Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Temple Visit

As I was shopping in London today, I decided to pop into the local Hare Krishna temple. Yes, there is a Krishna temple smack dab in the middle of London! It's been quite a while since I've been there; I used to be a regular visitor but my interest seems to have waned sorta, none of my friends are around anymore and they seem to be selling the same old books. Although I did pop in because I am interested in buying the final part of the Caitanya-bhagavata series and I wanted to see if they have it.

Unfortunately they didn't, but I ended up buying a VCD of Srimad Gour Govinda Swami's lecture instead. I was surprised to see it there - and on sale too! - because despite my reading of his books and my deep admiration for him, I had never seen him "live" on video and I thought this would be a good opportunity to see it. They also had the Vishnu Purana by H.H. Wilson there. I had seen it before and I found the reference to Kalki last time but I couldn't find it today. It was incredibly hot today and sweat was pouring off my face. I would like to keep that Kalki reference on record, but I am specifically interested in Wilson's translation of the Padma Purana. I haven't seen that yet.

It is unlikely that I would have bought the CB if I was there because of their unnecessarily high prices, but I thought I'd just go and take a look at it anyway. I might have bought it if the mood had taken me, but I guess I can wait. I have enough of the previous volumes to read anyway!

Good thing that I had arrived shortly before the curtains closed for darshan in preparation for the 7pm arati, so I quickly rushed in, paid my respects and took a few photos. Today the Deities there were wearing tartan! I had to laugh to myself and I wondered if a Scottish devotee had been behind that idea, but it was definitely unusual. Here are some of the shots that I took:

And I was so engrossed in this as well as trying to take these pics as quickly as possible before the curtains closed, I forgot to take a pic of my beloved Gaura-Nitai! :-( Would have been nice to have a pic of Them wearing tartan.

And also I met my dear friend Monica there. I have known her for years and she is like a sister to me, I love her very much. Such a soft and sweet person she is, almost as if she's stepped out of a fairytale book. People like her are very rare these days. She owned a complete video set of Prabhupada's lectures of which I borrowed a couple of installments. Actually I still have them and haven't given them back! Argh! Anyway so I guess she became influenced by those videos and she joined ISKCON. Now she has become one of the top book distributors and was recently initiated by H.H. Radhanatha Swami during a six-week trip to the New Vrindavan temple in West Virginia. Her new name is Mana-biharini devi-dasi.

It was good to catch up with her. Here is a picture of her, my dear sweet sister:


I was expecting Guha's book to arrive yesterday morning, but last night I received word in email that it had just been posted yesterday and it is due to reach me in around 10 days or thereabouts! Ridiculous! I specifically chose a British bookseller because the book would reach me in a matter of a couple of days, and now it seems that they have to import the book from their US warehouse!

If you want to touch your nose, all you have to do is lift your finger to your nose (in front of you) and touch it. Some people seem to enjoy twisting and contorting their arm behind their head in order to touch their nose. They may touch their nose, but see the silly roundabout way in which they did it instead of the normal and simpler way.

But fair enough, they might have run out of stock and thus need to import it from their US warehouse. Hardly! It may be a very good book but it is hardly a best-seller at the top of the New York Times book list for half a year! Incidentally, it is Nitai who is behind the production of the book and I wonder if that has something to do with it. The information states that the book is printed on demand, implying that it will only be printed on a one-by-one basis according to the number of orders received. Interesting way of doing things, I'll say!

Oh well, just as long as it doesn't cost me extra. Speaking of which, I had better check that out....

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sacinandan Leaves Home

One of the most painful episodes of Gaura-lila is the acceptance of sannyasa by Sriman Gaurasundara Mahaprabhu and it's consequence of leaving home as well as leaving devoted kith and kin. You can bet that much has been made over this issue. The father of Sripada Srinivasa Acharya is described as having met Mahaprabhu for the first time at Katwa where the sannyasa-ceremony was taking place. Oh, how he wept as the barber shaved off Mahaprabhu's beautiful locks!

These two padas describe the anguish of the residents of Navadvipa and were copied from KK Bindu #111: They were collected by the Orissan State Museum in Bhubaneswar from palm leaf manuscripts written in Oriya script. In 1992 they published these and some other rare songs of Raya Ramananda in a book titled, 'Raya Ramananda Padyavali.'

Pada One:

nadiAte bhaktagana sakali milila
harinAma dhUnI gorA nadIyA kampAla he

Gathered together with Gauranga, the devotees
performed such uproarious harinama that all of Nadia trembled.

sanyAsake jAba boli bole gauramanI
mAtAra Agare kahe atirasa khAnI

Gauranga, the golden jewel, told His mother the
unbearable news that he was about to take sannyasa.

zuna mAye ogo Ami sannyAsake jAba
kabu mAtA Ami gRhakhAne rakhAiba

"Listen, O mother! I will accept sannyAsa.
How long will you keep me in this house?"

zuni zacI ThAkurAnI kAndiyAM bolite
na jA-a sannyAse gorA AmAre chADite

Hearing this, Sachi Thakurani started to cry
and said, "O Gaura, don’t go. Don’t leave me."

rAye rAmAnanda bole vikala hoila
navIna kuñcita keza gaura muNDAila

muNDAila kezabhAra kapinI daNDa kamaNDala

Raya Ramananda says, “I have become
perturbed! Gaura has shaved off His youthful curly hair.”

Coda: Cutting the burden of his hair, he has accepted
a shaven head, loincloth, staff, and water pot.

Pada Two:

muNDAila kezabhAra navIna ga-urabara
daNDa kamaNDala ka-upine

Youthful Gaura has shaved his head and relieved himself of the
burden of hair. He has accepted a sannyasa danda, kamandalu, and kaupina.

dekhi zacI ThAkurANI paDila tucchA dharanI
kena keza gaura muNDAila

Seeing this, Sachi Thakurani became faint
and said, "Why has Gaura shaved his head?"

kAhAra mukha Ami cAite kemani rahibu grIhate
more sane nia gaurAmanI

"How can I live without seeing his face? How can I
stay in this house? O Gauramani, take me with you!"

tumi jadi sanyAse jAba Amire garala khAba
rAye rAmAnanda rasavAnI

gaurAcAnda tumi thAki more nA kariA duHkhI

Ray Ramananda says with feeling,
"If you accept sannyasa, then I will eat poison."

Coda: O Gaurachandra, stay here! Don’t put me in distress!

The entire story of Gaura's sannyasa-lila is inexpressibly painful to read and hear about.

Although it is relatively well-known that Sri Kesava Bharati was the incarnation of Sandipani Muni in Krishna-lila, I spotted this line in Sri Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika that highlights a different angle on Sri Kesava Bharati's role in Gaura-lila:

iti kecit prabhASante
'krurah kezava-bhAratI

"Some opine that Kesava Bharati
is certainly the incarnation of Akrura."
(SGGD 117)

A nice parallel. Just as Akrura was blamed for stealing Krishna away from Vraja and plunging all the Gopis and other residents in an ocean of sorrow, so also does it seem that Kesava Bharati was responsible for stealing away the young and beautiful Nimai Pandit and thus drenching all of Navadvipa in tears.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


No, I haven't received it yet. According to my information it will reach me on or before Aug 22. Dang! Oh well, I just wanted to say that I hope that the text will help me go some way in answering the following points:

Radha and Krishna as one, divided into two

Ontological position of Srimati Radharani, in Gaudiya Vaishnavism

I brought up those subjects and I was disappointed that they didn't "take off" mostly because, to my recollection, most board participants seemed to be more intent on hearing the latest gossip on Pete (and by extension, Jagat) as it was all going down then at the time.

From a Vedantic point of view Bhagavan and His Shakti are distinct entities (I think!) and interact with ech other. The Gaudiya view appears to regard Bhagavan and Shakti (Krishna and Radha) as two distinct entities of the same substance, am I correct? I guess I'll find out.

avatArI kRSNa yaiche kare avatAra
aMzinI rAdhA haite tina gaNera vistAra

Just as Krishna, the source of all incarnations, takes incarnations, so is Radha the source of these three groups. [Lakshmis, Mahishis, Vraja-devis]

rAdhA - pUrna-zakti kRSNa - pUrna-zaktimAn
dui vastu bheda nAi, zAstra-paramANa

Radha is the fullness of sakti, and Krishna is the full possessor of sakti. The two are not different, as evidenced by the scripture.

mRgamada, tAra gandha - yaiche aviccheda
agni, jvAlAte - yaiche kabhu nAhi bheda

Just as musk and it's scent are inseparable and just as fire and it's heat are insperable, so too are are They nondifferent.

rAdhA-kRSNa aiche adA eka-i svarUpa
lIlA-rasa AsvAdite dhare dui-rUpa

In this way Radha and Krishna are of one nature, and have manifested in two forms in order to taste lila-rasa.

Eka-i svarUpa, dui-rUpa. That's interesting. So I want to find out how Sripada Baladeva explained all of this in the context of Vedanta. You know, the fact that the Gaudiyas actually have a Vedanta-bhashya fills me with immense pride (of the good kind!) and makes my chest swell with said pride. :-) I'm so proud.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Books I Have Ordered

Haberman, David L., Acting As A Way Of Salvation.

Guha, Manindranath, Nectar Of The Holy Name.

Vasu, Rao Bahadur Srisa Chandra, The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana: With The Commentary of Baladeva.

The first one (Haberman) has been spoken about for a very long time (since my days on GD) so I thought that might be a useful addition to my library. Guha's book appears to be very popular among devotees so I thought I'd check it out.

Vasu's book, well, I've been waiting a long time for someone (preferably a Gaudiya Vaishnava) to come up with a translation of the Govinda-bhashya of Sripada Baladeva Vidyabhushan and none has come forth. There is an ISKCON edition I think but ISKCON editions are usually slanted translations; I think I heard that Haridas Sastri's ashram has come out with an edition but, if true, it would be useless for me since it is reportedly in Hindi.

In any case, I've been wondering for a very long time about the Vedantic basis of our tradition and so I figured I had better get off my behind and find it out. I'm not sure if Vasu's book is the best but it appears to be the only one out there and, from the whisperings I've heard, it appears to be "satisfactory" for now in the matter of explaining Sripada Vidyabhushan's Govinda-bhashya explanations of Vedantasutra.

It's all very well having your head in the clouds (literally) where Radha-Krishna lila is concerned but it's nice to have a little bit of intellectualism thrown in now and again. If intellectualism wasn't important (at least to a certain extent) then why did Sripada Jiva Gosvami take the trouble to write the Sat-Sandarbhas?

Speaking of which, the Sat-Sandarbhas will be next on my list once I hear that it has been printed in full. Tripurari Swami, Stuart Elkman and Satyanarayan das have each brought out a version of Tattva-Sandarbha, but what about the other five? Apparently the Jiva Institute are due to release Bhakti-Sandarbha but anyway, just so long as I can get some good editions.

Has anyone read the Tattva-sandarbhas out there by Tripurari, Elkman and Satyanarayan? Any good? Any recommendations?

Monday, July 24, 2006

What Happened To Yashoda's Son?


ke go a-i gaura-baraNa bAGkA bhuru bAGkA nayana
cina cina cina yena kari
e-i nA se nandera gopAla yazodAra jIvana dulAla
A-ila kari gopIra mana-curi

Look! Look! Look! Who is this person with a fair complexion,
with curved eyebrows and eyes with crooked glances?
He cannot be Nanda’s gopa son! He cannot be Yasoda’s beloved son!
He cannot be the boy that robbed the gopis of their hearts!

zire chila mohana cUDA ebe mAthA kaila neDA
kaupina parila dhaDA chADi
gopI-mana mohanera tAre mohana-baMśI chila kare
ebe se ha-ila daNDa-dhArI

In the past His hair was glorious. Now His head is shaved.
Now He wears a kaupina and a sannyasi’s garments.
In the past He charmed the gopis’ hearts. In the past He played
charming melodies on his flute. Now He carries a sannyasi’s danda.

nIpa-taru-mUle giyA adhare muralI laiya
rAdhA-nAma karita sAdhana
ebe suradhunI-tIre bAhu duTI ucca ka’re
sadAi karaye saGkIrtana

In the past He sat under a kadamba tree, placed the flute
to His lips, and played melodies that were actually songs
chanting Radha’s name. Now He stands by the Ganga’s banks,
raises His arms, and always sings in sankirtana.

nabIna nAgara sAje gopI-saha kuNja-mAjhe
karita ye bibidha bilAsa
ebe pAriSada saGge nAma yAce dIna-beze
sei ei kahe kAnu-dAsa

In the past He was the teenage hero of amorous pastimes. In the past
He enjoyed many pastimes with the gopis in the middle of the forest.
Now He wears the garments of a sannyasi. Accompanied by
His companions, He begs everyone to accept the chanting
of Krishna’s holy names. Thus spake Kanu Das.

— Gaura-pAda-taraGgiNī

Gaura Padavali

I used to post a lot of padas on the former Gaudiya Discussions forum. Some of them were sent to me from friends in India whereas others were copied (and re-edited) from books, magazines and e-zines.

I'd like to keep a record of the padavalis that I posted here so that I can read and link to them easily. Recently I felt like I wanted to read some of them because, out of the blue, those old tunes started popping into my head today.

I like to read these padas because they have a knack of transporting you into another world where you can get close to the soft and tender heart of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and see for yourself what it is all about. It's pulsating joy, it's zest for life, it's need to be!

I used to find that whenever I read these padas, a tune popped into my head which fit the lyrics and so I started "singing along" in my mind. Who knows whether they are the real tunes? I have had experiences before where I read some bhajan lyrics and sung them in my head according to what I thought was "my" tune, only to find that "my" tune was actually the real tune when I heard it externally! So who knows, it is nice to sing along to these sweet songs anyhow.

So whatever happened to Yashoda's son?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Whom Can I Tell?

To whom can I tell
the burden of my heart?

Whom can I tell?
Whom can I tell?

To whom can I tell
the agony of my heart?

Whom can I tell?
Whom can I tell?

To whom can I tell of
the burning of my heart?

Whom can I tell?
Whom can I tell?

To whom can I tell of
the loneliness in my heart?

Whom can I tell?
Whom can I tell?

The Whole World Is Gauranga-maya

For some years now, I've loved contemplating on the bright blue sky as being the reflection of Krishna's beautiful bodily effulgence. I've also loved relating it to the thoughts of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundara; the bright blue sky reminds me of Nityananda's dhoti, and the bright shining sun reminds me of Gaurasundara. The play of these Two during daylight is a sight to see, how the sun rises and illuminates the dawn sky, the full engagement of the Two during the day, and the sun retiring in the evening with the blue sky following closely behind. Doesn't Nityananda follow Gauranaga wherever He goes?

Today I saw the sky was cloudy, how to include this? Then it occurred to me that the white clouds stand for the white beard of Sri Advaita Prabhu. The clouds appeared as balls of puffy cotton wool, which further endeared their appearance as Advaita Prabhu's holy beard.

Tin Prabhu. Tin Gosai.

They are in nature.

They are everywhere.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Here We Go Again

Recently a storm in a teacup arose regarding an article that was posted on the Gaudiya Kutir Wiki. The article was about brahmacharya and listed Swami Sivananda as a reference. A mini-controversy arose as to why Swami Sivananda - a known impersonalist/Advaitin - should be listed as a reference/authority on a site dedicated to Gaudiya Vaishnavism?

I am in agreement with the substance of the disagreement; it occurs to me that a site that professes to educate people about Gaudiya Vaishnavism (much less an online encyclopaedia!) should maintain it's distinct purity and fidelity to the tradition. When Gaudiya Vaishnavism is diametrically opposed to other theological schools of thought such as Advaita and it's offshoots, how is it possible that a link is made to the thoughts of such schools? What benefit can accrue?

Apart from the issue of why an article on brahmacharya is necessary in the first place, we all know of certain Gaudiya teachers who have spoken amply about the topic. Shouldn't their views be given a greater prominence since they at least have a few things in common? The idea of discarding the views of other Gaudiya gurus in favour of an 'opposition' guy speaks to me of disguised and envy and secret resentment that is born forth from unresolved issues of trauma. Doesn't that sound weird? Could it be true or not? In any case it's the impression I get.

I now notice that such a guru has been referenced as an authority. Good work.

However, the reference to Sivananda is there and it is off-putting. When you take delight at the sight of a beautiful rose, your smiles of amazement turn to grimaces of disgust when you discover a grub underneath the rose, eating into it's leaves and it's core and making a mess of a beautiful creation.

I do not like to criticise a beautiful project such as the gWiki which shows enormous promise and reach-for-the-sky potential, but if this kind of thing continues then I'm going to end up very disappointed.

Picking A Fight

I may be entirely in error here, but yet again I see the spectre of ISKCON Past raising it's ugly head. For a start, the same old people who have numerous times voiced their disagreements and differences of opinion with the traditionalist sect of Gaudiya Vaishnavas are again trying to pick a fight. Specifically the same traits are there, asking pointed questions about the wearing of red cloth, worship of Vishnu in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, etc.

This is subtly related to what I wrote before. Why is there a constant need to even indirectly pick a fight with such comments? I feel that it is frustrating impotence at it's very best; they have been trained and instructed in a warlike manner and cannot find peace in their hearts until they have defeated all the wrong ideas and conceptions in this world. Kinda like Jihad if you will, or even militant Christianity with all it's Crusades and suchlike. Is there such a thing as Gaudiya Fundamentalism? Some people may give the impression that such a thing exists, but I wouldn't necessarily agree as far as the philosophy is concerned.

Frustrating impotence: Even after declaring that they will not associate with "us lot" again and numerous times voicing strong criticisms and put-downs, they still come back for more. Why? Some people theorise that they just cannot resist the alluring fragrance of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda's lotus feet in one of Vraja's secret kunjas. That would make a little more sense; Krishna is supposed to be all-attractive after all, so who wouldn't be attracted? There is only so much fighting and arguing that you can do before you need a bit of peace and quiet.

But I wanted to talk about the hypocrisy of it all. It is upsetting to see how so-called senior Vaishnavas act like little kids bullying each other in the school playground. "My Dad can thrash your Dad!" No, MY Dad is stronger than yours!" Ridiculous. And these Dads, who are they? Thier respective gurus? Who can say? In any case the bully has a tendency to make his presence known to all which simultaneously works to his benefit and detriment; he gets the attention but he receives no respect at all but just quiet loathing. And typically of bullies they are a bit loudmouthed too.

How many times can people discuss the same things over and over and over again? There is such a thing as chewing the chewed and we all know which creature loves to engage in that. Perhaps it's time to put away your toys and become a man; accept that other people have a different opinion and live with that!