Hare Krishna Catechism #1

14 09 2021

Someone asked me what is meant when we say “localized Paramatma” or that the Supreme Personality of Godhead sits in the heart of every spirit-soul. So here is my attempt to explain this:

In the Catholic liturgy, God the Father is addressed as fons et origo: the fountain and origin of Godhead. For us, this is Krishna in Goloka Vrindavan. In comparative religion, there is the idea of the deus otiosus: “otium” in Latin meaning “leisure.” It has the connotation of “laziness,” but far less derogatory. Krishna in Vrindavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as expressed in the notable verse (uttama-sloka) in the first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam:

ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ
kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam

(All of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead.)

Krishna in His original form however cares about nothing other than Srimati Radharani, the rest of the gopis, His cowherd friends, His family, His cows, and the inhabitants of Vrindavan, almost in that order. Krishna isn’t the “creator God,” He doesn’t get His “hands dirty” that way. In that sense, a fountain on a hilltop is a good way to look at it. Krishna is fountain and origin at the very top, and everything flows down from Him, descending to the rest of the spiritual world and into the material world. Here, a very strict boundary has to be indicated. In Vaikuntha, everything is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss (sac-cid-ananada vigraha). Even a stone in a street in the lowest part of Vaikuntha is conscious and enjoys its eternal role as a stone. Nothing in Vaikuntha is “material” in our sense. Even grass which the gopis step on in Goloka Vrindavan considers itself most fortunate to be under the feet of the gopis (cf. SB 11.12.11)

Properly speaking, in the Abrahmic conception, one isn’t even in “creation” proper yet. While Krishna is expanding Himself into all of these other Vaikuntha forms, one has to get to the “lower border” of Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Shiva and the Viraja River (Causal Ocean) before one gets into “creation” proper as we commonly refer to it.

Here we’re going to encounter the three Vishnus or expansions of Krishna when we talk about the material manifestation. The first Vishnu is Karanadakshayi Vishnu (the Vishnu who lies down in the Causal Ocean), also known as Maha Vishnu. While lying down, Maha Vishnu glances at the Maha-tattva, a “shadow of pure consciousness” or, in perhaps inaccurate Latin Scholastic terms, the realm of pure potency, where false ego (ahamkara) is formed. False ego is the building block of the material manifestation: the Lord’s external energy. The external potency is dumb matter (think rocks,) whereas His internal energy is everything you find in Vaikuntha (the spiritual world). We as incarnated spirits are “marginal energy”: because we have false ego, because we think we are “independent” of the Supreme Lord, refusing our eternal identity as servants of Krishna, we could “go either way.” We are eternal spirits bound by our identity with dead, temporary matter. Many of us think this is all there is.

Maha-Vishnu’s glance at the Maha-tattva begins the process by which He falls asleep and out of every one of His pores universes pour out like little bubbles. So another difference with Abrahmic religion is that there is not just one universe, but millions, perhaps way more than that. And yet the Supreme Lord enters into every one of those universes as well, lying in an ocean that occupies the bottom each universe, the Garbha Ocean, and there He becomes Garbhodaksayi Vishnu. It’s out this reclining Vishnu that Brahma emerges from a lotus in His navel. This is how the universe you see around you is made. So Maha-Vishnu is inter-universal, while Garbhodaksayi Vishnu is the catalyst for the creation and annihilation of each universe.

But that’s not the end. The Supreme Lord then enters into every single soul and atom of the universe. This is where we get “localized Paramatma”. The Lord is larger than the largest, and smaller than the smallest. Thus, the Supreme Lord is in the heart of every spirit soul, and even each atom. If this were not the case, they would simply not be. He lies in the Ocean of Milk within the material world, so His other name is Ksirodakasayi Vishnu. In the beginning of the Tenth Canto, the demigods go to Ksirodakasayi Vishnu to come down and incarnate Himself as Krishna.

“Paramatma” is translated as “Super-soul,” or perhaps another way to think of it is the Soul of the soul. Just as the soul enlivens the body, Paramatma does something similar in the soul. There is the analogy in the Upanishads of two birds sitting on a branch: one bird enjoys while the other watches. The Supreme Lord is thus a witness to our actions: He doesn’t interfere and indeed He even aids and abets us in all of our endeavors in fulfillment of our desires. As I like to think, even in the worst Vedic hell, the Supreme Lord still sits in your heart. Unlike in Abrahmic faiths, anything you do can’t separate you from God. Only your thinking that you are separate from God, totally independent and not His subordinate or servant, is what separates you from God. Nothing else.

Thus the yogi, especially in the Golden Age or Satya Yuga, goes into meditation for thousands of years focused on the localized Super-soul sitting in his heart. Indeed, this is the yuga-dharma of that age. People lived for thousands of years and just meditated on the Supreme Lord sitting in their hearts. The aim was ultimately to meditate so deeply on the localized Paramatma that one entered samadhi and left material existence entirely. There are many instances in shastra where people meditated in this manner, forcing the life force from the base of their spine up to the top of their head and just dissolving. In absolute terms, there is very little keeping us here. Yet here we are.

There is an old Orthodox prayer to the Holy Spirit that is said throughout the liturgy that characterizes Paramatma best for me:

Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, comes and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.

I guess the one lesson for me in thinking of the Paramatma is that the Supreme Lord is everywhere, and He guides us in so many ways. Yet all we want to see is matter because that’s what we think we are. The chanting of the Mahamantra, according to one senior devotee, is like the scalpel we use to surgically cut ourselves out of our illusory bond to the material world, our own false ego. “O Energy of Krishna, Krishna, employ me in your service,” as Srila Prabhupada explained to be the meaning of the Mahamantra. We can’t meditate on localized Paramatma for a million years, but we can chant. As they say, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.





The Kingdom not of this world

28 08 2021

I listened to the Honest Man’s podcast’s recent episode, Vedic Pornography, with special guest Madhavananda Das, a senior Hare Krishna devotee who lives in Jagannath Puri, India. The topic of the podcast was specifically on the role that erotic art plays in the temple architecture of India. However, that is peripheral to what I want to talk about here. Specifically I would like to discuss Madhavananda Prabhu’s point concerning the Linga Purana. As a quick summary, the Puranas are Hindu scriptures that generally tell of divine and human histories, often from the point of view of a particular god. I have referred extensively on this blog to the Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam, which tells the story of Krishna and related avatars. While the Srimad Bhagavatam states that Krishna or Vishnu is the supreme Deity, other puranas state that their respective subjects are the supreme Deities. So the Devi Purana thus thinks that Durga or Devi is the Supreme Goddess out of who emerges all other manifestations of divinity. The Linga Purana is one of the puranas devoted to Lord Shiva, and not only does it state that Shiva is the Supreme Deity, but also that Vishnu doesn’t even exist. He is merely a dream of Shiva.

Read the rest of this entry »




Haridasa Thakur and the critique of Abrahamic religion

3 05 2021

Having been born into Roman Catholicism, and having practiced it quite fervently as an adult, the question always looms as to what the role of Christianity is in Krishna consciousness. More ecumenical types want to make it seem that “it’s all good”: bhakti is bhakti, God is one and devotion to Him is also one. Others, however, refuse to be that conciliatory considering the Christian turning of a blind eye towards meat eating and other vices. In fact, my summary of Srila Prabhupada’s attitude on this matter is that he thought that Christianity was very close to Vaishnavism, except for the meat eating and his claims that Christians didn’t know the name of God. He was quite animate about these objections at times.

Yet if we look closely, Christianity was dealt with in Hare Krishna scripture. Well, not directly, but through the assessment of Islam particular in the writings describing gaura-lila: the life of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. We have to remember that many of the major protagonists at this time had to deal directly with Muslims, up to learning their scriptures, perhaps even in Arabic itself. If we consider Islam as an outgrowth of Christianity, but perhaps with a slightly more impersonalist flavor, the early Gaudiya Vaishnavas were well-acquainted with it. One major figure was even an ex-Muslim, the namacharya Srila Haridasa Thakur.

Read the rest of this entry »




Pancha Tattva

30 04 2021

This post will be one in which I write down my understanding of something hoping that I am mostly right. The Pancha Tattva is what one could call the “Hare Krishna Trinity,” except it’s a pentarchy.

śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya prabhu-nityānanda,śrī-advaita gadādhara śrīvāsādi-gaura-bhakta-vṛnda

To break this mantra down into the five elements:

Sri Krishna Chaitanya: The Golden Avatar of Krishna, a combined incarnation of Krishna and Srimati Radharani, taking on Srimati Radharani’s golden complexion.

Lord Nityananda: The incarnation of Lord Balarama, an avadhuta, He just really wants you to chant the Holy Names of the Lord.

Advaita Acharya: The incarnation of Maha Vishnu and Lord Shiva embracing, or the expansion of Krishna directly responsible for the material manifestation. His prayers are key to calling Krishna’s mercy down into this Kali Yuga.

Gadhadara Pandit: Also an incarnation of Srimati Radharani (confusing, I know), basically here to see how the whole “combined incarnation” of Lord Chaitanya goes and make sure things don’t get out of hand. He represents more the internal mission of Lord Chaitanya in this age.

Srivasa Thakura: An incarnation of Narada Muni. The captain or leader of the devotees. He represents more the external mission of Lord Chaitanya.

Read the rest of this entry »




“I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

8 04 2021
https://arturovasquez.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/d2088-the-ecstatic-virgin-anna-katharina-emmerich-celestial-images.jpg

The body of the Lord was just like a field of sugarcane into which the mad elephants of ecstasy entered. There was a fight amongst the elephants, and in the process the entire field of sugarcane was destroyed. Thus transcendental madness was awakened in the body of the Lord, and He experienced despondency in mind and body. In this ecstatic condition, He began to speak as follows.

“ ‘O My Lord! O dearest one! O only friend of the universe! O Kṛṣṇa, O restless one, O only ocean of mercy! O My Lord, O My enjoyer, O beloved to My eyes! Alas, when will You again be visible to Me?’ ” (CC Madya lila 2.64-65)

Here I get to talk about something familiar to me – something that I have written about copiously – the grotesque. While Srimad Bhagavatam has its extremely odd and even risque moments, the Chaitanya Charitamrita has an earthiness to it due to its closeness to us in time and mood. In some ways, the Chaitanya movement parallels the devotio moderna and other popular religious movements developing in Europe during the same period. Indeed, all Gaudiya theology unfolds in a very baroque manner, with flourishes and complexities that seem to reveal another unexpected face of Vedantic religion.

Read the rest of this entry »




Love hurts

24 03 2021

A personal rough guide to the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta

In the Hare Krishna movement, the Founder Acharya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has stated that, if the Bhagavad Gita is like a college education, and the Srimad Bhagavatam is like an advanced degree, the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is post-graduate study of spiritual life. The Bhagavad Gita teaches basic ideas of the transmigration of the soul, the essence of karma and yoga, and the need to surrender to Krishna as the end of spiritual endeavor. The Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam goes in depth into who Krishna is and His manifestation as the unfolding of the Absolute Truth (vadanti tat tattva-vidas / tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam / brahmeti paramātmeti / bhagavān iti śabdyate SB 1.2.11). The final stop in the spiritual itinerary of the soul is to realize that the Absolute Truth is a Person, the First Person, Krishna in Vrindavan.

Read the rest of this entry »




On God having toenails

19 02 2021

Even if I have dismissed something in my own head, I like to return to it on occasion to see if I still dismiss it. Above is a video from lay Catholic theologian Christopher West about the foundational premise of John Paul II’s theology of the body. I went over ad nauseam about a dozen years ago why I find the theology of the body erroneous, and in spite of my effective change in religious faith, more or less I stand by my objections. In fact, I now adhere to a faith that has the premise, “we are not this body,” at its very foundation: it is effectively a key idea of the Bhagavad Gita.

Read the rest of this entry »




Chota Haridas and Judas Iscariot

16 02 2021
https://back2krishna.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/chotaharidas.jpg

Studying Krishna consciousness for me is all about contrasts. Writing about it is an exercise in explaining these contrasts in as few words as possible. With the story of Chota Haridas, there is an immediate comparison to Judas Iscariot in the New Testament, except that God Incarnate (in this case, Lord Chaitanya) doesn’t get betrayed nor is He handed over to His enemies to be killed, and so on. The real comparison lies in the question: What happens when one of your followers, someone very intimate to your mission, “falls down”? Is there redemption after that and, if so, what does it mean?

Read the rest of this entry »




A review of Work of Human Hands

23 11 2020
https://www.truerestoration.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/WHH_crop1.jpg

An “ex-Catholic’s” look at Fr. Anthony Cekada’s book

When I learned of Fr. Anthony Cekada’s death earlier this year, my thoughts turned to another lifetime ago. I was in the Society of St. Pius X seminary in La Reja. It was summer and thus very hot (no air conditioning, of course). I was in the seminary library by myself supposedly answering the phone (no one ever called). I found a stack of journals to pass the time, among them one called “Sacerdotium”. It was in English and dated from the 1990’s. Unlike so many other traditionalist publications, this one contained decent writing. Namely, the author who stood out was one Anthony Cekada. The content of his articles consisted of the same sedevacantist arguments, yet he added quite a bit of humor to it. Some of it was hit or miss, but overall I enjoyed the effort.

Read the rest of this entry »




Person-to-Person

16 11 2020

A first reading of the Srimad Bhagavatam

You could say that the purpose of the 18,000 verse Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam is to tell you what it means to be a person. Or rather, it’s to introduce you to the first or Supreme Person, the one you have been looking for, the one you always knew existed, or at least wish you did. In Vaishnava thought, reality has three levels or manifestations: Brahman, Paramahtma, and Bhagavan. Perhaps I will oversimplify these and say that they are the answers to three separate questions: What, Why, and Who. Brahman is a question of “what”: that there is existence, but not particularly why it is. It’s the truth barren of any qualities or distinctions. Many people seek this, they seek stillness and a peaceful void. This is often the subject of cheap mysticism. Paramahtma is the truth as it works within us and all over: it’s the reason why philosophers ask questions and it’s the voice that provides them with answers, often wildly divergent from each other. Those who seek it still don’t really know the origin of the truth. In a manner of speaking, it is the logos (λόγος) of the Stoics and St. John’s Gospel. But the ground of both of these, the ultimate reality if you will, is not a question of “what”, or even “why”, but of “Who?”

Read the rest of this entry »