© 1999 VNN
April 24, 1999 VNN3684
Moral Judgment, Part II
BY SWAMI B.V. TRIPURARI
EDITORIAL, Apr 24 (VNN) (Sanga firstname.lastname@example.org)
The following is the second part of an article by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur originally published in the 1930's, edited and expanded for contemporary context by Swami B.V. Tripurari. This is a work in progress.
Reader response is welcome.
"In our present state, sex appears both beautiful and ugly at once; beautiful in terms of its promise; ugly in terms of its failure to deliver the goods of unending amour."
The plane of divinity is superior to that of our present experience. There can be no necessity for any form of restrictive morality in the spiritual world, where the soul is no longer subject to the limiting influence of sensual and mental adjuncts. That plane has been depicted as surrounded by the River Viraja. The prefix 'vi' indicates 'without,' and 'raja' indicates the material influence. The stream of Viraja, bordering both the material and spiritual plane, effectively prevents the importation of any mundane defects into the transcendental realm. In the stream of Viraja, morality and immorality alike are washed off the spiritual form of the soul. It is the plane of the salutary sterilization of all mundane qualities.
Religions have systematically avoided thinking positively on this fundamental issue. They have prescribed only regulations of the present life and the defective character of our mind and body. But this is not even a negative help, if it be the only provision. The disease is marked, but no effort is made for its cure. But disease cannot be healed by a policy that refuses, on principle, to contemplate the restoration of healthy activity.
Thus, the issue resolves itself in the question of how the fullest or most natural use of the amorous aptitude can be secured. Aesthetics does not provide the answer. Aesthetics cannot overlook nor heal the unwholesome side of the mundane principle that is the only subject matter of its examination. The ethical answer, which is more to the point in one respect, has already been considered and rejected. Medical science and biology confine themselves to the bodily consequences of the principle of amour and the reaction of these on the mind. They also cover much less ground than ethics.
The positive answer of the whole issue, which is given only by Srimad Bhagavatam, has been accepted and explained by Sri Caitanya. That answer, elucidated by his precept, is prevented from being misunderstood by his own moral character. Any person, who has read the accounts of the life of Sri Caitanya, penned by his associates and their spiritual successors, will be struck with the total absence of the erotic element in his life. Sri Caitanya never mixed with women on the footing of sexual intimacy. His conduct is disappointing to those who expect to find a rich harvest of erotic activities as he presented himself as the teacher of the amorous service of divinity. The same characteristic trait is also noticeable in the lives of all bona fide followers of Sri Caitanya.
Moralists may reject the worship of Radha and Krsna, but they cannot condemn Sri Caitanya, whose own example of moral character, and that which he expected of his devotees, would frighten them. Opponents to moral restriction, who insist that the erotic principle is so deeply rooted in all life that it must in itself be spiritual, will adore the lilas of Radha and Krsna, accepting them as a metaphor for unrestricted sexual freedom in the name of spirituality. Yet these persons will not find favor with Sri Caitanya in terms of his moral adherence, while his God-intoxication in aesthetic rapture will prove compelling to them. Both of these polar opposites can thus potentially reach a synthesis in the divine example and precepts of Sri Caitanya.
Sri Caitanya distinguishes spiritual service or 'bhakti' from 'karma' (fruitive activity) and 'jnana' (gnostic asceticism). He tells us that the paths of work and knowledge are the complementary aspects of the illusory world. Neither of them has anything to do with bhakti, which is the proper function of the soul on the transcendental plane. The path of a bona fide devotee only externally resembles those of karma and jnana. This outward resemblance is due to the fact that the spiritual principle is reflected in this world in a distorted fashion. When the spiritual activities of the unalloyed soul manifest on the mundane plane, they express themselves to the mundane vision of conditioned souls in the form of corresponding mundane activities. Thus the activities of pure souls are indeed difficult to understand. Yet this is to be expected, inasmuch as spiritual activities are not detectable to the mundane eye.
The path of religion under the jurisdiction of karma, in which morality is held so high, only appears spiritual to those whose vision is itself mundane. In this instance, the religionist is tinged with the disposition of exploitation, even if it be an advocacy of good karma. Pious acts that constitute good karma are but a license for exploitation that do not lead in themselves to liberation.
The gnostic ascetic appears still more spiritual due to his having renounced the plane of exploitation. He knows the futility of material acquisition, yet he fails to understand the principle of eternal dedication. He thus appears spiritual to those who have understood that even material good is of no value to the eternal soul. Yet, in reaching this conclusion, such ascetics have yet to realize the potential for right action in relation to the Absolute. They misconstrue the truly spiritual life to be on an equal footing with either the moralist or the immoral.
While Sri Krsna's disciple and friend of the Gita, Arjuna, appears to the spiritually uneducated to be a moralist, Krsna's gopi lovers appear immoral. In reality, both Arjuna and the gopis are transcendental to both good and bad karma, and their devotion constitutes the highest knowledge.
Furthermore, the so-called immorality of the gopis is glorified beyond the devotion of Arjuna within the Gita itself.
Spiritual manifestation on the mundane plane does not involve the transformation of spiritual activities into the mundane. Spiritual activities retain their uncontaminated transcendental character even when they choose to appear to the view of the people of this world, apparently in the identical forms of the events of this world. The impression of the conditioned soul, received from the sensual perception of spiritual events, leads him to believe that they are ordinary mundane occurrences. But this direct testimony notwithstanding, spiritual events ever remain what they are Ñ transcendental and inaccessible to the eclipsed cognitive faculty of the conditioned state. This is so even when they are enacted on the mundane plane, and do not seem to differ in any way from ordinary mundane occurrences.
A considerable degree of correspondence between the material and spiritual planes is necessary, if we bear in mind the fact that reality is necessarily one. The transcendental realm is the full face of reality. The mundane realm is the reflection of reality, showing its deluding face to those unwilling to embrace the reality of our eternal servitorship. The mundane world is not unreal. The deluding power of reality has its own plane of activity. Yet, there is an inconceivable correspondence between the two faces of reality as substance and shadow.
Therefore, when true saints, under the influence of divine energy, appear to the view of persons under the influence of the illusory representation of reality, such persons receive the impression that the saints are themselves under the mundane influence proportionate to their own standing in illusion. The vision of mundane persons is not relieved of its mundane quality by the sensual, unenlightened vision of manifest spiritual activity. Such spectators witness real spiritual activity, but in an unreal way, and this mundane perception of the spiritual reality is ultimately a product of the spiritual reality, which does not allow itself to be perceived other than by eyes of unalloyed love. In order to obtain the uneclipsed view of spiritual reality, it is incumbent on the conditioned soul to seek the help of the spiritual reality itself, that he be relieved of his obstructive mundane vision.
As soon as the rational hankering for the adoption of such a course arises in the conditioned soul, he is disposed to avail himself of the help of the Vaisnavas. It is possible for the conditioned soul to find the true course only by the special mercy of those saints. They have the power of showing their spiritual forms to him in such a way that it would leave no doubt in his mind about the reality of their transcendental nature. It is only by grace that the conditioned soul is enabled to avail himself of the help placed within his reach by the descent of spiritual entities to this mundane plane for the purpose of bringing about his deliverance.
Spiritual amour in its fullest expression displayed itself to the eclipsed view of mundane spectators in the form of the love lilas of Radha and Krsna. These extraordinary events appearing in human history are recorded in the Bhagavata Purana. Yet, due to its esoteric nature, this love affair, untinged by selfish desire, is unrecognizable to the mundane senses that call us to a life of selfishness. These transcendental affairs are just the opposite of mundane reflections of the same that constitute lust appearing as love. Sri Krishna revealed his amorous pastimes to the eclipsed view of the people of this world, but that did not enable them to recognize these affairs for what they are, for he did not clearly articulate the means to approach them other than advocating surrender to himself. But what does it mean to surrender to Krsna? This we learn from Sri Caitanya, who is himself the Absolute disguised as a saint and devotee of himself. He appeared specifically to explain the significance of Radha and Krsna's descent.
The empiricists, although they seem to recognize the necessity of being taught and trained in the affairs of this world, are unduly skeptical in regard to such training in spiritual matters, where its necessity is much greater because we possess absolutely no knowledge of it. In the 'terra incognita' of the spirit, it is indispensable to have a guide. Reform of life is the indispensable preliminary condition for obtaining any real knowledge of the Absolute, and the nature and necessity of such reform, as well as its mode of practice, are clearly realized by close spiritual association with the spiritual preceptor. It cannot be realized unless and until one agrees with genuine sincerity to receive it from his hands. It is only by such submission of the will to the process of enlightenment from above that our clouded vision can be cleared up. In the representative of Sri Caitanya we can find our highest prospect, realizing the deepest urge of the soul in terms of its pure expression.
In our present state, sex appears both beautiful and ugly at once. It is beautiful in terms of its promise, but ugly in terms of its failure to deliver the goods of unending amour. In our material identification, while we exist on one plane, that of the soul, we are yoked to another, the material. The result of this unhappy condition is that we, and the object of our thoughts, exist in an unnatural duality. Thoughts of love born of the soul, when directed out of ignorance to material manifestations, prevent us from realizing the soul's highest potential. However, through the training of spiritual identification, we learn to withdraw our thoughts from sense objects and, proportionately, can think with a spiritual mind.
With this reform of our nature, the principle of sex undergoes a complete transformation.
As much as we nurse the error that the sex of our present experience is the real entity and not a perverted reflection, and as much as we imagine that we can solve the problem of sex by replacing our sensuous activity with the moral mind, we can help no one. Such bungling philosophy has not, and will never reveal, the real nature and purpose of the sexual act. This is so because the sexual act is the eternal concomitant of the highest function of the spirit. This function can never be minimized or abolished by all our empiric and rational endeavors. And only the correct understanding of it can save us from the consequences of our present sexual follies and moral misunderstandings in the name of love.
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