It was a nice lecture Tripurari Swami’s last night. And then this morning everyone went back for an informal question and answers type of talk.
Swami said some interesting things. I can see how his well thought out views, combined with a soft-spoken style of presentation, makes him one of the most celebrated preachers in the field today. Well, at least around Iskcon related audiences it is clear he makes an instant impression. Indeed, he is in town for the second time since a year ago and the attendance has grown nearly one hundred per cent since. Enthusiastic reviews of his previous visit clearly contributed to a larger interest in his presence in the community this second time around. “I only go where I am invited to”, Swami said at the end of this morning’s talk. Thus he has never been, and is not going to be in Alachua just yet, he announced. Alachua is only a nine hours drive from North Carolina. Too bad for me I suppose - I will be in Alachua next week and would not mind hearing Swami speak yet again. Who knows, maybe he would speak on an entire new topic, or offer an entire new angle on some threaded, rehashed issues.
On symbolism and Krsna lila, Swami said this morning that it is unavoidable that we will project symbolic meanings into a world beyond intellectuality. Acaryas such as Sanatana Goswami too questioned the lila in the same way or even more intently - these were highly intellectually inclined personalities. But they were primarily bhaktas, and they worked their intelligence into the essence of these narrations and brought their refined understanding back to us. So intelligence is necessary but, intellect is a razor’s edge that can greatly help just as it can greatly harm, he added. He sees that some devotees have difficulties in their spiritual lives precisely due to too great intellectual activity. He explained that intelligence is a part of ego that has to be left behind just as any other part. Human life means freedom - freedom from lower consciousness into the portal to experiencing love. We are humans not because of reason but because of love. As humans we are given a chance to love, a chance to freedom. And with freedom come the taking of risks and also responsibility. Thus we submit to the laws of God and nature, not by force but by choice, by the volunteer movement of love. “We must not go out and bump others because we are devotees – because we are more ‘advanced’”, he advised. We must not think that we are in a movement to make devotees, but that we have been put in a position where we are in such a need that we go out to find in others that which will make us into the devotees we aspire to be. So Bhakti is not about law, but volunteer movement of the soul. From this feeling towards bhakti there will be submission to guru. “I must have a guru”. This understanding will come from a desire to be giving, to be of the quality of those who have that which we aspire for, not from a calculated acceptance of rules.
Mahaprabhu came to begin a revolution, and we come to Mahaprabhu because we want a revolution. We want to reform the concept of love from Paramatma to Radha-Govinda. We want to make our heart soft, still we abide by strict rules. It seems contradictory but those whose intelligence is guided by faith can understand how this works. Mahaprabhu established Srimad Bhagavatam as the ‘New Testament’. Until the Bhagavat, humanity related to God as Paramatma. Na dhanaM na janaM na sundarIM kavitAM vA jagad-Iza kAmaye mama janmani janmanIzvare bhavatAd bhaktir ahaitukI tvayi.
So, Mahaprabhu brings us to a crossroads. We now have a chance to go beyond human interests into the world of pure love. We are no longer interested in pursuing perfection in human experience -dhanam, janam, sundarim, comfort, understanding and relationships. We will touch the divine by dislodging Paramatma in the heart so to make space for Radha-Govinda. “How will we be guided then if we are no longer in contact with Paramatama?”, someone asked. The answer was, guidance then comes in the heart through the manifestation of antaryami. From this presence of Krishna a different kind of intelligence comes into play. Intelligence is then spiritualized, functioning under the jurisdiction of the heart, of sradha. From such position one will understand shastra progressively. In such a position one will be nipuna, brilliant in understanding, creative in presentation, a scriptural genius. Understanding of shastra then will not be limited but expansive and comprehensible, not intellectual and reasanable only, but mystical in nature, capable of transformation and revolution. This has been shown by our acaryas.
Intelligence rooted in faith may appear to some as arrogance and pride. Such misunderstanding of the devotee’s words and actions can come from intellectual activity taking precedent over faith.