing everything for his sake” and #47, “servitude”). These duties do not exclude the duties of a spouse and parent, which do not exclude sex. Ordinary bodily functions like eating, sleeping, reproduction, and self-defence, can thus become part of bhakti-yoga. Śrī Viśvanātha has said that even passing stool and urine can thus become a part of bhakti-yoga.
The real trademark of bhakti-yoga, however, is that it transforms sexuality by undertaking a quest for sexual passion to please Krishna, which Śrī Rūpa calls kāmarūpa bhakti. This is quest is followed by:
To greater or lesser extent, and in more or less restricted or refined forms, all the yogas utilize sex as part of the process of purification, but only Gauḍīya bhakti envisions sexual passion as part of the divine objective. Thus, no yoga has as fully a transformative concept of sexuality as the bhakti-yoga of the Gauḍīyas.
Vraja Kishor das