The Erotic Principle and Un-alloyed Devotion. Part I
From SREE SAJJANA-TOSHANI
The transcendental amorous pastimes of Sri Krishna with the spiritual milk-maids of Braja constitute the highest platform of service of the Divinity. This is the sum and substance of the teachings of Sri Chaitanya. This teaching is set forth in the Srimad Bhagabata Purana which offers the concrete and unambiguous exposition of this religion of love.
The principle of love is not supposed by any body as necessarily implying the reference to sex. Amorous love which involves sexual reference is, however, regarded as a dangerous subject. It is difficult to understand how amorous love can be made to survive the complete elimination of the sexual reference as appears to be the hypocritical dream of a certain type of empiric poets and religionists. The empiricists take strong objection to the sexual element that enters most prominently and in its most repugnant form of polygamous adultery into the narrative of the pastimes of Sri Krishna. The unconventional amorous love of Braja with its frank sexual abandon is regarded by moralists and sociologists a too strong dose especially for boys and girls of a tender age, if not also for adults who do not possess a cultured taste and imagination. The idolatry of ribald sexual passion is a most mischievous religion and is a survival of the ideal of promiscuity of the savage state out of which humanity has hardly yet emerged fully despite the concerted labours of countless generations. No sane man can, therefore, contemplate without a shudder the prospect of being hurled back again into the condition of primitive savagery and sheer animalism. Any doctrine that leads or tends to lead, either directly or indirectly, humanity back into an ideal of promiscuous sexualism, therefore, stands self-condemned.
In the paragraph just penned I had been trying candidly to realise the position of the anti-erotist and have not scrupled to use very strong language on his side. I may also mention that he can truly point, and he has not failed to do so, to ugly facts in support of his apprehensions. The almost open debaucheries of the dregs of so-called followers of Sri Chaitanya have been asserted by more than one respectable writer who have not even scrupled to attribute their degradation to the teachings of Sri Chaitanya. The fact of the wide prevalence of sexual corruption among certain sections of people, who pass themselves off as the followers of Sri Chaitanya is so painfully true that I consider it as both unnecessary and dishonest to play the role of an apologist for such persons and shall not stop to discuss the view that the charge is an exaggeration which it possibly is.
The sexual relationship which is now-a-days ordinarily sought to be regulated with the help of the principle of morality is not so far as I am aware condemned as wholly impure by any of the writers who object to the pernicious tendency of the teachings of Sri Chaitanya and the Srimad Bhagabata. They should, therefore, be surprised if they are informed that sexuality itself is condemned in the most unambiguous terms by the Srimad Bhagabata, Sri Chaitanya and His associates and eminent followers. The difficulty that confronts me in this discourse is not due so much to the onus of proving that they do not condemn, but to the much more bewildering fact that they do condemn the very principle if sexuality as the most harmful of all the delusions to which we are subject in the state of sin.
The moral principle of empiric ethics is based upon an ideal of human personality which consists in the harmonious development of all the faculties and instincts inherent in the human race. According to this view no instinct or quality is useless or immoral in itself. The proper use of every faculty is that which tends to improve its range and quality. If this method of improvement is applied to sexual instinct we obtain the principle that it is not only justifiable but necessary to exercise the sexual function under proper safeguards which will ensure the increase of sexual power and scope. This ideal is being actually realised, under the lead of empiric ethics, by the various aesthetic and scientific activities of poets, novelists, painters, artists, physicists, chemists, biologists, eugenists, etc. etc. on a consciously organised and exhaustive plan especially in modern Europe. The teaching of the Srimad Bhagabat has been found fault with by the empiric moralists and their followers on the grounds of crudity, grossness and want of worldly wisdom. Even the superiority of the religions of Christ and Mahammad is held by religionists, who are under the sway of empiric ethics to consist, at any rate partly, in their social principles, in their wise handling of the sex problem by condemnation of sexual excess and promiscuity. The principle of total sexual abstinence which is also recommended by those religions is supposed to be an error on the less dangerous side.
Sri Chaitanya following the Srimad Bhagabata rejects the above ideal of human personality. The development of the powers of the body and mind, according to him, has no connection whatsoever with the soul, the human self proper, which is located beyond the scope of all the activities and experiences of our present delusive existence. The mind is an organ of the soul which in this existence happens to be under the thraldom of matter with the acquiescence, of its master. This unnatural and seemingly impossible union between spirit and matter is the mystery which has baffled all the efforts at explanation of empiric science. The principle of causation which forms the basis of the inductive method does not apply to this fact of the first magnitude. The spirit is found meddling with matter with which it has nothing in common and is also convinced for all practical purposes that all its affinities are with the limited and the unconscious, that is the unspiritual. All the schemes of empiric science have avoided this problem for the plain reason that it is incomprehensible to the known resources of our present reason or experience. But their ignorance of this subject continues nonetheless to be the fatal deficiency that vitiates all their conclusions at their source. If a material state has been supposed to be the ideal of human personality by empiric ethics it is due to the assumption that the mind with its present out-look is the undeveloped human soul which is capable of finding its way to the summit of perfection by continuing to increase its capacity and inclination of meddling with matter or in other words that its union with matter is a permanent fact of its very constitution. But as a matter of unbiased reasoning the spirit need not be supposed to have any material requirements for the simple reason that it is the spirit. Sri Chaitanya holds that the spirit is eternally and wholly separate from matter. In the state of sin it is under the false impression that it has an intimate connection with matter. Anything which tends to confirm this wrong impression prevents its reversion to its natural condition of unlimited existence. By any attempts to increase the sexual power which aims at stabilising the material connection the state of delusion will be prolonged. The sexual power has no value for the soul. If the sexual suggestion is allowed to pervade literature, science and art, those subjects do not thereby attain the proximity of the spirit. If one can lift a mountain does it prove that his soul is great? Matter or any capacity or instinct that derives its value from material effect or possibility of material effect, is of no concern to the soul. Spirit is eternally and categorically different from matter. The ideal of human personality according to Sri Chaitanya is that of the soul freed from its incarceration in matter and functioning on the plane of the Absolute to which it belongs by constitution. The faculties and instincts of our present minds are a perversion corresponding to the analogous principles of the soul in its pure state. It is therefore, not only unnecessary but positively harmful to try to increase the possibility or scope of our present misguided activities. The true ideal demands the deflection of their direction from material objects towards the spiritual. We should therefore, desist from the attempt to increase the power and scope of our present sexual instinct and try to reclaim it from misdirection towards any ideal that is derived from our experience of this world by turning it back upon itself thereby enabling it to find its true objective.
Sri Chaitanya is no advocate of gross or refined sensuality or of total sexual abstinence. He is opposed to all such positive and negative connection with matter. He wants the emancipated soul to find its own ideal. He does not consider it possible to ascertain the function of the free soul by the principles of their false existence.
If this radical difference between Sri Chaitanya and empiric moralists in regard to the ideal of human personality is kept well in view it should be possible not to misunderstand His attitude towards the sexual principle. Sri Chaitanya takes sex in the same way as He does any other phenomenon of this world, viz. as offering a double face to our unbiased reason. It may be regarded either as a part and parcel of our eternal nature or as an adventurous factor which has no connection with our real self. The empiricist holds the former view. Sri Chaitanya opposes and refutes it and establishes the truth of the latter view. The sex according to Sri Chaitanya is a passing affair and belongs as such to this changing existence. It happens to be in our way in one form or another so long as we are subject to this worldly existence and it is of course necessary that we should have a principle of conduct in regard to it. That principle should also be consistent with our ideal of the human personality. If the soul freed from the shackles of matter be our ideal we should so conduct ourselves towards sex that we may not thereby strengthen our present unnatural hankering for a certain form of material activity. For this purpose the very first thing that we have to do is to try to realise clearly that the world as it is presented to us by the material senses is not the world with which our souls are concerned. The soul has its own separate world. The soul is not an abstraction nor is the spiritual world a figment of our material imagination. Rather the opposite of this is the real truth. This material world is only the perverted reflection of the spiritual world. It is the shadow, the abstraction, of the spiritual world which is the real substance. Our soul which is a denizen of the spiritual world has somehow lost all real recollections of the substantive world. But the features of the spiritual world are reflected in a distorted manner in this material world. It is that very same world which is presented in this distorted and unintelligible form by our present defective senses. The soul itself is responsible for this distortion. It is the inevitable result of the wrong use of the faculty of free reason which is the constituent principle of the soul. The soul is free to choose to serve the Truth. It is equally free to follow the opposite course. The proper function of the free reason is to serve the Truth or in other words to be prepared to recognise its natural limitations and submit to the guidance of a higher reason whenever the latter makes its appearance. The reason of fallen souls refused deliberately to recognize its own native littleness and renounced the guidance of the Higher Reason. In fact it set up for itself in order to build a world of its own with its own paltry resources. The present world is the result of this disloyal activity. We have put our neck deliberately into the noose that holds us fast in its iron grip and the same original perversity still persists and prevents us from reverting to our constitutional position. So long as this irrational perversity continues we are doomed to grope in ignorance and reap the reward of the wilful abuse of our free reason in the form of this petty existence of sin and death. It is also under the lead of this perverted reason that we have built up the empiric science of conduct. The empiric sciences which are the outcome of the efforts of the reason to get rid of the consequences of its folly are really the fetters forged by itself which bind it all the more securely to a false existence. The very first step that has to be taken in the right direction is to try seriously to realise the nature of this perversity or sin. Once this perversity is clearly perceived the very sciences which have till now served to confirm our ignorance will be found to be of the utmost help in freeing us from the bondage of the world. There is nothing to be lost by the change of front and everything is to be gained in the only true sense.
Srimad Bhagabata and Sri Chaitanya tell us of this transcendental existence in which in spite of analogical resemblance everything is different from those things with which we are familiar in this world, even as the substance is different from its distorted shadow. The amours of Sri Krishna are categorically different from the sexual performances of the debauchees of this world because they are the eternal verity of which the latter form the unwholesome, perverted reflection. It is our eternal duty to have much to do with the one and nothing at all to do with the other. We are freed from the delusion and snare of sexuality through the realisation of the spiritual amours of the Divine Pair. The knowledge of the spiritual amours of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna are the medicine of the diseased soul afflicted with the malady of sexuality. The amours of the Divine Pair are the highest Truth and the last to be realised on the path of spiritual endeavour. This is the teaching of the Srimad Bhagabata.
We have to reach this goal by graduated stages of progress. It is first of all necessary to listen to the tidings of the spiritual world from the lips of those who have actually realised the life eternal. Such persons alone can properly expound the Srimad Bhagabata. Sri Chaitanya is the ideal exponent of the Srimad Bhagabata. His life is the Bhagabata reduced to the terms of the duties of every-day life of this world to enable us to really understand and realise the Truth. Any one who reads with an unbiased mind the illuminating volumes penned by His associates and eminent followers with the object of transmitting to all succeeding generations the particulars of His life and teachings, can never fail to realize the imperative necessity for everyone of us to follow in His footsteps. We are thereby enabled to understand that the spiritual world really exists, that it is the realm of the concrete Absolute, that it cannot be attained by our own unassisted efforts for the reason that the Absolute refuses to reveal itself to our self-asserting tiny soul, that it is necessary to approach the Reality by the method of submission, that this method of submission to the Absolute has to be learnt, also by the method of submission, from those who have actually realised the Absolute and that there actually exist among us such God-sent teachers of the religion. Once this necessity of submitting to the spiritual preceptor is clearly realised one is thereby enabled to find out the right kind of preceptor. This is the first manifestation of the Absolute Truth to the sincere seeker. The next stage of progress consists in attentive listening to the words of the good preceptor simultaneously carrying them out into practice to the extent that they are understood, that is to say approved, by our reason. It is only after undergoing a complete course of training that we are enabled to reach the goal viz., a right understanding of the narrative of the transcendental amours of the Divine Pair.
The spiritual pupilage is indispensable and is the key to the situation. Those who profess to understand the Bhagabata without having passed through the complete course of such training by the method of sincere submission to the good preceptor are denied all access to the real meaning of the narratives of the Bhagabata. There are many professed followers of Sri Chaitanya who ignore the necessity of following His teaching. They reap only sin and degradation by their study of the Bhagabata. Their misrepresentations or depraved conduct need not stand in the way of our honest enquiry into the actual doctrines of Srimad Bhagabata in the light of the practice and teaching of Sri Chaitanya and His associates and sincere followers.
Sri Chaitanya has declared that Sri Krishna is served properly only by the denizens and specially the milk-maids of Braja. That it is not possible for anyone who is not perfectly free from sin to realise the nature of such service. It is necessary to pass through a regular course of spiritual training under a good preceptor to be able to understand what it really is and to be able to practise it. By attaining such service we realise the eternal function of our souls. This service cannot be performed by means of this body or mind. It is performed by the pure soul which is absolutely free from all worldly hankerings including the sexual. This service is a matter of spiritual realisation and not of apish imitation with the help of our present ribald imagination. By sincere, that is to say convinced, submission to the rules of spiritual pupillage as laid down in the scriptures and expounded by competent teachers one is enabled to attain to such perfect purity of mind. The Absolute Truth manifests itself of its own accord, for it has the power of taking the initiative, to the mind that is thus purified in the sincere effort of seeking after itself. Absolute purity of the mind is attainable. Relative purity is a delusion and a snare and will not serve the purpose at all. The Bhagabata should never be read without bearing in mind these warnings of the scriptures. Otherwise there will be the absolute certainty of confounding the spiritual with the material and being punished with the acquisition of a positive repugnance for the medicine which alone can heal the distempers of mortality or misapplying the same to one’s utter ruin. It is not the counsel of intolerance or superstitious faith but the highest conclusion of the unbiased reason in its effort to be absolutely loyal to its own constituent principles. The above position has been reached by the proper exercise of rationality which is the one unerring guide of our real self.
The spiritual milkmaids of Braja serve Sri Krishna with all their senses and for His satisfaction alone. Sri Krishna is a real Person. He is the sole Proprietor of everything. We are His property. Our senses are also His property. He has got senses like our souls which are made after His image. Our present material senses are an unwholesome perversion of the reality. At present we want to serve ourselves by means of our senses. What we actually do, although we are not fully conscious of this, is that we only serve our senses because our souls are so constituted that they can offer, but cannot receive, any service. As we cannot serve ourselves if we also do not want to serve Sri Krishna we are thereby reduced to the necessity of self-delusion. In this deluded state we wrongly suppose ourselves to be the proprietors of our senses that is to be like Krishna. This applies equally to either sex. The males as well as the females of this world equally regard themselves as the owners of their senses and their senses as the means of self-gratification. In this sense all of us irrespective of sex are males, i.e. masters or enjoyers in the spiritual sense, although this is a delusion: because by constitution we are not masters but servants. Krishna is the only Master of everything including our souls. This fact is reflected in a perverted way in the principle of sex. We belong to the category of property to which our senses also belong. Hence it is practicable to identify ourselves with our senses in the deluded state of sin and mistake its supposed pleasure as that of ourselves. But as a matter of fact in the spirit there is no dividing line separating the soul from its senses as master from property. All this is only very faintly perceptible to our present reason. In the fallen state we suppose that the senses, conceived as different from ourselves, are pleased if we follow their dictates, again conceived as separate from ourselves, in the exercise of our function of self-consciousness. The milk-maids of Braja are the property of Krishna and are fully conscious of this relationship. This attitude is expressed by saying that they are females. In Braja the males are those who are less spiritual that is to say who are still under partial delusion although in touch with Krishna. The milk-maids of Braja are neither the masters nor the slaves of their senses as we want to be. They are not like our speculative moralists who are engaged in chasing the shadow. They are the only realists. They know which none of us really knows, that everything belongs to Krishna, serves only Krishna and that everything is also privileged to realise that Krishna is its master. This is the purely spiritual state. The milk-maids of Braja alone possess this perfectly pure vision. Therefore they alone are truly females, that is to say, servants of Krishna, realising as they do that nothing including themselves belongs to themselves but that everything, themselves as well as their senses, belongs to Krishna. The empiric moralists overlook the fact that our senses are not really ours. We cannot make our eyes see or our noses to smell. They do not obey us. They obey their real Master to whom alone they belong. Everything is subordinate to Krishna. Everything really ministers only to His pleasure. It is not inconsistent with but the complete fulfilment of the moral principle. The female principle in the form of subordination to the male is a real fact of our spiritual existence. Krishna is the only Male, all the rest of us are females. This is the exact opposite of the current ideal viz. that we are the only males and everything else is female that is to say intended for our enjoyment. The soul functions freely in the realm of the Absolute where it is conscious of its real relationship with Krishna. Its function is crippled, thwarted and distorted the moment it chooses to set up as master on its own account, that is to say wants to play the role of a male. This perverted activity is stopped on all sides by the resistance of the Absolute Truth. It falls out with everything as soon as it falls out with Krishna. In its attempt to enjoy everything it is punished by those very things which serve to lure them to deeper depths of ignorance by a delusive response to their frantic attempts after sensuous gratification. In the normal state those very objects help them in serving Sri Krishna. To sum up the soul retains its natural condition as long as it serves the Absolute with all the resources of the principle of self-consciousness. But its will is free. It may not like to serve the Absolute. This is the abuse of its free choice in as much as it is an offence against the principle of pure reason which also is part and parcel of its eternal nature. In consequence of its choosing deliberately to act in opposition to the dictates of reason the delusion that it is an entity existing independently of Krishna takes firm possession of it. It now finds itself exiled from the realm of the Absolute and functioning in strict subordination to the delusive or material power of Sri Krishna. In this new world the fallen soul tries to please itself with the help of its reason on which it has deliberately put various limitations. Thus is evolved the principle of the false ego (Ahankara).
We are all egotists. When we read the Bhagabata we, therefore, necessarily regard Krishna Himself as an egotist like ourselves seeking after material, sensuous enjoyment by means of His superior powers. To the egotist the service of the milk-maids of Braja, therefore, appears in the guise of the sad lot of the imagined victims of his own unprincipled lust. But the egotist never wants to be the object of another’s enjoyment. This is true both of the female as well as of the male. The suffragettes are not false to their sex. They are only trying to shake off the unnatural domination of persons who do not themselves like to submit to be enjoyed on the pretext of sex. The real fact, however, is that both sexes like to enjoy and not to be enjoyed. They are all males. There are no real females or objects of enjoyment in this world but only a universal hankering for enjoyment. In the spiritual realm Krishna is the sole Enjoyer and everything else an object of His enjoyment. But this arrangement is not the distortion or denial but the fulfilment of all the real wants of the true selves of every object.
As Krishna is the sole Master He is also the only Servant. In the Absolute all ends meet. It is Krishna Who serves Himself and no one can serve Krishna except Himself. It is, therefore, not possible for us either to be masters or servants independently of Krishna. We are Krishna and yet not Krishna. We are of His essence but are not the source of the essence. But although we are of His essence we are liable to be deluded by another power which also belongs to Krishna and which is called by our scriptures by the name of Maya (i.e. by which everything is measured, the principle of limitations). The soul in the pure state is subject to no limitations although it is only a small fraction of the Divine spiritual essence because in the spirit there are no such hard and fast dividing lines enabling it to be measured like material phenomena. This, however, is also liable to be misunderstood. The human soul is a tiny part of the Divine spiritual essence functioning in the realm of the Absolute which is free from limitations but liable to be expelled from the spiritual world if it ever forgets its own littleness and abjures the guidance of Krishna. So long as it chooses to be guided by Krishna it is free from limitations or ignorance.
(To be continued.)