Monday, January 13, 2014

Devotion and Knowledge (Srila Sridhar Maharaj)

Excerpt from Heart and Halo
by Srila Sridhar Maharaj 

"But when there is any revelation coming through a real agent 
who is higher than us, we should be very earnest to hear"

Transcendental Knowledge

Sometimes we may be misguided to believe that we must not study the devotional books, thinking: "To analyse, to know, that is not part of devotion. That is not necessary; it is knowledge, jnana, and that is anti-devotion." Thinking in this way we will go on taking the Holy Name, and wherever there is some explanation being given about the devotional school, we will try to avoid it. But that is not always best, because by hearing from the proper source we get the kind of knowledge that gives us impetus to go on in our sadhana.

In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami says: "siddhanta baliya", we should discuss the siddhanta (perfect conclusions of devotion). Sanatan Goswami is the acharya of siddhanta.

One may say, "What is the necessity of knowing siddhanta, what is what? I shall go on chanting the Name and wherever there is any class being given to explain Srimad Bhagavatam or Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta I shall avoid it. That is all knowledge: jnane prayasam udapasya
"One should totally abandon the unnecessary endeavor of gaining knowledge by discussing empirical philosophical truths." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.3)

But the jnana mentioned in this verse does not describe that sort of knowledge which gives us a real conception of what is the devotee, and what is God. That 'knowledge' appears similar to jnana externally, but if it is coming from a genuine source, it is of another type, another substance.

The warning about jnana is given because anyone may give any kind of interpretation of the revealed scriptures. It is not that we should try to know anything and everything, that whatever anyone will say, we will run there to learn something. But when there is any revelation coming through a real agent who is higher than us, we should be very earnest to hear; that will consolidate our position and help us to go on, to progress in our sadhana.

We should not reject as 'knowledge' that siddhanta: who is Krishna and how He is Svayam Bhagavan; who is Narayan; where are the twenty-four layers of misconception; where is Vaikuntha, Goloka; who is Baladev; what are all the different rasas? If I say, "Oh, no, this is all jnana, dismiss it, and take the Name," that is foolishness. It should be considered as indolence, or idleness. We should invite that knowledge which will enhance our faith more profoundly. One should welcome such discussions. 

The Lord Himself says: 

mac-cittā mad-gata-prāṇā 
bodhayantaḥ parasparam 
kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ 
tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca 

(Bhagavad-gītā 10.9) 

("The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.")

So, in the association of the sadhus, to discuss about Him from different standpoints is not 'knowledge' to be abandoned; rather it should be spontaneously and naturally encouraged. It is called iṣṭha, iṣṭha-goṣṭhī: goṣṭhī means "combination" and iṣṭha, "desirable company." In that association we must talk about Him. That is a necessary part of devotion. 
And when bhāva-bhakti (true devotional feeling) awakens, automatically the things will come: 

kṣāntir avyartha-kālatvaṁ 
viraktir māna-śūnyatā 
āśā-bandhaḥ samutkaṇṭhā 

sadā ruciḥ āsaktis tad-guṇākhyāne 
prītis tad-vasati-sthale 
ity-ādayo ‘nubhāvāḥ syur 
jāta-bhāvāṅkure jane 

(Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.3.25-26) 

("When the seed of ecstatic emotion for Kṛṣṇa fructifies in the heart of the devotee, the following symptoms naturally manifest in his behaviour: he feels forbearance; he doesn't like to waste any time; he is detached from the mundane; he is free from pride; he lives in full hope; he is always eager to serve; he always has a taste for chanting the Lord's Name; he loves to tell of the Divine qualities of the Lord; and he loves the Holy Abode of the Lord. These nine are called anubhāva, subordinate signs of ecstatic love.")

If a sadhu spontaneously out of his own accord is expressing so many qualities of Kṛṣṇa, and we go away, losing the benefit of that it is suicidal! Rather, we need attachment for that, āsakti. "Oh, the good qualities of Kṛṣṇa are being explained through this agent; I must try to give my ear to that." Otherwise why has the ear been created? It has been created only to receive tidings of Him! The ear and the brain have been created for that purpose only, and both must have their fulfilment in Kṛṣṇa-kathā, hari-kathā. 

For what purpose is the Bhagavad Gītā there, the Srimad Bhāgavatam? What is māyā? What is svarūpa-śakti? What is real knowledge and what is misconceived, apparent 'knowledge'? All these things we must know to a certain extent, because to avoid what is undesirable and to accept what is desirable presupposes some sort of knowledge at every step of our progress. 

So, jñāne prayāsam udapāsya, to abandon fruitless knowledge-seeking does not mean we must not talk about Kṛṣṇa amongst ourselves, or that when a sadhu is explaining about the Lord's nāma, rūpa, guṇa, līlā (Names, Forms, Qualities and Pastimes) we should flee from that place! It is not like that. By jñāna, in the sense used here, is meant the teachings of the sāṅkhya of the atheist Kapila, the schools of Pātañjalī (yoga), Jaimini (karma-mīmāṁsā), the Buddhist school, etc.; and the advice to avoid them is also meant for the beginner, but the preacher will have to come into contact with everything to smash them. 

And also sometimes jñāna, knowledge which is necessary, can come from within. There is a stage of devotion when the necessary knowledge comes from within, automatically. There is a stage of bhakti where things occur in this way; it is revelatory, through revelation we can understand. Without any study by being supplied internally by caitya-guru (the Lord as our inner guide), sometimes knowledge of devotion may come to us; but generally it will be by hearing from the lips of the devotees. 

So the plane, the conception of Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana, is not lacking in cit, in knowledge. Cit means cetanā, that is consciousness, to know. It is not in want of grandeur and awe, such as is found in Vaikuṇṭha. But when ānanda (joy, ecstasy) takes precedence over cit, then it is advised: "Don't endeavour much through knowledge." There is sat-cit-ānandaṁ (eternity, knowledge and bliss) and by cit, by the faculty of knowing and understanding, we cannot achieve everything. But everything comes automatically to us by service. In service, there is also knowledge, a department of knowledge, and that develops automatically.

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