28th of February, 2008 - 13:22
Leaving within the hour. It just dawned to me that Siva-ratri is right behind the corner, and Varanasi is approximately on the way...
Bengali lessons concluded
26th of February, 2008 - 15:53
Two months of Bengali lessons with Sakhicharan and Bisakha came to a conclusion today with the last chapter of the textbook discussions finished.
New section: Downloads
26th of February, 2008 - 7:55
A new section has been opened, hosting a number of media for download.
Raganuga for grabs
25th of February, 2008 - 21:26
Raganuga.Com and Raganuga.Org are available if someone wants to take the domains over and begin something anew.
Vraja Journal Digest - Newsletter discontinued
25th of February, 2008 - 7:52
The newsletter is discontinued in favor of a RSS newsfeed. I'm also heading towards Orissa in a few days, will be away for the better part of two months.
25th of February, 2008 - 3:44
I received a letter asking about the specifics of the design Visakha-sakhi draws on Radha's forehead after her morning bath, otherwise described as kama-yantra in Govinda-lilamrita. This is the reply.
Project Index - Concluding words
23rd of February, 2008 - 19:16
The project index at Madhavananda.com is indefinitely frozen. These are the concluding words posted today in the news section in announcing the same.
22nd of February, 2008 - 14:16
This is a continuation of the earlier blog entry featuring random sounds from Radhakund.
The Eve-teasing Problem
21st of February, 2008 - 15:24
In light of the recent rape and murder of Ananda-lila, an Australian girl who was staying in Vrindavan, people have asked for my comments on the culture of sexual harassment regrettably prevalent in India, sometimes labeled "eve-teasing", a rather archaic and tidy expression for an ugly social wrong.
19th of February, 2008 - 11:09
Notes on diverse projects as the show is winding up. The ongoing-section of Vraja Journal retires.
Levels of Mantra and Meditation
17th of February, 2008 - 5:22
There are different levels on which a mantra functions or may be employed. Awareness of them, along with honest assessments of one's internal mental growth and present state, can prove to be helpful. I am also contrasting them with the theology of the four common aspects we know as nama, rupa, guna and lila.
And if you want to discuss...
16th of February, 2008 - 8:49
A few days back, my friend Jijaji told me he'd like to see a feature for leaving online comments on blog entries.
Gaudiya Discussions - Archives Reloaded
16th of February, 2008 - 8:26
These are the archives of Gaudiya Discussions, the once mighty giant of online Gaudiya Vaishnava discussions, debates, history, theology, controversy and creativity...
To Russian disciples of BVNM
15th of February, 2008 - 8:57
I keep hearing from several sources that some Russian disciples of BVNM have, as I had much predicted, employed my recent writings as ammunition in their hate campaign against the babaji tradition. Since none have contacted me in person, this is my open letter to them all.
Random soundscapes from Radhakund
12th of February, 2008 - 16:23
A while back a friend asked me to record some random bits of sound at Radhakund to get a better feel of the atmosphere. Here goes.
What I really want to say
11th of February, 2008 - 16:46
I just received a comment asking: "Do you want to stop posting clarifications and disclaimers and get down to the nitty-gritty of what you want to say?" Now, what do I really want to say? <pin drop silence follows>
My insight ventures
11th of February, 2008 - 7:15
With the occasional reference to yogic or Advaitin scriptures, or Buddhist suttas for that matter, some have been wondering about my explorations of knowledge outside the classical Vaisnava canon. Let's have a brief gloss on the why and the what to give everyone a better picture of what things are all about.
For all of you who want to spread the word
5th of February, 2008 - 19:39
Today I'm writing a note to all of you there, whether you're disciples of Narayana Maharaja, gurubhais of mine, or just random folks who want to interpret what I've written and tell all about it to your pals and all. And here's what I wish to say.
When the weather report is on
4th of February, 2008 - 19:30
I'd like to put in a note to all those who would judge me for what I am as I dive into the dark depths of my heart and pull out these horrendous blog entries. And yes, also for those well-wishers who have already concluded that I am a person with zilch spiritual authority or insight and informed me of the same. As well as for anyone else who might alter their perceptions of me because of what I have written, what I am writing and what I will come to write.
TBI - Part 3 - The factors that made me credulous
4th of February, 2008 - 19:16
From my last blog in this series, you'll remember the picture of someone rather stressed out by noise and corruption, pondering his future direction. What were my inner workings in the period that immediately preceded meeting this babaji? What made me so vulnerable to being duped? That's in turn for today's blog.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
1st of February, 2008 - 18:13
A word of clarification is in place, as my blogs as of late seem to have created some buzz in the blogosphere. Was Bhaktisiddhanta right about those bad babajis after all? My recent blogs were briefly mentioned in Jagadananda's recent blog, and a comment popped in: "Perhaps now its understood what Bhaktisidhanta was talking about...?" This needs some attention.
TBI - Part 3 - The factors that made me credulous
Posted: 4th of February, 2008 - 19:16
From my last blog in this series, you'll remember the picture of someone rather stressed out by noise and corruption, pondering his future direction. I am by nature a bit of a hermit in that I enjoy solitude very much, even if I also have the extrovert side to myself, the side that has kept me largely outgoing all these years.
I was at a point where solitude was the one thing I craved for. At times, I longed for it more than I felt the need for food. And it wasnâ€™t the mosquitoes that bothered me, not the dogs and nor any other animal for that matter. The problem was with the psychologically complex humanimal beings. Animals, predictable in their nature, adhere to their dharmas and are a part of the natureâ€™s harmony. Humans are the master race of discord, Mother Natureâ€™s freak creation.
Solitude, then, had become a base necessity of life. With the still untrained mind that I had, undisturbed silence was something I perceived as vital. A trained mind may find itself absorbed at any time, but an untrained mind calls for a suitable environment. One might hear a man with a trained mind noting that one can do bhajana in any circumstances. Curious as it is, however, the trained minds generally have decades of practice under their belts, and it was a great deal more peaceful back in the days when they were new.
It so happened that at the time, somewhere in the mid-summer, I began reading the Bhagavata anew. The book is, of course, chock-full of inspirational narrations of the lives of sages who are very total in their approach, Sri Suka being the prime example. This totalness of spirit, the perfect and all-encompassing casting of oneself into the pursuit, is something that has always struck a chord with me, engraved itself in my heart as the thing missing from perfect attainment.
Now, of course it goes without saying that the sages there roamed about the forests, and many headed to the sylvian Himalayas to perfect their earthly existence in solitary practice. Incidentally I had also been reading the works of Swami Sivananda of Hrishikesh a great deal. Yes, a genuine mayavadi, so thereâ€™s ammunition for all of you who want to bust me for something, but I had found many of his writings on sadhana of tremendous value. Practical, down-to-earth and inspirational.
Sivananda was something of an all-around expert, whether it be about jnana, bhakti or yoga, an author of over 300 titles. And mind you, a great deal of the elements of sadhana are common in many Hindu-traditions. And Gaudiya Vaisnavism owes a good deal to those earlier traditions. The second and third verses of Upadesamrita draw from Hatha-yoga-pradipika with the minutest changes, some of Visvanathaâ€™s formulations in Madhurya-kadambini are directly adapted from other yoga texts. Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu owes an ocean to earlier rasa-shastras, and again we have Sridhar Svami and Madhusudana Sarasvati to whose commentaries we owe a great deal, both Advaitavadins. Few insights are born in vacuum, and searching the influences can provide many a great insight. This is however off-topic, and written for those who might wonder why I would be reading someone who was theologically clearly at odds with us. How does Sivananda play into this, anyway?
So, then. Swami Sivananda, based in Rishikesh as he was, often wrote of the ideal sadhana environment of the Himalayas. This undoubtedly contributed into drawing a picture of where I might find my peace. With the approaching month of Kartika, I had already set my mind to it. I would just head to the Himalayas for an all-out sadhana-retreat, and returning or not returning wasnâ€™t frankly something occupying my mind all that much. I had had enough, and I just wanted to do what I knew needed to be done properly in a proper environment.
To get philosophical for a moment. Pritis tad-vasati-sthale, â€œTo have love for his pastime places.â€ This is one of the symptoms of budding devotional emotion. And of course, living in Vraja is one of the five most powerful limbs of bhakti. Ideally, it should enthuse and empower the other four by its abundant support and supply. And no doubt, to an extent it does â€“ but in my experience, the current life here, at least as far as the places Iâ€™ve lived at go, itâ€™s a bit of a mixed bag. If you can stay aloof from certain things (and some of it can be extremely challenging), you can stay at a fairly decent â€œmediumâ€ level. One wants to, however, break through to beyond that, entering the deep meditational worlds the mahatmas of the past would spend their days in, engrossed in their bhajana as they were.
It was the respected late Priyacharana Das Babaji of Govardhana, contemporary of my paramguru-ji, who recommended against doing mantra-purascarana in favor of vows featuring the maha-mantra. In his view, it was no longer possible to in Vraja owing to the polluted atmosphere caused by the impure habits of men. This is, it is said, why Siddha Jagannatha Das Babaji decided to head for Rishikesh to undertake his five-month mantra-purascarana. With some more hints drawn from the Bhagavata â€“ you know, of the kind where the scripture speaks directly to you when opened at a random spot â€“ the idea of heading up north became more and more attracting.
It was Franz who popped in for a visit in October. In our tours, we also went to visit Vinod Bihari Das Babaji, the charismatic and ever-joyful sadhu with long dreadlocks whom youâ€™ll remember from an earlier blog. Vinod Baba is something of a Sirius spreading its rays on a darkish and cloudy sky, one of the rare souls who still stand in evidence of Gaudiya Vaishnava practice being something that can infuse a person with a truly saintly and penetrating halo even in the present day.
The visit had me considering a second time the option of wandering off to some remote areas of Vraja where a suitable place might be found. I was not looking to rent an idyllic kutir on the banks of a pristine lake, certainly not. I had set myself up for sleeping in whatever spot Mother Nature might provide. And please donâ€™t think Iâ€™m new to such lifestyle, I did make my experiments in good time to ensure it would be a practically feasible move. All the necessities of life on my shoulders, for as long as Iâ€™d ever need. (Not that I have much more at the moment!) Perhaps Adi Badri at the extreme south of Vraja Mandala would be a good spot? And if not, I could always wander on and on, and head north if need be. I had a small map of Vraja set aside, too.
It had been twelve long years on this path. Twelve years is the traditional time of a vow bringing its fruit, of vratas coming to term. It was also, so I very strongly felt, a time where I had to make a difference. To take a step onward, penetrating through the dull excuse of bhajana I had entertained into something greater, brighter, more wonderful and fulfilling. To come into real and tangible, unbroken proximity of god. And not just in terms of intellectual and theological constructs and belief-impositions â€“ I mean real and undeniable deep experience.
I had planned a 40 day retreat of fasting and relentless all-day-long japa with zero other activity. It was the maximum I could think of in terms of external practice. Even if that isnâ€™t the all-in-all of bhakti, I knew that was something I could do thatâ€™d contribute to the internal operations of devotion. I was ready to die for the cause, if thatâ€™s what it would have taken. I still am, and thatâ€™s perhaps one of the few things that the period that followed this hasnâ€™t broken or been seriously revisited within me. I still have an insatiable crying within me for direct experience of truth and reality absolute.
It need not be mentioned this was a time of ardent prayer and introspection. I had set my mind to follow the path of no return, to cast myself once and for all into the divine. Away with all ties and attachments, a single powerful urge pulling me on. I-Want-Perfection, period. That was all there was to life, and that was it.
It was at this very point, at the end of this crucial process of internal transition, and a mere single day prior to my scheduled departure, that Anonymous Das Babaji showed up on my doorstep and began his performance. I was, of course, very inclined to believe his version of divine inspiration and all, as it was the perfect, by-the-book divine intervention where the desperate seeker comes to find the perfect master who leads him to unseen spiritual attainments. And did I try to hold on to this spark of hope until the end, yes I did, for it was with great faith that I had cast myself into godâ€™s hands with my determination, to be guided to the farther shore. This coincidence fit into the picture all too well to be considered anything but the real thing, and left many of my safe-guards totally down.
The babaji was not, of course, appraised of what was within me, and as such was initially unaware of how much internal damage heâ€™d risk doing with his fraud, so may that go as a footnote in his amnesty. Obviously, he did come to learn everything of me in due course in our discussions, yet nevertheless continued his deceptions, so itâ€™s hardly a mitigating factor in the end in what turned out to be a clearly pre-meditated cash-flow establishment operation with swindling from the very get-go. For reference, you may want to look up the initial note where I first mentioned of my meeting with him. It gives a fair idea of my feelings at the time. The text was written in the last week before the nature of affairs began to turn sour.
This is the internal state I was in before the saga began to unfold. Then, in response to those who wondered how I let myself be duped this way, here is the answer: It was this naÃ¯ve idea of divine care and guidance, following the sincerest attempt I could make at complete surrender, that made me so vulnerable. Then should I blame myself, or should I blame god, or both, or neither? I honestly have no idea. The events just are what they are, and that's all they currently are to me.
What came to follow will be documented in the upcoming entries.