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December 14, 1999   VNN5079  Comment on this storyAbout the AuthorOther Stories by this Author

Catuh-sloki 'The Dark Night Of The Soul'


EDITORIAL, Dec 14 (VNN) — "Ramanti speaks of the gopis and those in this world who tread the path of raganuga-bhakti in search of Krsna following in the wake of the gopis' love. It speaks of union with Krsna through longing in separation, the dark night of the soul."

A continuing discussion on the famous nutshell verses of the Bhagavad-gita by Swami B.V. Tripurari.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has called verses eight through eleven of the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita the catuh-sloki, playing off the well-known four (catur) essential verses (sloka) of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, originally spoken by Krsna to Brahma . All four verses have a general meaning for practicing devotees (sadhakas), as well as an esoteric meaning relative to Krsna's devotees of Vraja and the gopis in particular, as well as those following in their footsteps in advanced stages of practice.

"Those whose minds are fixed on me, whose lives are absorbed in me, enlightening one another and always speaking of me, derive satisfaction and delight." (Bg. 10.9)

Even in Krsna's absence from Vraja his devotees continued to exist only for him. Their minds were fixed on him (mac-citta), and their lives absorbed in he who was their life breath (mad-gata-prana). They discussed only Krsna and his Vraja lilas in eternity (kathayantas ca mam nityam). From this they derived great satisfaction (tusyanti) even in his absence, and the gopis' hearts grew fonder for him in conjugal love (ramanti).

Here Krsna continues to think of his devotees in Vraja and those aspiring for their standard of devotion. Although they derive satisfaction even in his separation by constantly speaking about him in their own assembly and ministering to the public about him as well, this is so because it increases their anticipation of meeting with him, in which they feel his presence.

Madhusudana Sarasvati, as per Sankara himself, acknowledges that the word ramanti in this verse implies the delight of love that a young girl feels for a young boy, as the gopis felt for Krsna. Sankara says, "They [devotees] find their contentment and delight as though they have met with their beloved." Ramanti speaks of the gopis and those in this world who tread the path of raganuga-bhakti in search of Krsna following in the wake of the gopis' love. It speaks of union with Krsna through longing in separation, the dark night of the soul. As Krsna continues to explain, such devotees constantly worship him, and he assists them in their efforts for union with him.

"To those who are constantly devoted, who worship me with love, I give the power of discrimination by which they come to me." (Bg. 10.10)

Madhusudana Sarasvati acknowledges that the words 'satata-yuktanam' indicate those who are ever devoted to Krsna, as well as that 'priti-purvakam' indicates selfless love. Regarding the previous verse, he says that the contentment (tusyanti) of the devotees under discussion is such that they feel, "We have attained everything through this much [devotion] alone. There is no need for anything else to be achieved."

However, in contradiction to this he writes in his commentary on the present verse that Krsna gives (dadami) the power of discrimination, the yoga of wisdom (buddhi-yogam, or jnana-yoga) to such selfless devotees.

This implies that bhakti is merely a means to jnana and thereby salvation.

According to advaita vedanta, upon attaining salvation, devotion retires.

This implies that in and of itself bhakti does not bear the fruit of absolute contentment, yet Krsna himself has already instructed Arjuna at the close of the ninth chapter that by devotion alone his devotees come to him. (1)

Knowledge and detachment are concomitant factors of devotion. (2) Thus in a general sense the power of discrimination that Krsna gives his devotees is the cognitive aspect of bhakti proper. He gives them knowledge of their eternal relationship with him, and cultivating this relationship, his devotees come to him. From his use of the term buddhi-yoga in this verse it is apparent that Krsna's use of the same term earlier in the second chapter, (3) while overtly referring to niskama- karma-yoga, implies bhakti-yoga. The full sense of buddhi-yoga is bhakti.

Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami cites this verse three times in Caitanya-caritamrta. (4) In his initial citing he connects it with the Srimad-Bhagavatam's catuh-sloki in the context of explaining the nature of the instructing guru (siksa-guru), who enlightens one with transcendental knowledge. In his commentary on Kaviraja Goswami's citing in Caitanya-caritamrita, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes, "The Lord declares that by enlightenment in theistic knowledge he awards attachment for him to those who constantly engage in his transcendental loving service. This awakening of divine consciousness enthralls a devotee, who thus relishes his eternal transcendental mellow (rasa)."

Relative to Krsna's emotional state from which this verse issues, there is a deeper meaning to consider. For one who is constantly devoted (satata-yuktanam) to Krsna, worshiping him (bhajatam) with love (pritipurvakam), what need does such a devotee have for power of discrimination (buddhi-yogam) or even attachment for Krsna in terms of sacred aesthetic rapture, when this attachment is the very basis of their perpetual loving worship? Such devotees are not practitioners, they are Krsna's devotees of Vraja, who embody the ideals of natural, inborn spontaneous love (ragatmika). (5) Here Krsna is speaking of the gopis in particular, flowing into this verse from the previous one on the nectar ocean of the word ramanti (conjugal love) and its implications.

The gopis have already discriminated between matter and spirit, and exercised powerful discrimination within that which is spiritual as well, choosing, for example, Krsna over Narayana. What further need do they have for the power of discrimination? Having already attained Krsna, the words 'yena mam upayanti te' (they come to me) in this verse also appear redundant. Furthermore, buddhi-yoga has been described earlier as niskama-karma-yoga, (6) detached action within the context of scripturally prescribed duties. What need do elevated devotees such as the gopis have for practicing detachment, or perscribed duties?

If we take buddhi-yoga to mean niskama-karma-yoga, we will have to think that Krsna inspires the gopis in selfless action, for they attend to household affairs and their socioreligious duties dutifully lest their family members become suspect, and they do so with no attachment whatsoever to the results, their minds absorbed in the hope of meeting secretly with Krsna. Because they do meet him in the dead of night when all of the other devotees of Vraja's lila sleep and dream of Krsna but have no active service, the gopi's loving service is sometimes referred to as "twenty-four hour" service in Krsna's nitya-lila (satata-yuktanam).

Those who hear dhira-lalita Krsna, svayam bhagavan, speaking in this verse understand buddhi-yogam in light of Krsna's Vraja lila. Krsna is the paramour of the gopis. They cannot meet with him openly. How do they meet with him? Krsna gives them the power of discrimination through his sidelong glances as to how to steal away in the night and meet him (mam upayanti) on the banks of the Yamuna.

'Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy' by Swami B.V. Tripurari is scheduled for publication next year.

(1) Bg. 9.34
(2) SB. 1.2.

(3) Bg.2.39
(4) Cc. Adi 1.49, Madhya 24.173. 24.192
(5) Brs.

(6) Bg. 2.

Questions or comments may be sent to sadhusanga@swami.org.

[Reprinted with permission from Sanga 12/10/99 http://www.swami.org]

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