Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Q&A: Discussing one's bhajan with others

Q: Is it all right to discuss one's bhajan with others? Perhaps one may have an exceptional dream or a realization during bhajan – to whom may one speak of it, and to whom not?

A: We sometimes come across Vaisnavas who are fond of liberally sharing of their experiences, gained in dreams and in wakefulness all the same. However, visions and dreams with special spiritual significance are private matters one should cherish within the chamber of the heart. By airing them out in the public, their impact on the self fades and vanishes over time.

As recommended in Hari-bhakti-vilasa:

svapne vAkSi-samakSaM vA Azcaryam atiharSadam /
akasmAd yadi jAyeta na khyAtavyaM guror vinA //2.143//

"In dreams, or before one's eyes, if an astonishing, thrilling event suddenly occurs, it is not to be told of to others aside the guru."

If there are senior Vaisnavas in whom we have deep faith, and whom we regard essentially in the capacity of a guru, dreams and other special events may be disclosed to them as well.

However, only one who has digested and well internalized the experience may share it with others. Even then, they are to be shared with the faithful alone – with those who will respect and find deep inspiration in the same. Revealing heart's matters before the faithless is wholly improper. If this warning is not paid heed to, we gradually lose the impact of the experience, and additionally risk becoming subject to pride and a host of other vice arising from an inflated sense of self-importance and the possible admiration of others.

Again, in the words of Narottama Das Thakur Mahasaya from his Prema-bhakti-candrika:

Apana bhajana kathA, na kahiba yathA tathA, ihAte haiba sAvadhAna /

"The topics of your own bhajana, speak not of them here and there. In this, I shall exercise caution."

Then, he notes: rAkha prema hRdaya bhariyA"Protect your love, burying it within your heart!" He says, gupate sAdhibe siddhi"Perfection is attained in secrecy." The intimacy of experiences with God is likened to the lovers' relationship in an apt metaphor found in Hatha-yoga-pradipika (3.9):

gopanIyaM prayatnena yathA ratna-karaNDakam /
kasyacin naiva vaktavyaM kula-strI-surataM yathA //

"Hide them with persevering effort,
as you would a basket of jewels –
Truly don't speak of them to anyone,
As a noble lady wouldn't speak of making love."

Therefore, accomplished Vaisnavas never share of their experiences in bhajana in public. The absence of replies does not make a commentary on the presence or absence of experiences as such. Often, it only tells of the wisdom of silence. Those who have something factually precious to share will carefully guard it as a hidden treasure. Access to such treasures is gained through gaining the Vaisnava's confidence, for such things are not to be squandered in broadcasting to a mixed audience, as one would not hurl bucketfuls of pearls before the swine.

Again, in the words of Sri Jiva from his Bhakti-sandarbha (339):

atra ca zrI guroH zrI bhagavato vA prasAda labdhaM sAdhana sAdhyagataM svIya sarvasva bhUtaM yat kim api rahasyaM tat tu na kasmaicit prakAzanIyam yathAha:

"Then, the secrets of one's own that are obtained with practice and in attaining perfection – with the grace of Sri Guru and Sri Bhagavan – are never to be disclosed to anyone. As in the Bhagavata:

naitat parasmA AkhyeyaM pRSThayApi kathaJcana /
sarvaM sampadyate devi deva guhyaM susaMvRtam // BhP 8.17.20

"This is not to be disclosed to outsiders, even if inquired on by someone;
All the secrets of the gods, O Devi, will yield their fruit when well concealed."

The warnings aside now, observe the merits of containing the experience – at the opening of Rupa's Utkalika-vallari, one of his final works:

prapadya vRndAvana-madhyam ekaH
krozann asAv utkalikAkulAtmA /
udghATayAmi jvalataH kaThorAM
bASpasya mudrAM hRdi mudritasya //1//

"Cast down amidst Vrindavana is one
In tears with the longings of an agitated heart
I shall reveal the fierce burning
The marks of tears imprinted in the heart."

The word bASpa means tears, and it means steam as well. Countless tears have left their deep wounds in Rupa's heart. The outburst of seventy verses of intense emotion are the result of decades of withholding an immeasurable depth of feelings. Read the description of Bhakti-ratnakara:

eka dina rAdhA-kRSNa viccheda kathate /
kANDaye vaiSNava mUrccha-gata pRthivite //
agni-zikhA prAya jvale rUpera hRdaYa /
tathApi bAhire kichu prakAza nA haYA //
karu dehe zrI-rUpera niHzvAsa sparzila /
agni-zikhA prAYa sei dehe braNa haila //
dekhiYA sabAra mane haila camatkAra /
aiche zrI-rUpera kriyA kahite ki Ara //

"One day, the separation of Radha and Krishna was discussed;
The Vaisnavas cried, falling senseless on the ground.
Rupa's heart was ablaze like the tip of a flame,
And yet outside nothing was manifest at all.
Whose body Sri Rupa's exhalation would touch,
That body would be burnt, as if touched by a flame.
Seeing this, astonishment filled all –
Such are Sri Rupa's deeds, what more can one say?"

This is the power of conserving emotion and experience within. This is the power of devotion contained. Do not build up your bhajana only to waste it away, let it not be blown with the wind to a thousand directions.

* * * * * * *

Q: What kinds of experiences can be revealed, and what ought to be kept hidden?

A: There are experiences that are very particular, and the revealing of which would set one apart from others and draw particular attention to oneself. Such experiences should be kept carefully under a lid, even among an assembly of devotees.

For example – you have had a dream where Thakur has given you a beautiful darshan or an advice, or you have had a vision at the time of illness that has cured you, or a strong experience has cast you into an ocean of anubhava and sattvika-bhava – things like this you should keep carefully hidden.

The experience you note is a beautiful experience, but it is a general experience, and something that can be easily shared by many. In fact, if someone is not moved to tears after reading of the acts and character of saints like this, there is something very wrong. Even a worldly person would feel moved at the sight of such sincerity.

Still, something such as what you mention should not be spoken to non-devotees, but in an assembly of devotees it is fine. I have been particularly protective of the sanctity of this forum's atmosphere especially for the aim of our being able to speak and have exchanges more freely than we could have had at places like Gaudiya Discussions with a completely mixed member base. This is why we also have members only sections and a public section here. I can't recall to which you posted the passage you cite, but it didn't strike me as inappropriate; rather I was very pleased to read it, and it no doubt serves as inspiration for others, too, to read and hear such narrations.

There are fine lines, and the lines are subjective to a great many factors that make up what you are, contributing to your eligibility to do diverse things. Your own borders are only found through experience and reflection.

No comments:

Post a Comment