Friday, November 2, 2007

This is Going Nowhere

I've been following the metaphor of Krishna and the gopis seeking parallels with my practice of Siddha Yoga and the disappearance of Gurumayi, only to find the trail turn as cold as my sadhana. The gopis are abandoned, lost and alone; it appears Krishna really had been playing them all along. He got bored and grabbed his first chance to move to the big city and take eight queens as wives. The comments on the last post in which this betrayal was narrated intrigue me. No one seems to have much sympathy for the gopis, and the only advice we are able to muster is on the order of "get a life" or (and I love this one!) "he's just not that into you, ladies". Are we impatient with those 16,000 long-suffering cow-girls because they remind us too much of ourselves? Or is it because theirs is a cautionary fable. Avatars and Perfected Masters are fantastic at foreplay; the earth moves, the stars tremble and fall and all that. But they make lousy lovers, never sticking around long enough to engender the kind of trust that needn't be blind, or to help shoulder the burden of the daily grind. And if they're present to share our sorrows it is only because we will them to be; in the face of their absence it's the only comfort we've got.

In other words, the rasalila was one big dry hump.

The tale of Krishna and the gopis has been controversial for as long as it's been told. For centuries a debate raged among Hindu scholars regarding whether their love was svakiya (legitimate) or parakiya (illegitimate). The question was at last settled definitvely during a six-month long theological smack-down. I'll let Calasso relate how it ended:

"In the end, the disciples who upheld that the love between Krishna and the gopis was conjugal, legitimate, conceded defeat. They underwrote a document in which they accepted as correct the doctrine they had always abhored. But what were the decisive arguments that sealed the triumphant sovereignity of the illegitimate? Parakiya is that which brings the metaphysical element in love to the point of incandescence. And what is that element? Separation. Never is the rasa of separation so intense as in illegitimate passion. Furthermore, whatever is parakiya is denied the permanence of possession. It is a state in which one can only occasionally be possessed. This corresponds to the essence of every relationship with Krishna. Finally: the woman who abandons herself to a love that is parakiya risks more than other women. To violate the rules of conjugal order is to deny this world's bonds and abandon oneself to what calls to us from beyond our world. Such love does not seek to bear fruit and it never will. Whatever seeks to bear fruit will consume itself in that fruit. While that which disregards every fruit is inexhaustible."

It took the good scholars of India only half a year of intense debate to come to the truth any fan of the Lifetime channel or devotee of Italian opera knows in their heart: forbidden love is the hottest. Like the composers of grand opera, the rishis of ancient India lived in cultures steeped in tradition and tightly girded by the strictures of religion. Love was forbidden for one reason alone: it violated or threatened to sever the bonds that culture held most sacred—whether of marriage, religion or clan.

We don't live in such a world (thank goddess). So, what is forbidden to us, who have inherited every freedom? To love someone who doesn't love us back. Unrequited love's a bore, so the song says, but only if you're stuck listening to your friend go on about 'the one that got away'. If you're the one who is mired in it, infatuation is endlessly fascinating. You get to play victim of the capriciousness of fate, martyr to the ideal of a love so true it thrives even when rejected. What never occurs to us is that this kind of love survives only because it isn't returned. Infatuation, like parakiya, depends on the element of separation. A lover who withholds their attention or, worse, allows you only an occasional taste of themselves like Krishna petting his gopis, remains forever idealized. You're free to project onto the tabula rasa of their indifference all the best qualities you long for in a lover. Such a love is dangerously seductive precisely because it is all ache and no release. Reality can never intrude on an idyll when it is conducted solely in fevered fantasy, bereft of the sort of cold shower delivered when your boyfriend forgets your anniversary, or goes out for beers with the boys leaving you to clean up their Super Bowl mess.

The relationship between devotee and guru in Siddha Yoga is petrified in just such idealized amber. In "The Perfect Relationship" (note the starkly naked message of the title) Baba Muktananda wrote about the difference between romantic love between two people, and the love that exists between disciple and guru. He says (from memory, my SY books are in storage and I see no need to cite chapter and verse) that mundane love is a business transaction, on the order of "you give me this and I'll give you that; stop doing this and I won't do that". The guru-disciple relationship has no such crass bargaining; it is all surrender to unconditional love. Baba meant to press home the superior purity of spiritual love, but he opens up a Pandora's box. His definition hews uncomfortably close to our experience of mundane infatuation and obsession. Wonderfully remote, physically present only in the stolen clasp of darshan, or as a blaze of orange just glimpsed before we lowered our eyes behind hands clasped in reverence, the guru played Krishna and we worshipful gopis played ecstatically along.

And now, like the gopis we are wandering in silence. Ok, maybe not silence, our ongoing online discussions prove that. One commenter asked what advice we should give the gopis of Vrndavana. Here's mine. You will love and you will be torn from that love. The duty of forsaken love is to extinguish itself without leaving behind the ash of bitterness. Because only you will taste of that bitterness.

-----------------------------------------------

"Parakiya is that which brings the metaphysical element in love to the point of incandescence"

"Jyota se jyota jagavo
Sadguru jyota se jyota jagavo."

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good writing, I do not feel the same way but it has a nice flavor to it. :)

-Anon w/e

Stuart said...

This is a beautifully and intelligently-written post.

SeekHer wrote...
For centuries a debate raged among Hindu scholars regarding whether their love was svakiya (legitimate) or parakiya (illegitimate).

In 1984 I spent a few days visiting a huge Hare Krishna farm. The big Guru there (since disgraced) gave a talk about "legitimate" and "illegitimate" love.

It's not my usual style to ask questions in front of a huge group like that, but I made an exception during Q&A, and asked the Guru to clearly define what makes a love "legitimate." As I recall, the example he gave was that if you get married and produce Krishna-conscious children, that's legitimate.

Me, I'd say that any love that's "for you" is legitmate, and any love that's "for me" isn't. Other definitions don't have much appeal.

In "The Perfect Relationship" (note the starkly naked message of the title) Baba Muktananda wrote about the difference between romantic love between two people, and the love that exists between disciple and guru.

I was living full-time with Baba when that book was published. I can't recall what my feelings were at the time. Likely, reading it made me high, as did most things involving the Guru or the whole SYDA scene.

Now, though, the distinction made in the book, as you note it above, leaves me cold. I say that the Perfect Relationship is the one you've got with whomever or whatever you're relating to in this moment.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Greetings,

Many interesting comments all over this blog and I have something cooking on many them.

Thank you for thought provoking discussion that helps my mind pick myself up and toddle on down this road of broken dreams I called sadhana.

Cleaning up a finished assignment, found this jotting.

"Logic and reason are no match for image, metaphor, association and framing."

Except if your Stuart that is. ;-)

MC

SeekHer said...

"Reality can never intrude on an idyll when it is conducted solely in fevered fantasy, bereft of the sort of cold shower delivered when your boyfriend forgets your anniversary, or goes out for beers with the boys leaving you to clean up their Super Bowl mess."

Gentle readers; I originally used what I thought was a synonym for "shower" in the above sentence, before a friend alerted me that the word "douche" has a rather specific and, I assure you, unintended meaning. Curse my wretched unfamiliarity with lady parts! And apologies to anyone who may have been offended!

yomamma said...

"The duty of forsaken love is to extinguish itself without leaving behind the ash of bitterness. Because only you will taste of that bitterness." hey how did you know what my sadhana is?
i love this blog! It's the blog I wish i wrote.
i don't know perfect, but to me the best relationships are the day to day ones, that can withstand some actual use. that's what i always come back to , gotta tend to my own knitting. Thanks so much!

SeekHer said...

"hey how did you know what my sadhana is?
i love this blog! It's the blog I wish i wrote.
i don't know perfect, but to me the best relationships are the day to day ones, that can withstand some actual use. that's what i always come back to , gotta tend to my own knitting. Thanks so much!"

I know your sadhana because it is the one so many of us share. You're right; day to day relationships that let us rough and tumble and/or make sweet love are the best. Thank Goddess we didn't go so far down the rabbit hole we gave those away too.

Thank you for your kind words. Now--go start your own blog!

Robert Adan Williams said...

"And if they're present to share our sorrows it is only because we will them to be; in the face of their absence it's the only comfort we've got ... In other words, the rasalila was one big dry hump."

That's a great and funny metaphor!

Parakiya, svakiya, Ikea!

Have you read A.K. Coomaraswamy's "Sahaja", an essay in his excellent collection titled The Dance of Shiva? It's all about this very controversy in an actual day-to-day relationship between a respectable medieval Brahmin and an adivasi washerwoman - who is really, at least in the Brahmin's eyes, the total manifestation of the Devi. The Brahmin's reputation and standing in his community are eventually ruined by their blatant association, though they never touch. It is essential to the life of the relationship that they never consummate it. The tension is everything. The Brahmin's name was Chandidas. His poems to his washerwoman are still available today.

Separation is as excruciatingly sweet as it is delightfully unbearable.

The Beloved is always God. Not talking Guru here, but any Beloved who so captures our heart. As I said elsewhere, "Love is God and God is love."

"It is not for the sake of one's husband but for the sake of the Self that one's husband is dear."

Thus says the Upanishad!

Geetha said...

Hello, it seems you love exploring this earth by travelling on bus route and train routes. Fine you can. Why should you comment and criticise about air routes. Why should you be abusive about a pilot. You have all rights to analyse, but I think it is not fair to pass judgements. Anyway it's your life, your wish and your space. Krishna is an avatar who came for a great purpose. Even if you cannot rever Him, why not be non judgemental on Him. Our earth is a world of duality. Where there's a day, a night is there for sure. So is pain and pleasure. Hope you stop thinking my dear and start seeing everything for what it is.
Lots of love.

Geetha said...

Hello, it seems you love exploring this earth by travelling on bus route and train routes. Fine you can. Why should you comment and criticise about air routes. Why should you be abusive about a pilot. You have all rights to analyse, but I think it is not fair to pass judgements. Anyway it's your life, your wish and your space. Krishna is an avatar who came for a great purpose. Even if you cannot rever Him, why not be non judgemental on Him. Our earth is a world of duality. Where there's a day, a night is there for sure. So is pain and pleasure. Hope you stop thinking my dear and start seeing everything for what it is.
Lots of love.