Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami on Relationship, Culture, and Sanskrit

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 2, Chapter 1

Krishna acts according to scripture although He can do anything. The relationships described in the scriptures are how he likes relationships to go and if we follow the scriptural direction we will get the best out of a relationship.

If you think of Krishna as a big, nasty guy, then Krishna will act like a big, nasty guy. If you think He is adorable, like the residents of Vrindavana do, then he will be most adorable.

We are all goal-oriented, either to please ourselves, to please God, or to please others with the expectation that we will also become pleased.

Krishna is looking to see that one performs penance to benefit others.

Q: How are we supposed to relate to the people that we are preaching to?
A: You have to think about presenting the information in such a way that they will be interested to hear. Most people would be willing to consider that they are lay people and a practicing spiritualist may have something to offer them, so that is not the problem, although often we think that is the problem. Generally we do not have a problem with the philosophy but with the culture of relating to people.

Once in America there was a poll taken about religion. It came out in the poll that millions of people identified themselves as Hare Krishnas. They thought that the Hare Krishnas had the best philosophy, but that they had the worst attitude.

First you have to be comfortable with yourself. No one will follow you if you are not comfortable with yourself. People comfortable with themselves are attractive to people who are not comfortable with themselves.

Maharaja was sitting on a subway car in New York City, happily talking with another devotee, when a man came up to them and asked them if they had some practice that made them so happy, which he could also follow. The person was so shocked to see people happily conversing on a New York subway!

In Srila Prabhupada's books in many places the superior position of a husband in relationship to his wife is mentioned. However, if you notice all the husband-wife dealings in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Mahabharata, you do not see any macho, exploitative males, not even one. So the literature also teaches the application in the culture, but unfortunately many people miss that. Krishna is masculine and His energies are all feminine, but how does Krishna relate with His energies, forcefully? No, sensitively.

Q: Is there a difference between penance, sacrifice, and austerity?
A: In all three there is restriction for some superior benefit. It could be said that penance is sambandha, sacrifice is abhideya, and austerity is prayojana.

Srila Prabhupada said that of mundane subjects, Sanskrit is the most important. Sanskrit can teach us how language functions. Knowing that, we can use English more effectively.

Later I mentioned what Maharaja said about Sanskrit to Vidvan Gauranga Prabhu, my Sanskrit teacher. He had mentioned that he had been to a Gaudiya Math to pick up some Sanskrit and Bengali commentaries on some Upanisads. The person there said that actually you people from ISKCON are the only people who buy these books. Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to write these books establishing Vaishnavism on the basis of these scriptures. Otherwise the world will only have the Mayavadi misinterpretation of them. The Gaudiya Math people are all into the rasika literature, which was around even then, but Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura was more interested in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Vedanta Sutra, Upanisads, etc. If it wasn't for you people in ISKCON, this emphasis would be forgotten. Please don't let it happen. It is up to you.

Vidvan said that in India no scholar takes you seriously as a Vaishnava scholar unless you are fluent in Sanskrit and have read the original texts and the commentaries on them.