Rasa Lila -not Yet
Posted June 5, 2006
I read with interest the excerpt from Srila Narayana Maharaja's lecture which has been entitled "who will say not to hear?" Firstly, the warnings that the various acaryas have given us against prematurely hearing rasa lila are not psychological tricks intended to encourage us to actually go ahead and hear rasa lila, but are indeed factual warnings. They cannot be compared to Rupa Goswami's warning against worship of Govinda, which he clearly directs towards materialists who want to "keep their mundane attachments to this world", thereby encouraging all those not in this category. Discussion on rasa lila, on the other hand is restricted, even for devotees committed to the path. It is for "Those who are advanced devotees, liberated from material contamination", of which some of us are, and some of us are not.
Therefore, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati finally reached this point of lila katha after many days of discussion of anartha nivritti. "All these days we have not spoken about lila." For those not yet free of contamination, lila katha should only proceed after detailed analysis of the various forms of anarthas that cover the heart, and the numerous ways the illusory energy covers them up in the dress of virtues. It appears that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had spent several days on this topic exclusively; consequently he needed to make it clear that there was more...: "But this (lila) is our most confidential asset. This is our only sadhya (perfection). One should not make the mistake of thinking that anartha-nivrtti (overcoming impediments such as lust and greed) is the prayojana (goal of life)". Similarly, Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada did not limit his discussion to impediments only, but discussed higher topics in relation to that process of anartha nivritti.
In this respect the analogy in Chaitanya Caritamrta is perfect- the devotee, being a gardener, tends the creeper of devotion which strains towards the sunlight of prayojana. Despite his good intentions, if he either neglects the creeper or the weeds that grow around it, the creeper cannot succeed. If he focuses only on the creeper, giving it water (chanting), sunlight (prayojana discussion), nutrients and so on, then the ignored weeds will flourish and choke the creeper. So one can be chanting and hearing yet coming no nearer to prayojana than before one started. One needs to identify the weeds which choke and kill devotion:
impersonalism- both in faith and in actions towards others;
duplicity both in mind and in speech;
desire for fame, adoration or profit;
thinking oneself superior due to position or belonging to a particular group;
are but few of the many that the acarya can help us identify. Of course, one needs to be thoroughly honest, or one will think that the instruction applies to others but not oneself. Particularly if one is seen by others as very advanced one will consider oneself to be so, and consider oneself qualified for higher topics. But if one is actually liberated from these anarthas then there is no profit in hearing continually about them. One should be ready to hear Krsna lila and relish it without feeling oneself too low to do so (which is a tendency of the genuinely advanced soul, hence for him this stress is necessary). It is essential to progress past anartha nivritti and therefore the acaryas warn those devotees at a certain stage of their development, not to be obsessed with disqualification, but be ready to move on when qualified.
In the meantime, we should not be like the gardener who is so intent on watching and uprooting all weeds that he forgets to water the plant or give it sunlight. Therefore, acaryas like Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, while giving much emphasis to anartha nivritti and the first nine cantos of how Krsna's energies work both to bind and to liberate, did not limit their discussions to these topics only but spiced their discussions very much with the beauty of Krsna's personal loving dealings. Otherwise our religion would be fear based, not love based. One should practise loving Krsna and fearing Maya until one no longer feels any attraction for Maya, then one can simply love Krsna and there will never be any falldown. The task of uprooting maya and nurturing love for the Lord should go hand in hand. Therefore, any discussions (except those among liberated souls) should focus on both. We do not see this much though, for the task of separating the weed from the creeper is taxing, exacting on the brain and not for the sentimentalist who only wants nectar, and regards all analytical discussion as the domain of the intellectuals. The sentimentalist will go to an acarya who gets quickly to the tenth canto, but this is not recommended.
Sentimentalist devotees will also like to quote support for Rasa Lila discussions as contradictions to the warnings against premature hearing, as if one is against the other. It is ridiculous for a devotee to support rasa lila as opposed to anartha nivritti as it is ridiculous for a gardener to argue the value of sunlight versus weed pulling. Both are necessary but if the garden is being choked by weeds, making sure it has enough sunlight should not be our focus.
It is for this reason that personally I do not feel myself qualified for the
topics that Srila Narayana Maharaja presents. On the other hand, discussions
in the mood of Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada I find to be thoroughly
invigorating to my bhakti creeper, as they provide both sunlight, water and
detailed advice in weed identification. They provide the essential nutrient
of faith, through reason and argument, which are effective tools in one's
garden shed. Like hoes and forks, they give much strength to uproot weeds,
and thus they are in every way appropriate to my level of anatha nvritti.