Thursday, June 19, 2008

Exclusive Devotion

Posted 18th of March, 2008 @ Vraja Journal.


I wish to write a few words on the "exclusive devotion" theme in my earlier writings to clarify my views on bhakti.

Noting that exclusive devotion wasn't compatible with my predominant psychological samskaras does not refer to "exclusive devotion" in the capacity of distilling distracting pollutants from one's god-relationship and refining it to ever greater heights of clarity and purity. It refers to the emotional cultivation aspect of bhakti as most of us have grown to know it with our exposure to the deeper aspects of Gaudiya Vaisnava practice.

Owing to whatever sadhanas of past lives, some emotional areas of my psyche have been eliminated to a substantial degree; this no doubt has at times led to a lack of skillful dealings, if not to outright callousness, where emotional issues have surfaced. I have grown to be as acutely aware of this as anyone, and have hopefully grown to be a bit more tactful over the years.

The emotional cultivation practiced in many bhakti-traditions, and particularly so in the raganuga-method, is a means of employing one's existing emotional patterns in conjunction with a specific god-relationship — hence verses such as kamad dvesad bhayad snehat — and as such particularly suitable for people with powerful latent emotional bases ready to be dovetailed, fueling the intensity of god-absorption.

An obvious problem arises if people don't possess the adequate latent mental formations on which to build these god-redirected feelings. Even Sri Rupa recognizes the need for the appropriate previous samskara as a prerequisite for attaining prema in his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. Then, engagement in raganuga-cultivation would in effect entail a backtracking to redevelop the eradicated or absent areas of human emotional nature to be redirected on towards god; in my view, a rather steep and unnecessary curve.

For people who have the necessary bases, the path of devotional emotion cultivation can be a very powerful avenue for attaining one-pointed fixation on the divine. I would never disparage the core principle of the devotional approach; to do so would be narrow-minded and outright foolish. I also share many devotional traits, and find them very useful supplements to my spiritual practice; yet they work not as the prime fuel for my inner engine.

For those suspicious of my goodwill towards the devotionally apt, there are many who'll testify to the extent of my encouragement even during my initially veiled transition from the path many of you follow. For example, observing the substantial potentials and heart qualities of two good sadhakas, I spent two months giving them a Bengali intensive to help them delve deeper into the world of which they'd find their nourishment; translated to English texts of their choice to help them gain a deeper grasp of the concepts of their heritage; sought my level best to share inspiration in glossing the prospects I perceived before them. In devotional terms, their past merit and the subsequent potential far supersedes mine, and as such is something to be honored and supported.

In terms of devotional traditions, the concept of suddha-bhakti or uttama-bhakti embraced in the Gaudiya tradition prevails as the mighty lion of the fauna of the forest of religion. It is a sound and wholesome teaching and aspiration that is objectively beneficial for its cultivator, its spiritual merits in detaching from matter and refining consciousness faculty undeniable, as it employs essential universal principles under the veil of a particular religious heritage.

If only more people were able to step beyond the formal doctrinal structures of religion and spirituality, drawing out the real spiritual substance, the inspiration-content that swelled at the hearts of the ancient authors and led them to formulate specific teachings and methodologies in expression of their internal experience. If people even understood this in theory and respected the concept, it would be a giant's leap onwards from the narrow and intolerant strands of superficial and stiff religion that is regrettably prominent and blended with countless unwholesome qualities genuine spirituality ought to be uprooting rather than cultivating under a religious label.

I doubt there are many, nay, any, who would still be inclined to consider me as someone with whom one could gain something devotion-wise in mutual exchanges. Regardless, I wish to be clear in expressing my goodwill towards those who were once my brothers in faith. Perhaps the broadest-minded still remain brothers and sisters in spirit; from where I look at things, the brotherhood is undeniable, but I cannot and do not wish to force its mutuality on anyone.

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