April 2010

The Perfect Meditation

‘The ideal yogi concentrates his attention on Krsna, who is called Syamasundara, who is as beautifully coloured as a cloud, whose lotuslike face is as effulgent as the sun, whose dress is brilliant with jewels and whose body is flower-garlanded. Illuminating all sides is His gorgeous luster, which is called the brahmajyoti. He incarnates in different forms such as Rama, Nrsimha, Varaha and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He descends like a human being, as the son of mother Yasoda, and He is known as Krsna, Govinda and Vasudeva. He is the perfect child, husband, friend and master, and He is full with all opulences and transcendental qualities. If one remains fully conscious of these features of the Lord, he is called the highest yogi‘.

(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 6.47 purport)

The Yoga Ladder

‘The whole spiritual process is technically called yoga or linking with the Supreme.  It is something like a long staircase, and the upward steps are variously designated as regulated work, transcendental knowledge, mystic power, and ultimately bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.  Bhakti-yoga is pure and unalloyed, being entirely beyond all the preliminary steps.  Such unalloyed devotional service in favour of the Supreme Lord was displayed in Vrindavana when the Lord descended there, and thus the yoga exhibitted by the gopis of Vrindavana is the highest unalloyed love of Godhead, the perfection of bhakti-yoga.  To rise to the stage of love shown by the gopis is very difficult, but this stage is attainable for serious conditioned souls’

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – Light Of The Bhagavata p.81

Here is a very moving passage from the Brihad-Bhagavatamrta Vol.III by Sanatana Goswami as translated by H.G Gopiparanadhana prabhu. This is where Gopa Kumara meets the Lord of his heart, Sri Krishna, in Goloka Vrindavan

‘In this way I moved here and there, anxiously questioning each person I met. And as I made my way forward, I came to the pasturing grounds of the cowherds. Looking around in all directions, I spotted in the distance a town adorned with the essence of all sweetness. On one side of that town, all about I heard wonderful songs, sung by cowherd women, and the charming sound of the churning of butter, and the jingling of bangles.

Trying to subdue my agitated joy, I walked forward and came across a seated elderly gentleman, sobbing profusely, incessantly chanting, “Krsna! Krsna!” With some skillful effort I made him speak, and I heard him say, in a choked voice, that this town belonged to Nanda, the king of the cowherds, Sri Krsna’s father. As soon as I heard those words I fainted, overcome with delight.

After a moment that compassionate old man revived me, and I ran ahead and approached a gateway of the town and sat there in the gate. And there I saw, by the hundreds and thousands and tens of millions, all sorts of wonders, unseen, unheard of, unimaginable by anyone of this world. O best of the brahmanas, I couldn’t discern whether the people there were all enjoying the highest bliss or suffering in the grip of terrible misery. I heard the gopis’ songs, coupled with their crying, but were they songs of the greatest contentment or the greatest sorrow? I couldn’t tell. A person seeing that place might think he was in the material world. But by carefully reflecting on whatever he had seen before, he would understand he was now somewhere above all material planets, all higher nonplanetary regions, and all the transcendental realms of the spiritual world.

Then an elderly lady came by. I bowed down to her and asked in a plaintive voice where Sri Nanda-nandana was playing today. The elderly lady said: “This morning that giver of life to us Vraja-vasis went into the dense forest to play, with His cows and friends and His respected elder brother. Later, at dusk, He will return. All the Vraja-vasis are waiting on this path along the Yamuna, their eyes transfixed on the road. These trees stand with leaves erect, eagerly awaiting the chance to see Him. Surely He will come along this path”.

Sri Gopa-kumara said: As if anointed by a downpour of the purest nectar, I gazed with one-pointed attention down the path the old lady had pointed out. The sheer force of my ecstasy had frozen my thighs. But with some effort I moved on, and I heard from afar a certain sound. Mixed with the mooing of cows, it was the supremely attractive murmur of Krsna’s enchanting flute. That sound – sweet melodies of sportingly played notes, diverse with musical embellishments – was like nothing ever heard in the material world. Its attractive force at once overwhelmed everyone in the cowherd village.

By the power of that sound, sap flowed in a downpour from the long rows of trees, a flood of tears fell from the eyes of every embodied being in the village of the cowherds, a shower of milk rained from the breasts of all of Krsna’s mothers, even the elderly, and the rapid currents of the Yamuna suddenly stood still. I didn’t know whether that flute gave out poison or the nectar of immortality, whether its sound was harsh like thunder or soft like water, hotter than blazing fire or cooler than the moon. I couldn’t tell. But that sound drove all the Vraja-vasis mad. All of them were utterly bewildered.

Then I saw some women of Vraja come out of their homes, bearing in their hands the things needed to greet Krsna with worship. Others who passed by held ornaments and offerings of food on their heads. Other ladies, ignoring everything around them, ran toward the mingled sounds of the mooing of the cows and the song of the flute. In the frenzy of love for Krsna, the ladies stumbled down the path. Some ladies ran with their ornaments in disarray, some could hardly keep their belts and hair tied, some stayed in their homes, stunned like trees, and others fell unconscious to the ground. Some of the women who had fainted, their faces wet with tears and saliva, were carried forward by their girlfriends. Other ladies, pained by the urges of their love for Krsna, went ahead pressed on by their friends – “Come see Him!” The ladies, so diverse in complexion and adorned with diverse ornaments and dress, put to shame the good fortune of the goddess of fortune herself.

Swiftly the ladies ran to the bank of the Yamuna, absorbed in singing His names and pastimes. I too went forward, as if pulled by someone. Joining the throng of gopis rushing forward on all sides, I too began to run quickly. Then from a distance I saw Him, His charming flute in hand. Running quickly, He emerged from among His friends and animals and approached me, saying in a sweet voice, “Look, Sridama! Here is My dear friend Sarupa, the sun who shines on the lotus of your family!”

Krsna was dressed for the forest. His garments, earrings and peacock-feather crown all swayed to and fro, and so did His garland of kadamba flowers. His fragrance perfumed all directions, and His beautiful lotus face blossomed with a playful smile. His lotus eyes beamed with a merciful glance, and the varied assets of beauty decorated Him in a singular way. The fingers of His lotus hand busily pushed back the locks of His hair, which flew about, adorned with the dust raised by the cows. His tender, divine lotus feet touched the surface of the earth just to grant her the gift of supreme splendor. Playfully dancing as they moved, they attracted everyone’s heart with their great eagerness to walk quickly with large steps. The effulgence of His cloud-colored body, shining with the full sweetness of youth, lit up all corners of the sky. His beauty, which captured the hearts of the ever devotees of Vraja, was an ocean abounding with countless excellences.

He leaped forward and came close to me, compelled by the affection of His helpless devotee. I fainted in love at seeing Him. He caught hold of me by the neck. And suddenly He to fell to the ground. A moment later I reawoke and carefully freed my neck from His grasp. I stood up and saw Him on the ground, in a faint, moistening the dust-covered path with His tears’.

(Brihad-Bhagavatamrta Vol III, Chapter 6, verses 29-61) Sanatana Goswami, translated from Sanskrit by His Grace Gopiparanadhana Das)

My History tutor was a thin man with a black beard. He wore a navy blue V-neck jersey and a plain white collared shirt. He spoke expressively. From time to time, he would make wide, excited movements with his hands. The spirit of the tutor, the design of the buildings and the tutorial itself smacked of Cambridge or something foreign.

‘We will be discussing Historiography and Historicism today’, our tutor exclaimed in a jerky, nervous way. ‘We’ll be taking a look at Interdisciplinary Studies and History’, he added. Then he posed what appeared to be an innocuous question to the students, ‘What is science?’ The initial responses to this question seemed to bes from the perspective of natural science, physics and chemistry. A girl put up her hand, ‘Science is the observation of phenomena based on experimentation and concomittant results’. ‘Yeeesss’ he coaxed. ‘Go on’.

I offered an explanation, on the basis of our Latin Intensive course: ‘The word ‘science’ comes from the Latin word ‘scientiae’ which means ‘knowledge’. ‘Knowledge’, itself, is all-embracing. ‘Knowledge’, in its broad sense, cannot be compartamentalized’. While I was saying this, an image of the British neoclassical architecture fixed itself in my mind. It was very Oxford, the whole setting. Even the discussion. Institutions like Oxford and Cambridge had systematized and comparmentalized knowledge into highly specialized faculties. My tutor’s eyes lit up, and his face rumpled into a satisfied smile. ‘Good’, he said, ‘we are trying to see how different branches or sciences are all basically part of a broader definition of ‘knowledge” At that moment I thought of Cicero’s definition of the word ‘abstract’. Cicero defines ‘abstract’ as ‘that which can only be grasped in thought’. We had connected intellectually.

I still couldn’t really see the point of these tutorials, however. They were never conclusive. A topic would be introduced. We would have to read a whole bunch of articles. And then we’d discuss them in a roundabout way, without getting to the heart of the matter. But what was the heart of the matter? I had yet to resolve this question. When would the elusive truth I was seeking manifest to me?

‘When a serious devotee first sets his aim on following in the footsteps of the Goloka-vasis, the goal may seem far away. He may begin his endeavour still encumbered by many material desires. But the more he carefully studies the transcendental reality, the more he renounces his unsuitable desires. He then rises above the misgivings born of fear, reverence, distrust, and shame. The real beginning of spiritual life, therefore, is to become free from material desires.

Until the obstacles are overcome, the devotee sees the object of his devotion only as the supreme powerful and so remains to fearful and respectful to have any real love for Him. But later, when the devotee swims in the vast ocean of bhakti, the superficial waves of contrary impulses recede, and he is granted the superintelligence for friendship with the Supreme. The devotee then approaches the Lord with such apparently worldy moods as that of a consort or a son and serves His lotus feet accordingly. He renders pure devotional service, as defined in the Padma Purana: ananya-mamata visnau/mamata prema-samyuta/bhaktir ity ucyate bhisma-/prahladoddhava-naradhah. ‘When one develops an unflinching sense of ownership or possessiveness in relation to Lord Visnu, or, in other words, when one thinks Visnu and no one else to be the only object of love, such an awakening is called bhakti by exalted persons like Bhisma, Prahlada, Uddhava and Narada”.

(Cf. Gopiparanadhana prabhu, Brihad-Bhagavatamrita Vol III, Chapter V, p.228-9)