© 1999 VNN


June 30, 1999   VNN4197  Comment on this story

Bhakti: Religious Or Experiential?


EDITORIAL, Jun 30 (VNN) — (From Sanga wfd@efn.org)

RE: Q&A: Bhakti: Religious or Experiential?

"Practice based on little or wrong understanding will not yield much result, and intellectual understanding without practice is also of little value."

Q u e s t i o n s posted at the http://swami.org website. Replies by Swami B.V. Tripurari. Information on Swami's California tour is listed at the end.

Q u e s t i o n. What is meant by 'ritualistic' bhakti ?

A n s w e r. I have used the term 'ritualistic bhakti' as a contemporary reference to 'vaidhi bhakti', the Gaudiya tradition's term for devotion in which rituals and rules predominate over love. The word 'vaidhi' is derived from viddhi (rules). Vaidhi bhakti involves devotion that is motivated more by scriptural rules and regulations than it is by spontaneous love for God.

In ritualistic devotion, knowledge of God predominates over love of God. In Krishna's appearance as a prince, and more so as four armed Narayana, he is the object of ritualistic bhakti.

For the Gaudiyas, ritualistic devotion is contrasted with devotion of spontaneous love (raganuga bhakti), in which the rituals, rules, and knowledge of God's Godhood are superceeded by extraordinary love. To those on the path of raganuga bhakti, God appears as Krsna of Vraja, the flute bearing cowherd adorned with the peacock's plume. Grounded in ritualistic bhakti with one's ideal that of raganuga bhakti, one can cross over ritualistic bhakti and tread the path of sacred passionate love in due course.

Q u e s t i o n. What is the meaning and difference between the 'bhara vahi' and 'saragrahi' Vaisnavas? (Radha Raman das)

A n s w e r. Bharavahi Vaisnavas are those who identify more with the tradition's outer symbols than they do with its inner experience. This sometimes brings them into conflict with those on a higher platform, who are not so concerned with the symbols and rituals, having realized their significance and relative value.

Saragrahi Vaisnavas are those who gravitate towards the essence (sara) of the tradition and can appreciate its expression even when slightly manifest of other traditions. They tend to overlook external differences.

As far as I know, both of these terms originate with Bhaktivinoda Thakura, although the concepts are universal.

Q u e s t i o n. Do you consider the upcoming solar eclise (August 11th 1999) as having any spiritual significance, particularly in that it departs the planet from the Bay of Bengal (ie the birthplace of Gauranga). I've heard it said that it is inauspicious to observe an eclipse. Could you elaborate on that?

A n s w e r. I do not attribute much spiritual significance to it. As for the inauspicious nature of eclipses in general, according to the Hindu tradition, Rahu is a malific planet. When it covers the sun or moon, which are auspicious planets, this is considered to be inauspicious, representing darker forces temporarily overcoming those of light in the heavens. Rahu is the shadow of the moon, to whom person is attributed. Thus Hindus do not look at the eclipse. They stay inside during its observance and wash everything after it passes. The temple Deities are also put to rest during the eclipse.

Q u e s t i o n. We would like to learn about the various Rasas, but are having great difficult finding a source. Would you please illuminate the Rasas for us, or guide us to a reasaonbly available source? (A M Rieman)

A n s w e r. This information is available in Rupa Goswami's Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu, Pascima-vibhaga (Western Division of the Nectar Ocean of Rasa) in terms of the five primary rasas, and Uttara-vibhaga in terms of the twelve secondary rasas. Earlier chapters discuss the ingredients of rasa. A summary study of this book has been published by my Spiritual Master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, entitled Nectar of Devotion.

Q u e s t i o n. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita that lust is situated in the senses, the mind and the intelligence. From experience one can see that sometimes this lust is manifest and sometimes unmanifest. But it is always there ready to 'strike' so to speak. Can you explain how lust attacks the senses, how it attacks the mind and how it attacks the intelligence?

A n s w e r. Lust attacks the intelligence in the form of planning for improving one's sense gratification, the idea of which first appears in the mind, and is later carried carried out by the senses.

Q u e s t i o n. What has more value? Chanting Krishna's name regualry a perscribed number of times and living a moral life with little realization of what the tradition is all about, following dogmatically, or actual realization, regardless of one's ability to follow vows?

A n s w e r. Actual realization is of greater value than dogmatic following. However, actual realization should enable, or inspire one to observe vows at least for the sake of others. One should be careful not to confuse intellectual understanding and broadminded thinking with spiritual realization, especially when it yields no taste for chanting Krishna's name. Mostly we see fundamentalists practicing rigidly with little understanding of the deeper meaning of the scripture, and liberals who are not so concerned with the same type of adherence, yet have a better grasp on what the scripture says and means. Unfortunately, neither group exhibits much spiritual realization. Practice based on little or wrong understanding will not yield much result, and intellectual understanding without practice is also of little value.

Q u e s t i o n. I can, at times, see the seed of devotional life within myself but I also feel frustration because I can't seem to see how it will grow (or whether it is growing at all). Also, as my senses become purified it seems that suffering also increases. Where I now live about a block away is a major thoroughfare and the cars produce a practically non-stop subsonic vibration that is almost making me crazy. I know I must practice tolerance but under the circumstances I don't know what to do. So, as an advanced disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami I am submitting these questions to you. (Srestha dasa)

A n s w e r. I suggest you change your living situation. It is very peaceful and conducive to devotional life here in Vrindavana, and many Western devotees are living here. Sri Caitanya has recommended Mathura vasa, living in a sacred place such as Mathura-Vrindavana, as one of the five most potent practices of sadhana bhakti. Ultimately, we have to change ourselves, not our circumstances. However, I suspect that changing your living situation, especially if it means moving to Vrindavana, would bring about a major change in your self.

The seed of devotion will grow noticeably in the association of advanced devotees. This is another of the five most potent practices recommended by Sri Caitanya. The other three are worshipping the Deity, hearing the Bhagavata, and chanting Krishna's Holy Name in kirtana.

Q u e s t i o n. Is Krishna consciousness different from what we expect of a religion in the West? In the West it is commonly believed that the spiritual experience is attained only after death. Do Krishna devotees expect to attain to their spiritual situation, now, in this life, and if they do, why aren't any of them talking about it?

A n s w e r. I believe that other religious traditions in the West also speak of experiential spiritual life in which spritual experience is in the here and now. All traditions are two sided, religious and experiential.

The status of being liberated while still within the body is called 'jivanmukta'. This stage is attainable within the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism . While for monists this stage involves 'prarabdha karma', for devotees it does not. Prarabdha karma is that karma already bearing fruit.

Monists on the jnana marg (path of knowledge) maintain that the prarabdha karma in the form of this body is not done away with at the stage of jivanmukta.

Gaudiya Vaishnavas understand jivanmukta to be that stage in which God takes over the body of a his devotee for his own purpose, thus eradicating or distributing his prarabdha karma. In the case of distrtibuting it, his good karma goes to his relatives and friends, his bad karma to those inimical to him.

Devotees of Krsna who are followers of the Six Goswamis should strive for and hope to attain jivanmukta. However, this is rare. Otherwise, many devotees remember Krishna at death and attain a liberated status thereby.

Q u e s t i o n. If the material universe and all the living entities are here for the sole purpose of Krishna's lila, what is the necessity of so many countless living entities suffering in the countless universes. It seems that only a very few in comparison to the countless jivas actually have any part in the lilas that take place here. (Radha Raman das)

A n s w e r. The souls in this world are here because they are part of the 'sristi lila', the 'creation' of Mahavishnu, who is Krishna's incarnation.

It takes place so that sadhakas can have repeated opportunities for liberation. By the mercy of Krishna some leave this samsara and go with him attaining prema in his lila never to return.

Questions may be submitted at our website http://swami.org or email wfd@efn.org.

California tour itinerary. Swami will be speaking on his upcoming book, 'Bhagavad Gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy'

Sunday, June 20, 7:00 PM, San Francisco Palace Press International South of Market, Corner of Folsom and 12th Streets, San Francisco (second floor, City Lights Bldg., enter through the first floor main entrance, ring bell) For more information, call Mandala Publishing, 800-688-2218

Monday, June 21, 7:00pm, Visalia 524 N Velie Visalia, California For more information call Nagapatni dasi, (559) 734-4463

Tuesday, June 22 - Thursday, June 24, Los Angeles Swami will be a guest of the BBT in Los Angeles. For information, leave a message at this pager, 800-359-2105

Thursday, June 24th, 7:00 PM, Santa Monica Thunderbolt Bookstore, 512 Santa Monica Blvd.

Santa Monica For more information, call (310) 899-9279

Friday, June 25 - Sunday, June 27, San Diego Swami will be the guest of Sanga friends in San Diego.

For information, call (619) 725-0806

Tuesday, June 29, 7:00 PM, San Rafael Open Secrets Bookstore, 923 C St.

San Rafael, California For more information, call (415)

Wednesday, June 30, 6:30 PM, San Francisco 1980 Hayes St.

San Francisco For more information, call Jaya Shri dd (415) 850-5372

Many thanks to the generous support of our Sanga reading congregation.

Their donations and pledges make this work possible. Those wishing to participate, please send your offerings, payable to 'Sanga', c/o Audarya Ashram, 325 River Road, Eugene, OR 97404, USA.

About the Author | Other Stories by this Author

Comment on this story | Contact VNN about this story | Send this story to a friend
How useful is the information in this article? Not Somewhat Very -
Previous Story | Next Story

This story URL: http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET9906/ET30-4197.html


Surf the Web on