Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL

Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL
Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL (Personal Deities)

26 October 2011

Why We Follow Rupa Gosvami -- or what it takes to be a guru

Today is Diwali in Jaipur and Mangalarati was absolutely mobbed. I have never seen such a crowd at the Govindadev Temple. You had to fight the waves of people to get anywhere close to the darshan barriers. It reminded me of the story I was reading just yesterday in Krsna Book; when Krsna and Balarama met the inhabitants of Vrindavana at Kurukshetra during the solar eclipse. At that time Krsna asked Srimati Radharani to come to his capital Dvaraka with him but she refused. She, and the gopis and the rest of the Vrajavasis had no desire to be with Krsna among his royal entourage of servants, advisors, ministers, ambassadors, other minor kings, brahmanas, sages, petitioners, commanders, troops, chariots, elephants, horses, and the rest of the formal clatter. They wanted to be with Krsna in the village and forests of Vrindavana. In fact it says in Krsna Book:

“In spite of their long separation, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, the gopīs, were not interested in the idea of going with Kṛṣṇa to His capital city, Dvārakā. They wanted to remain busy in Vṛndāvana and thus feel the presence of Kṛṣṇa in every step of their lives. They immediately invited Kṛṣṇa to come back to Vṛndāvana. This transcendental emotional existence of the gopīs is the basic principle of Lord Caitanya's teaching. The Ratha-yātrā Festival observed by Lord Caitanya is the emotional process of taking Kṛṣṇa back to Vṛndāvana. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī refused to go with Kṛṣṇa to Dvārakā to enjoy His company in the atmosphere of royal opulence, but wanted to enjoy His company in the original Vṛndāvana atmosphere. Lord Kṛṣṇa, being profoundly attached to the gopīs, never goes away from Vṛndāvana, and the gopīs and other residents of Vṛndāvana remain fully satisfied in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”

Then I remembered Rupa Gosvami’s famous verse he wrote at Puri, the verse Caitanya Mahaprabhu found rolled up in the thatched roof of Haridas Thakur’s hut. That’s the verse that explained the entire situation. Upon reading it Mahaprabhu was so moved he even mildly slapped Rupa with his lotus hand. Later he confided in Svarupa Damodar wondering how it was possible for Rupa to understand his mind. To which Svarupa Damodar replied that it was only possible for one who had received Mahaprabhu’s special mercy. Here it is:

priyaḥ so 'yaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ saha-cari kuru-kṣetra-militas
tathāhaṁ sā rādhā tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham
tathāpy antaḥ-khelan-madhura-muralī-pañcama-juṣe
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati

[This is a verse spoken by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.] "My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend Kṛṣṇa on this field of Kurukṣetra. I am the same Rādhārāṇī, and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant, but still I would like to go to the bank of the Yamunā beneath the trees of the forest there. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within that forest of Vṛndāvana."

This kind of jewel is worth collecting. This is cintamani, transcendental touchstone. Rupa Gosvami, he’s our leader not because he pretended to be the exalted person he is but because he understood Mahaprabhu’s mind. Srila Prabhupada adds a nice personal touch for those of us who find it difficult be sincere about our struggle for purification:

“We had the opportunity to receive a similar blessing from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī when we presented an essay at his birthday ceremony. He was so much pleased with that essay that he used to call some of his confidential devotees and show it to them. How could we have understood the intentions of Śrīla Prabhupāda?”


07 July 2011

Bodily Conception

The Ism That Won’t Go Away
by John Glaser, July 07, 2011

Recent anthropological studies of the Turkana people, “a nomadic society in east Africa that lacks a centralized government,” find that they can “regularly muster armies of several hundred warriors, most of whom have never met before” by relying on fear of punishment or marginalization as the price of dissent and by exploiting kinship loyalties expected to “benefit the ethnolinguistic group.” A new theory holds that warfare “has played an integral role in our evolution” throughout our tribal histories and has “turned into the modern ability to work towards a common goal.”

The word “tribalism” was traded for nationalism once humanity began to organize on a larger scale and needed to overcome increasingly arbitrary associations in order to summon the collective will for war. This nationalism manifests itself in various civic dogmas and state myths about America and Americanism. It is precisely what permits state warfare in our modern imperialist age.

The militarism of the George W. Bush administration, although fundamentally a continuation of a long tradition of ruthless expansionism in American foreign policy, shocked much of the world with its boldness and grandiosity. Bush framed the Sept. 11 attacks as an assault on freedom, on a particular Americanness, and in doing so provided implicit moral justification to an ambitiously belligerent response. The terrorists “attacked America because we are freedom’s home and defender,” Bush proclaimed. He then mixed this uninquiring posture with a war of aggression against a non-threatening Iraq by preying upon feelings of unity and nationhood. “The long-term security of America and civilization itself” forced America to confront the threat of dangerous “weapons in the hands of terrorists or hostile regimes.” “History has called us to these responsibilities,” Bush declared before invoking a “special mission.”

Political scientist Paul T. McCartney wrote that “enduring nationalist themes provided the basic structure in which Americans organized their comprehension of and reaction to the terrorist attacks” and that America’s “insular preoccupation with its own lofty distinctiveness” galvanized “a sense of mission, which sometimes emerges as a crusading mentality.” It was “productive of little,” he explained, “but superstition and bloodshed.”

Some expected a departure from Bush’s martial frivolity with the election of Barack Obama, but the religious jingoism that has always provided the backbone for aggressive military interventionism remained and thus was taken full advantage of by the guarantor of change. In announcing a military surge in Afghanistan, Obama told American that our values “are a creed that calls us together … behind a common purpose.” Doctrines of exceptionalism were the rallying cry of his speech on the intervention in Libya. “America is different,” he said, and it is “our common humanity” and “values” that have impelled us to war. In announcing the eventual withdrawal of surge troops and the continuing commitment to warfare in Afghanistan this month, Obama said we must be steadfast in “extending the promise of America.”

These rallying cries do not differ from those propagated within any other state; they don’t even differ from how the Turkana people manage to motivate “several hundred warriors” of “participants [that] are not kin or day-to-day interactants” to “incur substantial risk of death” in order to “produce collective benefits.” George Orwell wrote that “the abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” Political scientist Benedict Anderson famously called this unit an “imagined community” made up mostly of strangers held together by pretenses about their countrymen, rather than actual connections to most or even any of them. “Ultimately,” Anderson wrote, “it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.”

In both primitive and modern societies, fear of punishment or social ostracism is an imperative tool in reinforcing nationalism. During the First World War, one of the most fiercely nationalistic times in American history, President Woodrow Wilson set up the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda ministry meant to build public support for the war effort. It succeeded in turning a largely pacifist population wary of foreign intervention into fervent nationalists. The CPI distributed propaganda in news stories, street posters, advertisements, and films. It launched pro-war lecture circuits to mobilize public opinion, and publicly criticizing the president or the war effort was criminalized. One woman, Rose Pastor Stokes, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Espionage Act for writing a letter to the editor of the Kansas City Star that said the government was allied with the war profiteers.

Ganging up on “the other” has a way of fortifying this fraternity and war fever. Americans became aggressively anti-German during the First World War. They called sauerkraut “liberty cabbage.” In 1918, a mob in St. Louis attacked a German immigrant named Robert Prager, who had tried to enlist in the Navy. They beat him up, wrapped him in the American flag, and lynched him. A jury found the mob leaders not guilty, citing a case of what they called “patriotic murder.” That’s a nice little microcosm of how war works: convince a people of their own righteousness and purpose in the course of history — as Wilson and his CPI did — and they can justify all kinds of horror.

It is “imaginings” about our place in history and the superiority of our group that caused Americans to excuse the Bush administration and the military for raiding a hospital and throwing patients on the ground with their arms tied behind their backs, which is considered a war crime under international law. These imaginings also made Americans gullible enough to believe that the rationale for raiding that hospital was that it was a “refuge for insurgents and a center of propaganda against allied forces.” These imaginings are precisely what enables Americans to demand respect for sovereignty here at home but disregard it completely when our leaders profess the necessity of conducting a drone war in Pakistan or Yemen. It lent credence to Obama’s call for intervention, and ultimately regime change, in Libya, while he managed not to blush that his own clients elsewhere in the region were committing the same crimes as Gadhafi. As Orwell put it:

Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral color when it is committed by “our” side.

In 2004, “new atheist” Sam Harris wrote that “religious faith perpetuates man’s inhumanity to man,” and to mitigate such inhumanity we need “the end of faith.” The abolition of faith needs to carry over and indeed be concentrated on the end of nationalism. If, as Randolph Bourne said, war is the health of the state, then nationalism is the health of war. Any hope for a departure from U.S. militarism will be shattered if it rests upon electing a seemingly sober new leader or making minor changes in policy. The change must be in how Americans think of themselves; it must be an abandonment of that timeless tribal tendency to perpetrate savagery in the interest of the group.

10 January 2011

Happy New Year From the Ship of Fools

New Year! What a crock of sh**t. No one is interested in the slightest in taking a close look at their ongoing situation. Like dumb rats they follow each other over the cliff, following the pied piper of self interest. They invest in illusion creating relationships with temporary meanings which vanish into the mists of time immediately the body is finished. The 100 year span allotted comes and goes in a blink of self absorption that blinds any attempt at analysis of the situation that unfolds right before their noses. No one asks, "What is going on here? Who is really in control? Why all these species of life coming and going? Why some suffer while others enjoy? Why the huge diversity of the creation?" The penny fails to drop: diversity of species, destiny, work, alliances, tastes... it all has to do with desire upon desire upon desire stretching back to time immemorial. Why, if everyone is equal (as we are on the spiritual platform), do we start off with varying handicaps? Why do the innocent suffer and die? Why do we get bad even when we do good? Like dumb animals no one asks, no one cares. All caught like hares in the headlights. Splat!