Lila and Arcana

Descriptions of Krsna-lila are attempts to describe dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, madhurya—divine love. They are efforts to put one’s deep spiritual experience into words. One experiences the lila and then one seeks to articulate it.

Even if the details are literally true, they don’t convey the fullness of the divine subjective experience. And different persons describe the same lilas differently. Many of the lilas of the Bhagavatam are found elsewhere and explained with different details. And even with Gaudiya Vaisnavism, the lilas are described with different details by different devotees. The lilas of the Bhagavatam are retold with many different details in Gopal Campu, for example.

Lila is dynamic, not static. But that does not mean that an approximation of the lila has no value for sadhakas. No, while words cannot do justice to one’s experience of lila seva, they nonetheless couch the heart of the experiencer, the advanced devotee. And it is his or her heart that is shared with us in Hari katha, a sharing that has great spiritual efficacy. Thus we should hear from experienced devotees. We may also consider that an approximation of the name—sraddha namabahsa—has spiritual currency. Thakura Bhaktivinode’s sraddha namabhasa matures into suddha nama.

As for arcana marg, the deity is a symbolic representation of Krsna. Arcana is the realm of ritual, where there is a spiritually healthy mixture of matter and spirit. The language and movements are symbolic. We say “idam naivedyam klim krsnaya namah,” when offering food to Krsna. But in lila, Yasoda does not say this when offering Krsna breakfast. His friends don’t say this when offering him fruit from their own mouths.

Prabhupada writes “The eyes which do not look at the symbolic representations [Deity forms] of the Personality of Godhead, Visnu, are like those printed on the plumes of the peacock.” Again he teaches, “We must know that the Vedic sounds recorded in symbolic expressions cannot be understood by anyone within the universe unless and until one is inspired by the vibration of supernatural (aprakrta) sound, which descends in the chain of disciplic succession…”

But of course we also stress that the diety is Krsna himself. That is to say that if we treat this symbolic representation of himself as if he is personally present, we will find that he is. He is not a symbolic representation of an impersonal absolute, but rather a symbolic representation of himself—his person&mdashthat when approached through symbolic language and gesture outlined is sastra reveals himself in full. In other words, he talks back rather than disappearing altogether. So again, the diety is a symbolic representation of the person himself, not of an impersonal absolute.

This text originally appeared as comment on Entering the Flow of Lila.

No one falls from Vaikuntha

We are constituted of the tatastha sakti. Bhakti is constituted of the svaraup sakti. The maya sakti can never overcome the svarupa sakti that governs Krsna-lila. This sakti is so powerful that it even overwhelems Krsna! However, the maya sakti can overwhelm the tatastha sakti. Thus with the ingress of the svarupa sakti (bhakti) into the life of the jiva, maya readily is dispelled and the jiva is in a position to participate in Krsna lila. Such a liberated jiva an never then be influenced by the maya sakti nor is such a jiva even in the proximity of this sakti that has no presence in Krsna lila. Liberated souls are either eternally so (nitya siddha) or those that have attained perfection (sadhana siddha). Nitya siddhas cannot fall by the very nature of their being eternally liberated. And sadhana siddhas cannot fall because among other reasons Krsna repeatedly says that his abode is a place of no return. So there is no one to fall and no influence to present the possibility.

On the material side, Mahavisnu is without beginning (anandi). The world cycles compared to his breaching are also anadi. And thus karma is anadi as well, as it is repeatedly said to be in sastra. Karma is the binding force between the jivas and the maya sakti. In repeating world cycles that have no beginning, karma also has no beginning. If it did, there would be a material world before the influence of karma that was a material world without karma, which makes no sense whatsoever. and to say that Karma begins outside of time, is also only a preaching strategy, for in reality there can be no beginning outside of time, for it is time that marks all beginnings. “Beginning” implies the influence of time. So we follow sastra. It does no matter how appealing or not it may seem. Then again, sometimes in certain circumstances preachers may choose not to tell the student everything at once and thus speak about metaphysical truths provisionally, just as a mother my reply to her child’s question about where she came from by telling her she was dropped of by a big bird in the chimney.

So for preaching sometimes one may speak about suffering in a manner so as to overtly shift the blame from God to ourselves, lest persons blame God. But the fact is that there is no one to blame in that God is doing as God likes and we are also God, being one of his saktis that has no independent existence. This is how to look at it from the abheda (non difference) point of view. From the bhedea (difference) point of view we are failing to choose bhakti and thus we suffer and are the cause of our suffering. And we are both God and not God.

Incidentally, although Prabhupada, following the lead of Bhaktivinode, sometimes spoke as if jivas fall from lila as a strategy for the Wester Christian world, when the subject is addressed directly in Srimad Bhagavatam, he gives the siddhanta, which may not always be one with preaching. In Srimad Bhagavatam Yuddhistira Maharaja states that he cannot believe that souls (Jaya and Vijaya) can fall from Vaikuntha because they are completely under the influence of the illuminating power of the svarupa sakti and nothing is more powerful that this influence, not event the sages curse. He poses his disbelief in the form of a question and then answers his own question. Narada, with whom he is speaking, does not disagree. This is where the question of falling from Vaikuntha is addressed in the text, and in his purport Prabhupada clearly states that “No one falls from Vaikuntha.”

Otherwise we also find throughout the sastra that the souls in this world who are not nitya siddha or sadhana siddha but rather nitya baddha (materially conditioned) emanate from Mahavisnu. Sastra states this again and again. In the Gita, Krsna, speaking as Mahavisnu, says that he is the seed giving father that impregnates the womb of the world. By his glancing the world is manifest as consciousness (tatastha sakti) turns on the machine of material nature.

It is not that Mahavisnu, the oversoul of the world, makes a play out of our suffering. But rather that suffering is an inevitable consequence of his desire to become many. Why? Because he presides over the maya sakti, and when he becomes many the many are faced with its influence. Thus he seeks to remedy to situation by giving the opportunity for bhakti. Had he not desired to become many, what then?

Sometimes when we play, problems arise and we have to deal with them. It is not that Visnu sets up the play of suffering, but rather in the course of his play the problem of our suffering arises. This is the inevitable outcome of minute jivas being in touch with the area of his jurisdiction (maya sakti), that which he oversees. And you can’t do way with the maya sakti anymore than you can do away with God. It is one of his saktis, perhaps his subconscious. So the problem for the jivas arises and he who plays then becomes dutiful, establishing dharma etc. But Brajendranandana Krsna only plays. He has absolutely no duty to perform. It is the Visnu in him that performs this function of establishing dharma, slaying demons and so on. As much as God has no duty to preform is as much as Vraja Krsna is God in the fullest sense of the term. He personally has nothing to do with the cause of our suffering.

See also: Of Power and Play