Two weeks ago Jagadananda had a blog post arguing that “Sahajiyaism goes together with Radha-Krishna prema like butter with rice” – in his own words. I feel this needs to be addressed in some way.
Now, “low lever hack” is not my categorization of Jagadananda Prabhu himself, it’s actually a compliment to the strength of his argument. In popular computer talk we have a concept of “zero day exploit”, which refers to finding a vulnerability in the software that was missed by its very creators. In relation to our books it would be like finding a mistake by Srila Prabhupada that has been there all along, we have developed a wrong understanding of something because of it, and to fix it we need to do the unthinkable – edit his books for *his* mistakes.
If you think this never happens, meaning there are “no zero day mistakes” in Prabhupada’s books – occasionally they have been found. The most famous (and probably most controversial one) is confusing ragatmika and raganuga in the Nectar of Devotion. I’m not going to untangle it here, but the claim is that if we think of Nanda Maharaj and others as “raganugas” instead of “ragatmikas” then we will never become qualified to follow “raganuga bhakti”, which is what people say limits spiritual development of ISKCON devotees.
Back to Jagadananda, by “low lever hack” I mean he exposed a vulnerability on the level of our most fundamental pramanas – Sridhara Swami’s commentary on Bhagavatam. Typically, we would refer to Srila Prabhupada’s purports as conclusive evidence for us, but Prabhupada got only as far as the 13th Chapter of the Tenth Canto while Jagadananda discusses one line in one of the concluding verses of Chapter 33, the last one in “rasa pancadhyayi”.
In Krishna book Srila Prabhupada doesn’t mention anything about this line, so we are out of our most authoritative pramanas. BBT purport doesn’t mention anything either, so that’s a second level pramana that is out. Okay, Bhanu Swami translated commentaries by Sanatana and Jiva Goswamis and by Srila Visvanatha, but even if they do not explain the same line in the same way they don’t rule out Jagadananda’s explanation of Sridhara Swami either. Lord Caitanya told us to treat Sridhara Swami as the original commentator and every vaishnava acharya deferred to him ever since, meaning their own commentaries must be seen as an addition to Sridhara Swami’s, not alternatives to him.
Okay, maybe we can look into Sridhara Swami’s Sanskrit and see if Jagadananda’s explanation is possible, maybe we don’t need to actually understand it, maybe that passage simply doesn’t exist. Where do we get Sridhara Swami’s Sanskrit? From Grantha Mandir where it was uploaded by Jagadananda! That’s what I call a “low level hack” – it’s impossible to defend from unless we go even lower, which means get our own sources and translate them ourselves, which is beyond my capacity.
It’s not all bad, however. Sridhara Swami’s commentary in Devanagari can be found on Archive site, one would just have to flip through endless pages to get to the right verse and right commentary, but what if this line is missing from some earlier editions and was inserted there by sahajiyas themselves? How can we possibly defend against that? We’d need to go even earlier in history.
Alternatively, there is a translation of this verse and Sridhara Swami’s commentary by one “Gaurapada das”. I don’t know anything about him, except that he wrote super-excellent translation of the first three chapters of the Tenth Canto, surpassing even BBT standards of publication. Maybe the quality of his translation itself is not that high, I wouldn’t know. Personally, I was a little put off by his occasional rants against mayavada which I thought were uncalled for in discussing the Tenth Canto. More worrying is that he didn’t stay with his original publisher, Touchstone Media, and wanted to produce the rest without the same level of editorial oversight, so the volume that deals with Chapter 33 does not get the same endorsement as Volume 1. I don’t know his side of the story so let’s leave it at that and get to the actual point – the line itself.
In BBT translation it’s:
siṣeva ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ
with the point of interest being this “ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ“
BBT word for word is:
ātmani — within Himself; avaruddha — reserved; saurataḥ — conjugal feelings;
In BBT translation it’s rendered as “the Lord was not internally affected by any mundane sex desire.”
Jagadananda gives two alternatives, one by Satyanarayan Babaji and one by himself:
“while keeping the procreative potency contained within Himself.“
“has captured the amorous energy within Himself“
Jagadananda then gives Babaji’s commentary on this verse when it appears in Priti Sandarbha:
“The word saurata is derived from surata, “sexual union,” i.e., that which is connected to sexual union, i.e., sexual enjoyment. Śrīdhara Svāmī has glossed the word as semen.
There are a group of people who interpret the meaning of śiṣeva ātmani avaruddha-saurata to mean that Kṛṣṇa enjoyed sex with gopīs (saurata) while not discharging semen (śiṣeva) but holding (avaruddha) it within Himself (ātmani). They practice coition with their partner while not discharging semen. This they aver will make a man god-realized. Not discharging the semen but raising it up to head will make one’s consciousness to be one with brahman or make the dormant love in the heart be awakened. According to them this is called rāgānugā-bhakti.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī refutes such an explanation and interprets the verse that is in harmony with the subject under discussion, the prema.”
Now you should finally see what the point of interest is – Krishna practiced sexual plays with the gopis but retained His semen. Huh? Bhaktividyapurna Swami wants his sannyasa back! Well, actually I want his sannyasa back, but that’s not the point, the point is that Jagadananda wants to use this interpretation as confirming sahajiya ideas about the point where material sexual agitation can cross into genuine Krishna prema.
I don’t want to actually argue for or against that and I won’t argue if I somehow misformulated Jagadananda’s point, I’m only interested in Sridhara Swami’s commentary and in what other acharyas had to say about the same phrase.
Gaurapada’s word for word:
“avaruddha—is confined; saurataù—He whose sexuality;”
and he gives three alternative translations:
“whose sexual enjoyment is confined to the soul”
“whose amorous feelings are restricted to His own kind of women”
“He confined sexual enjoyment within Himself”
The second one says “His own kind of women” and Gaurapada justifies it by citing an occasion where our acharyas explained “atman” as direct reference to gopis. He thought it would be permissible here, too. In word for word he has it :”ātmani—in Himself (or in the soul, or toward His own kind);” with a footnote explaining why it can mean gopis.
In translation of Sridhara Swami’s commentary he has:
“A descriptive term is expressive of triumph over lust: His semen is kept in Himself (ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ = ātmany evāvaruddhaḥ saurataś carama-dhātur na tu skhalito yasya).”
“After that, Kṛṣṇa confined sexual enjoyment in Himself (ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ = tad-anantaram ātmany eva avaruddhaṁ saurataṁ yasya tathā jātaḥ). He did not place His love in those women, otherwise He would have become a father.”
Then Srinatha Pandit:
“Kṛṣṇa kept the pleasure of sex within Himself (ātmany avaruddha-saurataṁ surata-sukhaṁ grāmya-dharmo yena). The sense is He blocked this: Sex is love. Sex between Him, Īśvara, and those women, who are Īśvarīs, would be improper. The writer of a master treatise on Rasa stated: anaucityād ṛte nānyad rasa-bhaṅgasya kāraṇam, “The cause of the disruption of Rasa is no other than inappropriateness” (Dhvany-āloka 3.14 vṛtti). But if Īśvara and an Īśvarī are married to one another, then there is nothing wrong in kissing and other aspects of the romance.”
This is an interesting turn – Krishna didn’t want to ruin rasa by resorting to actual sex. This makes sense, too, and it’s a rasa, not mechanics based explanation so an extra point for that.
Then there’s Visvanatha Cakravarti’s commentary on the same line and it’s a bit long but it doesn’t talk about semen:
“With ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ, he says: At that time, the Lord’s mind was only focused on those love games: “He by whom everything related to sex is kept in the mind and put in place therein”
(= ātmani manasi avaruddhāḥ avaruddhya sthāpitāḥ sauratāḥ surata-sambandhino yena saḥ). Everything’ includes bhāva (feeling) (first development of rati), hāva (allurement) (rati is more apparent), bibboka (disregard for a desired thing), kila-kiñcita (hysterical delight), and other alaṅkāras of śṛṅgāra-rasa, vāmya (contrary mood), autsukya (eagerness), harṣa (joy) and other emotions, stambha (being stunned), sveda (perspiration), vaivarṇya (change of bodily color) and other sāttvika-bhāvas, as well as gazing, touching, embracing and other anubhāvas. The word saurata is used in that general sense in this verse:
evaṁ saurata-saṁlāpair bhagavān jagad-īśvaraḥ |
sva-rato ramayā reme nara-lokaṁ viḍambayan ||
“With such conversations related to sexual enjoyment, the Lord, the controller of the universe and a delighter in the self, had fun with Lakṣmī (Rukmiṇī) while imitating the ways of humans.” (10.60.58)
In this text, the word saṁlāpa was placed next to saurata with the intent to express a particularity, whereas in the verse under discussion no particular aspect of saurata is meant, and so everything
about it applies.”
Bhanu Swami’s translation is not very different so I won’t cite it here. I’ll give his translation of Sanatana Goswami’s commentary on this line instead:
“He has accepted (avaruddha) all acts of love or the most intense pastimes (surata), since he has appeared as avatāra for this purpose. He gave enjoyment to the gopīs without indifference, and with inner determination (ātmani). He experienced everything personally with great attachment, by accepting them within himself. Or he experienced the highest bliss by ignoring his feature as ātmārāma.”
This last sentence beginning with “Or..” is a signature Sanatana Goswami – he’d quite regularly introduce completely opposite explanations of the same words and we are left wondering how it could all fit together. At least that’s how Bhanu Swami translates it. There is no equivalent in Gaurapada’s translation, but Gaurapada ends the commentary on the whole verse with:
“The rest was explained by Śrīdhara Svāmī”
which is one more demonstration that all other acharyas only add to Sridhara Swami’s commentary, which everybody is supposed to know and accept. But that doesn’t mean there could be no disagreements with Sridhara Swami either. See how Bhanu Swami translates Jiva Goswami’s commentary on the same line:
“In what condition did he serve them? His mind (ātmani) was firmly fixed (avaruddha) in all emotions and gestures suitable for amorous contact with the gopīs (saurataḥ). This means he could not give them up. Since a particular bhāva is not mentioned, all bhāvas are indicated.
evaṁ saurata-saṁlāpair bhagavān jagad-īśvaraḥ
sva-rato ramayā reme nara-lokaṁ viḍambayan
And so, the self-satisfied Supreme Lord of the universe enjoyed with the goddess of fortune, engaging her in lovers’ talks and thus imitating the ways of human society. (SB 10.60.58)
However, in this example there is particularization with the mention of saṁlāpaiḥ (with conversations). The cause of his mental fixation of loving affairs is given. There were many women with anurāga. The cause was anurāga in prema within Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs. It was not the material lust of material people because his desires are pure (satya-kāmaḥ). Parāśara and Vaiśampāyana have said
evaṁ sa kṛṣṇo gopīnāṁ cakravālair alaṅkṛtaḥ
śāradīṣu sacandāsu niśāsu mumude sukhī
Thus Kṛṣṇa, ornamented with circles of gopīs, enjoyed happily in the moon lit nights of the autumn season.
In his commentary Śrīdhara Svāmī explains that avaruddha-saurataḥ means “without the influence of material sex desire.” Thus he has given another, not commonly accepted, explanation of this phrase.”
Gaurapada’s translation is a bit longer, with Sanskrit prose quoted, too, but in the end he makes the same point – Sridhara Swami’s explanation is unusual.
Now look at Gaurapada’s translation of Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s of the full commentary on the whole verse:
“With high regard, He took advantage (siṣeve = ādareṇa upacaritavān) of all those moonlit nights.” His desires and His gestures expressive of lust are transcendental (satya-kāmaḥ = satyaḥ svarūpa-vat pāramārthikaḥ kāmo vāñchā smara-vilāsaś ca yasya saḥ). After His lovemaking, the girls made love on Him (anuratābalā-gaṇaḥ= anu tad-ramaṇānantaraṁ rato ramaṇa-kṛd abalā-gaṇo yatra saḥ). The secret meaning is not obvious, in conformity with the maxim: dvy-arthaiḥ padaiḥ piśunayec ca rahasya-vastu, “One should conceal a secret meaning with double-meaning words.” The dual sense is the girls were always enamored of Him. Other occurrences should be looked into that way.”
What is this “lovemaking” and “girls made love on Him”? And the information that “one should conceal a secret meaning with double-meaning words” is not helpful either. How can we possibly figure out what happened there exactly after reading a commentary like this? It’s impossible, which is precisely the point – it’s a matter of realization, not parsing the language.
So, can Jagadananda legitimately extract a meaning supportive of sahajiya ideas? Sure, in the light of Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s commentary everything is possible because double meanings could be everywhere and you’ll never know which was actually intended. Would it be correct? We’ll never know until we have appropriate realizations, and until then everything is a fair game.
Personally, after reading through all of the above I choose to stick with Srinatha Pandit’s explanation – actually having sex with the gopis would go against their rasa. Sex is for wives, which I take he means “anyone you have sex with is your wife”, and gopis didn’t want to take that position in relation to Krishna. Maybe it’s not a classical explanation of gopis’ rasa but the titillation of gopis laying the red line “you can’t do that to me” takes it on a whole different level where it’s felt more acute and maybe even sweeter as it gives Krishna no chance to walk away and no chance to have sex either. Sex is for Vaikuntha, or in this case Dwaraka. Gopis were not going to raise Krishna’s children, too – not their rasa. All in all, I think this would be a more productive way to reflect on this story – if one ever feels inclined to do so.