A group Conversation : Bhakti

Prisni
Gaudiya Vaisnavism is a pure bhakti path. So how come there are so many words, such emphesis on the Vedas, and scriptural teachings? Nothing of that has anything to do directly with bhakti. It is side tracks. Nothing of that leads to bhakti. And still, the world is overflowing with "Gaudiya Vaisnavas", that appears to put an equal sign between bhakti and scholarship.

Was it here I read "careful to read too many scriptures -- you can become a scholar"? That in particular refers to bhakti yogis.

I don't recommend bhakti yoga to westeners. It is as simple as that. You need a very particular mentality not to fall into the big scholarship trap. Of course, the world need scholars. But the world also need bhakti yogis who have reached bhakti.

Funny, as it is, I sometimes equate bhakti with the quest for a state of continual bliss. More like the quest for the ultimate cosmic spiritual orgasm, like some tantrics strive for, than the dry study of vedic scriptures. There are differences, but I think there are more similarities than one think. One realisation of the supreme is not too much different than the other. A bhakti yogi has other goals in sight, but that's another thing. First the state of realisation of the supreme has to be reached.

People of all paths, that have not reached their goal, or touched it, often have no idea what they are doing.

Bhakti is not about reading about those who have bhakti. It is nothing you can experience second hand. It can be a pretty severe practice to get it yourself. Quite severe, since you have to be ready to give up everything to get to the bhakti point. Other paths can let you keep many more things. Bhakti is simply a complete surrender to the God/Goddess that is the object of your devotion. A total surrender. No questions asked, no buts and ifs. And the amount of things, inner things, you have to give up can make the impurities come to the surface. And if there is the impurity of intolerance, it will be seen. At that point the bhakti yogi has to do everything to battle that impurity, since it is an impediments on the path.

Bhakti is not a walk alone. It is a walk together with the object of your devotion. But the Goddess can be the most severe teacher. There is no escape or cheating. And if She want you to give up the thing that you love the most, you have to. No pardon. But the benefit of that continual reliationship is bhakti. The bliss and excstacy of bhakti, that follows you at every step, even in your greatest dispair (that that time will come).

Bhakti yoga is a kind of insanity path. It is a path where you will loose everything, and have to laugh about it. You will become seen as a mad(wo)man. It is not a particular social path, that is compatible with material society.

But bhakti is wonderful.

jay Radhe

Devi Bhakta

Namaste, Prisni:

Thank you for your considered and intelligent post; I always find your thoughts worth reading.

*** I don't recommend bhakti yoga to westerners. It is as simple as that. You need a very particular mentality not to fall into the big scholarship trap. ***

This seems true to me on a gut level. The "scholarship trap" is easy to spot in others, but I've felt it in myself as well as I'm sure others have. I do think it is an issue of mentality. For some reason, I've been lucky enough to have some amazingly good guidance and advice along the way, but it is still a constant concern. I think the essence is, you're slipping when you find yourself thinking about the Shakta (or whatever) system objectively and descriptively, as if it were something coming from outside you rather than inside. Certainly but do you not think that many of Eastern origin are also susceptible in this day and age? The "mentality" you speak of has long since wandered beyond the West. Or that is certainly my impression.

*** Of course, the world need scholars. But the world also need bhakti yogis who have reached bhakti. ***

That is a nice line. And true.

*** Bhakti is not about reading about those who have bhakti. It is nothing you can experience second hand. It can be a pretty severe practice to get it yourself. ***

That goes back to the scholarship idea, but I'll repeat your line because I like it.

*** the Goddess can be the most severe teacher. There is no escape or cheating. And if She want you to give up the thing that you love the most, you have to. No pardon. ***

This is so true. I do not know how many people who are attracted to Her realize what they're in for once they allow themselves to do what they must, and surrender.

Arjunananda Gauranga Dasa

Hare Krishna, all glories to Guru and Gauranga.

As in response to Prisni Mataji's reply to the post on the Gaudiya Vaisnavaism, the questions related to the demigods, not to Bhakti, so I did not address Bhakti in my post, only the Gaudiya view of the roll of the demigods.

I placed sastra in the text to point out the words of Sri Krishna, Lord Brahma and Lord Genesha to illistrate my point, nothing more. As far as being a scholar, I am far from one, I know sastra, but don't feel I am qualified to argue sastra.

I am curious concerning your statement, that, "I don't recommend Bhakti to westerners." Why is this your opinion? The first lesson of Bhakti is the realization that "I am not this body." This concept leads one to realize that he/she only belongs to his/her beloved, not to themselves. If I am not this body, but the spirit soul within, then I can also conclude that I am not an American, an Indian, a Russian, a German, or whatever the bodily distinctions may be implied by the mind. I believe that it would have been a great misfortune if the path of bhakti had not come to America, denying those of us the chance the experience of bhakti-rasa.

Personally, I do not see my relationship with Radhe-Krishna as severe or callous. I have never had the problem of anxiety over any type of belonging. It is not that one can not have possessions, it is that one should not allow their possessions to hinder their service to Radhe-Krishna. The possessions that I have do not dictate who or what I am in my relationship with Radhe-Krishna, it is the condition of my heart that matters. But I guess that this depends on the individual and their level of spiritual advancement.

But I agree that devotional service can become a hardship at times, but that shows me where I have work to do. I do not see it as a problem, only a difficulty that Sri Radhe-Krishna wants to walk me through so that my relationship with Them becomes sweeter, closer and more loving. This, as a devotee is my goal.

prainbow61

Namaste,

It is the surrender that is so very hard. And I don't think that it is done only once. I find myself repeatedly at that juncture, where I must either surrender or force myself forward in hopeless clinging to my delusions.

It always amazes me. Where did I give up my devotion, my connection my complete surrender? How did I end up here again, afraid to lose something I desperately want, regardless of Her intentions for me. How did I end up again at the mirror, looking into the eyes of a woman who has to choose between some selfish desire that will not even likely come to fruition and the Goddess Herself who is the wishgiving tree?

I am remade continually.

Prisni

Thank you for your considered and intelligent post; I always find your thoughts worth reading.

Thank you for your encouragement. I am trying to write reasonable things, but it is not always so easy. It is a learning experience to try to write reasonable.

This seems true to me on a gut level. The "scholarship trap" is easy to spot in others, but I've felt it in myself as well as I'm sure others have. When all you can respond is scriptural quotes, or quotes from your guru, then you can start to worry :-)

Certainly but do you not think that many of Eastern origin are also susceptible in this day and age? The "mentality" you speak of has long since wandered beyond the West. Or that is certainly my impression.

I think that sounds like it is like you say. If Indians are interested in the west, they become the same after a while. If Indian spiritual lineages now are spreading to out of India, the previously spiritually fertile Indian soil, is probably not so anymore.

This is so true. I do not know how many people who are attracted to Her realize what they're in for once they allow themselves to do what they must, and surrender.

Surrender is the word. And why not? It is a sweet surrender to a loving Goddess. It can be quite hard for the ego, though

The Vaisnava bhakti tradition is a little bit different from other traditions. It is not a tradition of scholarship it is not a tradition of ritual although both elements are there. It is not possible to reach perfection in that tradition through such efforts. Actually, there is no way to reach perfection in that tradition through any similar effort. That has made some persons believe that it is a mercy religion like Christianity, and if you just do enough prayer, you will reach perfection. But that is not true either. The bhakti tradition, when it has been transplanted into the west, sometimes seems to have lost its heart, and instead become a scholarly saviour religion in a way that I think might even feel alien in the view of hindu traditions.

I call it a pesonal transformation tradition. There is no effort needed than total personal transformation. Nothing more, nothing less. And that is maybe the hardest for the westerner, who is so used that action and/or study is the key to anything.

For me Radha is Shakti. There is almost nothing more to say about it. It is very easy.

I think the westerner might be much better off with a path that requires some very complicated action and study, and that it is possible to advance in due to such things. And to figure out what is the real truth about something, or how to interpret something.

The vaisnava bhaki philosophy is very direct. There is nothing to interpret behind it. It should be understood as it is. There are not even so many rules to follow and things that are forbidden. What this means is that all the philosophy, although necessary, is not it. The perfection does not lie in the philosophy. It is a tool to get to some other point. So a scholar is in great danger, since he might think that learning is the goal.

Of course, it can be hard to come to the understanding of nirguna brahman (brahman without qualities) just like that, directly. One might need a lot of philosophical understanding to reject all qualities. One might need to learn everything about the gunas (qualities) to be able to understand saguna brahman (brahman with all qualities) first.

Many people think the stories about Radha and Krishna are erotic stories between a young boy and a young girl. But the Vaisnava understanding is completely opposite. It is about sex life, in a way, but the sex life of brahman, if that can be conceived. It is in the completely different end compared to mundane sex-life.

I have read here that there are many dangers with performing tantric rituals without a competent teacher. In the Vaisnava bhakti process there are not so many pitfalls, but if there is one gigantic dangerous pitfall, it is thinking that the affairs between Radha and Krishna are mundane sex. Just thinking like that destroys all chances of advancement on the (Vaisnava) bhakti path. And yet, all explanations of Radha are mostly about those affairs. That makes the bhakti process so difficult to follow.

I therefore much more prefer explanations of Radha from her cosmogenic function, as Prakriti, as Shakti. That is not so dangerous. There are rituals, tantric rituals, that much more fits the mentality of modern (western) man. There are rules, there are procedures, there are studies. And by performing those one can advance in that process. Through all that one can get a safe understanding of Shakti, and then, if one want to, one can go to the understanding of the dealings between Radha and Krishna.

This understanding of Radha, is not alien to Vaisnavism. It is just kind of out of fashion. Maybe it was not needed in India, where the cultural and religious climate made a direct approach to bhakti feasable. But I think it is now very appropriate for westeners who are mostly atheistic and have very little understanding of the wonderful nature of the female cosmic forces of Shakti (in lack of other words right now). And by dealing with Shakti, there is very little chance of mixing it up with Christianity.

Childofdevi

Sister, as you pointed out krishna is parabrahma and radharani is parashakti; only people of little understanding/downright fools will tell that their rasa leela is just mundane sex.

Prisni
sister, as you pointed out krishna is parabrahma and radharani is parashakti; only people of little understanding/downright fools will tell that their rasa leela is just mundane sex.Your are right. But then the problem comes with what it actually is a description of.

I like the explanation done by shivaks51, about the inflating baloon and so on. Whatever this really is, only looks like a mundane love affair, from a perspective of living here, but it is really something else. We just can't see what it really is. The real substance we can't see or understand.

Nora

Hello Prisni

You remarked : "But I really feel unqualified to write anything. There are somany scholars in this world, writing so many things. So what can I say to add to that? I can't compete with them'

Neither does I, Prisni. I am neither a Scholar nor am I an experience person by any standards as compared to some of the other members we have here in the group, but that does not mean we cant write what we think and feel about what we believe in. That is the basis of our homepage and group, contributed by members who are passionate about their faith. But we do have amongst us, reputable scholars.

Before you made your first appearance into Shakti Sadhana message board, I really never look at Radha. Frankly I don't know what to make of HER. I see her as a Goddess yes! But I find it hard to fit her in. But you have change all that. I truly believe, perhaps Radha Devi herself sends you to us particularly to teach me.

"For me Radha is Shakti. There is almost nothing more to say about it. It is very easy"

But there are a lot more to say about Radha, Prisni. In the Narada Purana, at the highest level, Radha is one with Krishna. Radha abides in the same body, as Krishna, and that there is no difference between them. Krishna is the substance and Radha is the attribute. They are inseparable as the milk and its color or the earth and its smell. Radha too is being described as the visible and the invisible. In her form as Sutika (mother of all), it is said that Radha gives rise to five other goddess (some believe as her five manifestation) namely: Laksmi, Durga, Savitri, Saraswati and the second form of Radha herself. The text too asserts that the cowherdesses too sprang from Radha body. They are her amsa (partial incarnations) there is a related account in the Narada Purana to which the seven oceans are born from Radha's Womb. These are some of the many informationabout Radha Devi gradually making its way into my understanding. And I believe Devi Bhakta too feel that should be explored further and should be in the Radha page. Radha deserve better !!! "I therefore much more prefer explanations of Radha from her cosmogenic function, as Prakriti, as Shakti."

I think my above statement explains it all.

Prisni

But there are a lot more to say about Radha, Prisni. In the Narada Purana, at the highest level, Radha is one with Krishna. Radha abides in the same body, as Krishna, and that there is no difference betweenthem. Krishna is the substance and Radha is the attribute. They are inseparable as the milk and its color or the earth and its smell.

You are so right. There is a lot to say. When it comes to the understanding of things that are beyond understanding, one can like look at it from different directions, and get different descriptions depending on the viewpoint. The complete is all that in one and much more, but as we cannot understand that, we can maybe understand many different viewpoints. One common understanding is that Radha is the inner "pleasure" energy of Krishna, Hladini Shakti. But that is just one viewpoint, or model of understanding. As you say, the substance and attribute understanding is another, and then we have the understanding as efficient and material cause, as support and supported (adhara and adheya), and as soul and body. It is here where it gets quite intricate philosophically.

Actually, I don't know of any teachers of this philosophy, or any books that describes it (except for the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, but who is teaching that one?). Feminine oriented philosophy is kind of not in fashion today. (I say feminine oriented, since it is a description of the feminine side of "God". )

Radha too is being described as the visible and the invisible. In her form as Sutika (mother of all), it is said that Radha gives rise to five other goddess (some believe as her five manifestation) namely: Laksmi, Durga, Savitri, Saraswati and the second form of Radha herself. The text too asserts that the cowherdesses too sprang from Radha body. They are her amsa (partial incarnations) there is a related account in the Narada Purana to which the seven oceans are born from Radha's Womb. These are some of the many information about Radha Devi gradually making its way into my understanding.

I am not usually into quoting, but I just stumbled on the following ones from the Brahmavaivarta purana in this context:
"Durga, who is the mother of Ganesa, Radha, Laksmi, Sarasvati and Savitri are the five forms of Prakriti at the beginning of creation"

and then

"All female beings are regarded as amsas, kalas or kalamsamsas of Prakriti."

A parallell quote from the BrahmaVaivarta Purana and the DeviBhagavata purana, as it appears. (Prakriti=Radha, in the context of the Brahmavaivarta purana)



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