Vanity thought #856. Neither good nor bad

Contunuing from yesterday – there was a story about Lord Chaitanya and Sanatana Goswami in Chaitanya Charitamrita (Antya 4) where Mahaprabhu cured oozing sores on Sanatana Goswami’s skin and demonstrated to everyone how even pus on pure devotee’s body smells like sandalwood pulp, or actually chatuhsama, a mixture of four different fragrances.

There’s a verse there (CC Antya 4.198) that states the following:

    In fact, however, when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu embraced the body of Sanātana Gosvāmī, by the Lord’s touch alone there was manifested a fragrance exactly like that of sandalwood pulp.

It’s not exactly clear which particular embrace this refers to. From the context it would appear that Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami was talking about their very first meeting when Sanatana Goswami just arrived to Jagannatha Puri, but when he was describing this embrace earlier he didn’t mention anything about any aromas (CC Antya 4.21):

    Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, however, embraced Sanātana Gosvāmī by force. Thus the moisture oozing from the itching sores touched the transcendental body of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

It’s possible that aroma manifested during the final embrace when all the sores disappeared, which would somewhat undermine my point, but the Lord was saying that even pus smelled nice on Sanatana Goswami’s body so we should assume that it was sandalwood fragrance coming from the sores, not from the skin already cured by embrace.

Anyway, the Lord has stated it and then proved it. The question, however, remains – without that embrace no one saw sores as the source of aroma, without Lord’s personal touch they looked and smelled like ordinary sores, and since the Lord is not around anymore how can we accept this lesson as relevant to our lives? We can’t prove anything and we can’t see and smell anything as being transcendental, so what’s the point?

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, however, gave philosophical basis for this unique perception so, presumably, if we attain the same philosophical level of understanding we can attain the same transcendental vision. This would give us an objective criteria to explain why, when, and how we can expect seeing pus as nectar.

This philosophical lesson was given in continuation of the episode with Jagadananda Pandit who advised Sanatanata Goswami to move to Vrindavana and Lord Chaitanya thought it was a breach of etiquette because Sanatana Goswami should have been treated as a senior. That alone constitutes a very important case study in vaishnava relationships but it’s not what I want to talk about today.

Moving on, the Lord argued that for Him every devotee is equally dear but still there are different types of ecstatic relationships and then suddenly He said the following words:

    You consider your body dangerous and awful, but I think that your body is like nectar. Actually your body is transcendental, never material. You are thinking of it, however, in terms of a material conception. Even if your body were material, I still could not neglect it, for the material body should be considered neither good nor bad.

Then the Lord gave several quotations from the scriptures to confirm it. Another reason to ignore such considerations as good or bad was related to Lord Chaitanya’s external status as a sannyasi and in the Purports Srila Prabhupada describes how for sannyasi applying sandalwood should be no different from applying mud.

Okay, that explains indifference towards oozing sores, but what makes them into fragrance?

Haridasa Thakura rejected Mahaprabhu’s sannyasa explanation as external, different people have different duties. Sannyasi must be indifferent towards pus but other people are not obliged to do so.

The Lord then declared His personal love and care for the bodies of His devotees. He called both Sanatana Goswami and Haridasa Thakura His little children:

    My dear Haridāsa and Sanātana, I think of you as My little boys, to be maintained by Me. The maintainer never takes seriously any faults of the maintained.

    The stool and urine of the maintained child appear like sandalwood pulp to the mother. Similarly, when the foul moisture oozing from the sores of Sanātana touches My body, I have no hatred for him.

This is a different tune altogether. Now the Lord is talking about seeing pus as pus but loving it anyway because it comes from the body of His dear devotee.

This we cannot imitate. We do not see material bodies as being loved by Krishna, we see them as separate and full of pus. This is what maya does to us – it makes the world appear as separated from the Lord. If we transcend this illusory vision and start seeing the world as paramahamsas we will naturally lose any aversion to any phenomena here, however gross.

On this note, should I try to treat my own body as property of the Lord? So far I have two states of feeling about my body – I hate it as an impediment to devotional service and I love it when I want to enjoy my senses. There’s one other state – I hate it because it doesn’t provide as much enjoyment as I want. All these feelings rise from the illusory vision, however. What if I tried to see my body as Lord’s instrument instead?

Philosophically we speak of our bodies as such all the time, we speak of becoming Krishna or guru’s instruments. What if we realize that our bodies do not have to become anything, that they already ARE Krishna’s property, at all times? Philosophically it’s true anyway.

Will they smell like flowers then? Perhaps, but not in the same way they smell nice after bath because that’s the perception based on illusion. I’m talking about transcendental smell that is always there regardless of the body’s external conditions. I’m talking about change of perception between smelling sweat and smelling sweat but feeling that it’s sandalwood.

One immediate objection is that we should not see ourselves as such advanced devotees, only pure devotees’ bodies are fully transcendental and it would be very inappropriate of us to claim the same status.

That is correct but what I’m saying here is that our bodies belong to Krishna regardless of our level of advancement. We might not be devotees at all but Krishna’s energy is always Krishna’s energy and thus it smells like sandalwood at all times, albeit only to those who see it that way. Still, the smell is omnipresent throughout the creation, it does not depend on whether we perceive it or not so why shouldn’t we treat the world and our bodies with full respect anyway?

Or, to turn it around – we shouldn’t be disrespectful just because we are ignorant. Even children know to shut up in serious situations. They don’t understand why, what or who but if an important person enters the room they naturally freeze and show respect. We are just like those little children, running around without care in the world. Well, maybe it’s time we grow up and at least try to treat the world with respect it deserves.

It’s neither good nor bad, it’s even better than that – it’s Krishna’s energy and therefore it’s perfect and full of bliss at every step and in every way, especially when we are dealing with devotees.

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Vanity thought #588. The price of being right

I already mentioned the episode with Jiva Goswami angering his uncle and spiritual master Rupa Goswami but I think it deserves a little more consideration.

The story is taken from Bhaktiratnakara by Narahari Chakravarti, there’s an .rtf and .pdf translations floating around the net, it’s on page 182 of the original book, in electronic copies page formatting is different but original numbering is preserved.

So, Srila Rupa Goswami just started writing his Bhakit Rasamrita Sindhu and when Vallabha Bhatta arrived to see him he had only mangala charana, introductory verses, to show him. Vallabha Bhatta thought something was wrong about them and offered a correction. Jiva Goswami, who just arrived in Vrindavan, was fanning Rupa Goswami and heard Vallabha Bhatta suggestions but didn’t agree with them. He quietly followed Vallabha Bhatta to Yamuna and while Vallabha was taking a bath Jiva defended the version of Rupa Goswami and argued that no corrections were necessary.

Vallabha Bhatta returned from taking his bath and asked Rupa Goswami who that young learned man was, he praised Jiva’s erudition and agreed with Jiva’s conclusion.

When Jiva returned shortly afterwards, however, Rupa Goswami was cold and resolute. He didn’t display any anger but rather in a quiet, authoritative voice allowing for no interruptions he sent Jiva back to where he came from, to Bengal. He was so serious that Jiva had nothing else to do but to pack up and leave, there was no room for arguing for himself in Rupa Goswami’s words.

Once Jiva left Vrindavana and gathered his wits he thought that he wouldn’t give up so easily. He decided to stay in a forest in Nandaghat, some ten kilometers away. He hoped that by fasting and praying he would get into Rupa Goswami’s good graces again. This lasted for some time until Srila Sanatana Goswami on his tour of Vrindavana forests arrived at Nanda Ghat and the residents told him of a young, emancipated goswami living in a nearby forest.

Sanatana Goswami realized that it must have been Jiva and he hurried to see the sadhu. Jiva Goswami was so thin that even Sanatana Goswami, the great ascetic himself, got worried. It’s important to note here that even Sanatana Goswami didn’t know the exact reason why Jiva was in this exile. Upon hearing the reason for the banishment Sanatana Goswami immediately returned to see Rupa.

Rupa Goswami heard of his return and went out to meet him, Sanatana Goswami asked him about his well-being and about the progress of his book, Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. “Oh, it’s okay,” said Rupa, “I’ve finished writing it but without Jiva it’s still unedited. – About that…,” said Sanatana, and he told him Jiva’s story. Rupa Goswami’s heart melted and they immediately brought Jiva back. The end.

Normally we accept everything from Bhakitratnakara without questions and it’s very unlikely that this story is completely made up but there are some doubts about its timeline.

Vallabha Bhatta was a contemporary of Lord Chaitanya and he left this world in 1531. There are different opinions on when Srila Jiva Goswami was born and when he came to Vrindavana but if we take the earliest possible dates it’s possible that he caught Vallabha Bhatta just before his departure. That is if Jiva Goswami was born in 1513 and he was eighteen when he came to Vrindavana, which would have been 1531.

Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, however, was completed in 1541, ten years later. It’s not very likely that Jiva Goswami lived incognito in Nanda Ghat for ten years or that it took him ten years to edit the book, or even ten years both for his exile and the editing.

Regardless, the story is part of our Gaudiya tradition, the objection to its timing comes from infamous Jagat, a very knowledgeable devotee who left Srila Prabhupada, which actually disqualifies him from studying Gaudiya history as this is the most serious guru aparadha, and who also thinks that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a fraud who forged Chaitanya Upanishad himself.

I mean how twisted and corrupted one’s mind must be if he accuses our spotless acharyas like Bhaktivinoda Thakur of forgery. I can only conclude that once one places the path of scholarship above the path of devotion he is lost to devotional service. Who cares if Jagat is “right” because, as far as devotional service goes, he is definitely and irreparably wrong – just look at how strict Srila Rupa Goswami was regarding proper etiquette when dealing with devotees.

Well, I’ve been meaning to discuss etiquette lessons from this story but there are so many of them that it’s better to leave it for another day.