Sai Baba Magick and Puttaparthi Mountains
31st of March, 2008 - 12:33
A few days back, as our route took us to Bangalore, we also spent a few days in Puttaparthi, the ashram of Sathya Sai Baba, the famous Hindu teacher, considered by his followers to be an avatar.
Taoist-Maoist Indiana Jones
31st of March, 2008 - 12:29
The gurubhai seers of Radhakund have now realized that I have become a Tantric and a Buddhist Sannyasi, and concluded that my fame deserves to be spread...
Theravada 4 Eva
27th of March, 2008 - 13:41
To adopt a new conceptual framework, to revise the old, or neither, or both? Thoughts in principle on evolutions, revolutions and renunciations, on current emphases and future possibilities.
Shankara, Bhagavata-purana and Advaita-vedanta
25th of March, 2008 - 4:08
The first installment in exploring earlier themes of Vedas, Advaita, Buddha, Brahmanas and so forth in some further detail.
Anger Danger
24th of March, 2008 - 16:14
With my recent writings on the evolution of my views on Hinduism, featuring a departure that to many is irreconcilable and to some also unforgivable, expressions of anger have again become a theme of some contemplation to me.
Question to Readers
23rd of March, 2008 - 5:30
I don't really have a very clear picture of the demographics of the current Vraja Journal readership. Here's a question to the readers.
Gods Forsaken, Paradise Lost
22nd of March, 2008 - 19:44
Being a Buddhist means I no longer believe in god. Right? Well, let's be a bit more nuanced here.
Buddha, Vedas and the Brahmana culture
21st of March, 2008 - 13:30
Buddhism earned the nastika (atheist or infidel) label owing to the Buddha's rejection of Vedas. However, rejecting the Vedas isn't as black and white an issue as one might assume. This is a look at the Vedas the Buddha knew of.
From the Sahajiya Watcher
20th of March, 2008 - 13:03
A gem from recent feedback from Harry Krishna, a self-appointed sahajiya watcher.
Exclusive Devotion
18th of March, 2008 - 10:45
I wish to write a few words on the "exclusive devotion" theme of an earlier entry to clarify my views on bhakti.
Exit Madhava
16th of March, 2008 - 10:41
Yesterday, Advaitadas commented on my exit in his blog. These are some reflections on his message.
Style Revision
16th of March, 2008 - 5:52
Following the change of spirit, the form of the journal has undergone a due transfiguration.
Vraja Journal - Disclaimer
15th of March, 2008 - 15:57
What's the future of Vraja Journal? It'll continue, albeit in a somewhat different spirit. Please read this disclaimer before reading any further.
Dharma Reloaded
14th of March, 2008 - 18:37
Many readers of this journal have been wondering about the evolutions in my slant on things and my spiritual direction in general. Time has come to address matters in definite terms.
Vilasa Kunja Status
12th of March, 2008 - 16:13
I'm aware Vilasa Kunja and the rest of the sites (except for Vraja Journal) are down. Here's the latest on that.
Asubha: Meeting Corpses and Death
9th of March, 2008 - 16:51
Walking around the ghats of Varanasi, death is a common sight. The large piles of firewood tell their story of the volume of corpses daily burnt.
Our Shared Journey
4th of March, 2008 - 15:03
There was an earlier blog on misleading, commenting on the feedback of someone who came forward in a rather pointed manner about it. This is something, slightly retouched, I wrote to a friend who asked whether I truly felt I had misled someone.
Delhi to Varanasi
1st of March, 2008 - 13:25
Reaching New Delhi, booking train tickets, killing a few extra hours, observing the ominous Buddha-presence, moving towards Varanasi...

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Dharma Reloaded
Posted: 14th of March, 2008 - 18:37
Many readers of this journal have been wondering about the evolutions in my slant on things and my spiritual direction in general. Time has come to address matters in definite terms.

My journey over the years

Many are familiar with fragments of my journey over the last 13 years. No-one knows the full picture, and with that I dare say no-one knows me as I am within. Many have shared glimpses, yet none have shared in full what I am, how I feel and how I think. I have been a lonely rider, and evidently so it shall remain.

To shed a bit more light on the factors that have led me to where I am today, I have began compiling autobiographical notes that gloss the main events and the internal evolutions they have brought about. Those who are interested in understanding the inner "why" behind everything may find the writings useful.

Those who have known me a bit better are familiar with the fact that the last year and a half have been an intense ordeal to me on many frontiers. I am not one to give up, being hit down, but the direction I take after rising up may not always be agreeable to all. However I rise up for myself and for my own journey in the end, not to cater to anyone else's expectations.

Regardless of whether you agree with my choices and direction, and I surmise most of you will not for several reasons, please respect the fact that I have made my choices after deep deliberation and reflections.

Reflecting on Gaudiya Vaisnavism

I no longer count myself to be a practicing Gaudiya Vaisnava in any orthodox sense of the word. Should someone interpret that to mean that I have fallen into the ditch of mundane life, giving up on my spiritual pursuit, please be aware that forsaking the quest for spiritual perfection is not on my agenda list. My quest continues, but not towards the specific metaphysical ideals I once shared with many of you. I do share many of the same bases of practice nonetheless — along with countless other spiritual traditions.

What led me to a situation where I felt the need to reconsider my direction? Three factors, namely people, doctrines and practicability, intertwined into a single fence of discontentedness I found myself unable to surmount. With this, I intend to address — and quite briefly for now — only the past six years in exploring the so-called orthodox Gaudiya Vaisnavism, as they have been the final phase of this twelve-year period of my life.

People. With learning Bengali, I became more and more familiar with the general landscape of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, renunciates and householders alike. With both groups, I found myself dismayed both in terms of the expected level of practice as well as the general adoption of sound ethical standards that one'd expect to find at the forefront in any form of elementary spirituality.

I was also not too fortunate in my quest for guidance. My initiating guru, the wise and gentle old man that he is, never found the time or the energy for serious follow-up on my progress in actual practice. Things went a bit sour with my first instructing guru, with whom I studied for some three years, and the one final hope I had for a good master who would lead the "by-the-book" role of patiently showing the way from here to the summit turned out to be the worst of frauds I had ever met. While it wasn't the proverbial final straw, it certainly was one of the fat seals on the envelope containing my resignation.

Doctrines. My initial attraction to spirituality was precisely for the concept of an all-encompassing absolute, an aspect that was relegated to the shine of the personal deity. While I did embrace the supremacy of a personal god for a great many years, with all the cultural associations entailed, a nagging thought of there being something more universal, and as such more ultimate and final, never subsided for good. With my return to the roots and the study of Vedanta and the Upanishads, the eternal cowherd community reminiscent of rural India a few millennia back, with its charming dual divinity, receded from being the summit of divinity into being a specified aspect, a position where they remain to date.

On a more personal level, I found the doctrine of the supremacy of bhakti and what essentially amounts to belittling the other three paths, namely karma, jnana and yoga, unwholesome owing to my conflicted samskaras that featured strong aspects of three paths, namely bhakti, jnana and yoga. The general Hindu concept of several paths for people with diverging samskaras and psyches, paths geared toward a single goal in the end, is too sensible and functional for me to reject. Yet again, the intensive emotional capacity of bhakti is something I sorely lack; I do not have the natural emotive foundations for the intensely involved feelings of raganuga cultivation, a shortcoming that complicates a supposedly natural path to a great degree, and that cannot be sustainably compensated by mere imitation in hopes of eventually developing the same.

Overall, I don't feel a need to go extensively into doctrinal issues here. The early teachers of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, and Rupa Goswami in particular, have presented a very refined and comprehensive theistic theology, no doubt one of the best there is. All the niceties aside, I finally found myself contextualizing all of that into a broader framework — a framework that just made too much sense — where the highest path became one among many paths, and where the highest perspective became one among the multitudes.

For those about to pull out the shastra card, eager to point to my obvious fallacy in subjugating sabda under anumana in the Gaudiya Vaisnava context, I invite them cordially to reflect on Gaudiya Vaisnava theology in light of the prasthana-traya and observe just how much of the body of Gaudiya doctrines is based on intuitive insight or revelations of its medieval founders, rather than being directly derived from the ancient Vedantic basis. It's all about faith, faith and faith, and faith prospers only as long as its ideals remain meaningful. Beyond that, even the finest epistemic constructions are reduced into a rubble of nothingness.

Practicability. In exploring the more esoteric areas of sadhana, the world of meditation practice was something to master. In my experience, there is a vast gulf separating the "here and now" from the ideals, the middle ground covered by an airy nothing. In other words, the methods for getting one's mind trained and thought-stream solidly grounded in the levels of meditation needed for substantial smarana are sorely lacking. Whether they exist or not I cannot say, but the present-day samaja doesn't seem to be too aware of the such, nor do the writings of the acharyas cover much beyond the theory of practice principles. And god knows, my endeavors were not few in this vein.

There is of course the model where one embraces elementary devotional practices and assumes for grace to one day descend, revealing the esoteric spiritual realities discussed under the heading of prayojana without separate, specific cultivation. If this gives solace for some, then may they follow the same, but I personally wish to follow a path of practice where tangible incremental progress is observable.

Gaudiya Vaisnavism undoubtedly does have many areas of practice one can embrace on a certain level and make substantial spiritual progress. Regardless, I found it impracticable on the level of serious engagement I personally strived for, if only for the sheer lack of theoretical information on practice, what to speak of actual systematic and responsible training in the same.

There is little need to delve much deeper into all of the above in this context. The bottom line is that in the end, I didn't find Gaudiya Vaisnavism as I came to know it and as I explored it addressing my spiritual needs in a satisfactory, progressive manner. I do not imply that all would inevitably face the same problems I did — we are all individuals, after all — practice with honesty and an open mind, observe your growth, make the choices that best serve your quest.

The situation today

The move to Gaudiya Math had been little but a continuation of the ISKCON framework, and in turn Radhakund had been little but a continuation of the Narayana Maharaja framework. Never had I paused to consider whether the frame of reference was actually mine, or befitting; as it turns out, it was not of me, but a conglomeration of influences I had grown to consider a good standard of truth and reality.

As too many factors eventually collided, it was time to clean the table and re-orient wholesale. I realized I had never been in a position to make an informed choice, a choice where I would have well familiarized myself with the available options. "Gaudiya Vaisnavism," I reasoned, "ought to stand comparison and evaluation." It was a process where I backtracked to the starting post and decided to make the decision anew, this time with a proper foundation.

Even though raised in the traditional cult bubble where all other teachings were relegated to irrelevance, I had familiarized myself with Swami Sivananda's works on yoga and the theory of sadhana to supplement my own practice, as their worth was undeniable. His works were an obvious object of further exploration, but to not constrain myself to preconceived notions I chose to first broaden the perspective to the whole of Hinduism, a genre I was well familiar with.

The details of my brief yet fair studies and conclusions of the many available options are beyond the scope of this text; suffice it to say that among the many, the works of Ramana Maharshi made an enormous impact on me. Incidentally, with the extreme Advaita he taught, his teachings — that contextualized the theistic model in very certain terms — served as a bridge to let me journey farther into unexplored territories.

Buddhism with its multitudes of branches was the next excursion. Many of its elements it shares with the bulk of Hindu traditions for a great many reasons, and indeed it appeared that the shared bases were the ones that meant most to me, while the excluded areas were the ones I had grown weary of myself. Mahayana, Pure Land Buddhism, Chan and Zen, Madhyamika, Yogachara. Tibetan Vajrayana, Tantric Buddhism, Dzogchen. And finally Theravada, a classical form of Buddhism generally regarded as the only remaining survivor of the ancient schools prior to the arising of Mahayana, otherwise known as Southern Buddhism, and sometimes filed under the label Hinayana.

It was the last of the abovementioned options that made the most sense to me and held the greatest appeal. The extensive and well-formulated philosophy of the Pali Canon. The manifold meditation methods dealt with extensively in the commentarial tradition. The wholesomeness of the Noble Eightfold Path. With countless hours of reading, contemplation and explorations between its initial discovery and today, if someone were to ask me to label my outlook on life, I would call myself a Theravadan Buddhist.

But I have not closed the lid on anything. Declaring the finalness of any given option does little beyond giving you a momentary moral boost, but alas it hides all the doors of further progress that might be becoming available in the course of your journey. While I have settled with a choice that seems to address my current spiritual necessities, I consider it my duty to cover the rest of the ground and familiarize myself with an open mind with the multitudes of remaining avenues, at least on a general level.

My doors are also open for blue-shiny flute-playing playful deities, and I have made as much known. Certain events, both internal and external, led me to state in no uncertain terms that henceforth I'd be minding my own business and bearing my own responsibility, with him tending to his own business — though I have a nagging feeling the situation before and after the note remains eerily similar. There goes, Krishna; I blurted it out on the Internet. Quote me if you will, I stand behind my words.

The repercussions

While I could conjecture on the repercussions my choices and my expressing the same will have, it's perhaps best left as a chapter to be written in the future. This message will no doubt spark a wide scale of emotions in the readers, both negative and positive.

I understand many may be writing to me in response to this text; I request you to please let the letters sit for a bit and be re-read before they are sent. I can't guarantee replies to each and every letter; I would rather try to address questions and comments collectively in posts to be published at this blog.

Many were my mistakes over the years, and many more are to be made. I am a human being as are most others out there, and a far cry from perfect. I fancy myself as having been sincere in intent, even if ever so deluded at times. It is however not a message of extended apologies I wish to write here. Those who know me know what I am and how I feel, and may that suffice for now.

In concluding I wish to be very clear in that I do not wish to come across as an authority in anything, nor am I interested in converting anyone to anything. If there were one thing to say as a final note, it'd be along the following lines:

"Fear not change, fear stagnation. Never leave options unconsidered. Always be radically honest to yourself. Choose integrity over the comfort of self-delusion."

Take all this for whatever it's worth. This isn't a comprehensive examination of the issue, not by a far stretch. May all good come to all of you.
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