The Poetry of the Bhagavatam

Q. You once said that sometimes poetic descriptions are used in the Bhagavatam. For example, a man with a thousand arms may be a poetic way of describing a big person. How then should we approach the sacred literatures: literally or symbolically?

A. How can a book of poetry be without this? We should try to find the philosophical message in each episode of the Bhagavata first. Later we may live in the poetic Bhagavata world. For preaching it is important to focus on the tattva of the treatise. If people are not able to fathom descriptions of persons with ten heads, and so on, we should not be concerned as much about convincing them of this as we are about other philosophical issues like sense control, the primacy of consciousness, etc.

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Tattva-sandarbha address, Part 1

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Part 1 of a talk on “Tattva-sandarbha:Jiva Goswami’s Philosophy of Ecstasy” given in the summer of 1996. The author was invited by Gaia, one of the leading spiritual bookstores on the West coast, to discuss his new title. The talk was given to a rapt, overflow audience of Berkeley students, intellectuals and seekers.[/box]

We yearn for unity, but we also yearn for diversity. So if we move from one polar opposite to the other, is this uncommon knowledge? To deny diversity in the name of unity is a shallow idea of unity. In musical terminology, we see harmony. What is harmony? Is it one note? No, it is many notes. The more notes that are harmonized, the better. It is one song, but it is full of many notes. So, systems of thought, like Adwaita Vedanta, say that relative to this one note, you and I, we are all that thing and that’s the end of the story. Jiva Gosvami says, that’s true, we are that, but there’s a whole lot more to the story. And this more makes for a truth that is inherently beautiful, a truth that we can live in and easily embrace.

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