Does ISKCON promote subtle emotional enjoyment in the name of spiritual enjoyment?

by Chaitanya Charan dasDecember 18, 2013

From Mrigank Sharad

Gita condemns sensual enjoyment, but
does repeatedly talk about some kind of ‘spiritual enjoyment’,
like in chapter 6, many times the bliss of associating with brahman has
been stated. while iskcon tries to discourage gross sensual enjoyment, but it in
factpromotes some kind of subtle sensual enjoyment. Mind is a subtle
sense and
emotional thoughts about love and affection are like subtle sense
gratification. It makes one crave for others’ association’ and imposes a
feeling of attachment. Like, I was listening to one of the ISKCON sanyasis
at Chicago temple:  ” when you go to Krishna , he will welcome you, will
give you a hug, will play with you’… these sound like promoting subtle
sense-gratification, like the thoughts of emotional dependence
on some one. you may feel that i am questioning the concept of bhakti it
self, and am sounding more like adwaitis ( or mayavadis)). But these are
logic questions. I have not read any of their books. If i try to observe
what my mind is doing by thinking the way this prabhu thinks, i am just
allowing my mind to enjoy subtle pleasures , at the emotional level .   And
some people may get intoxicated with this kind of feelings.

Answer Podcast

Transcription: Sudha Mehta

Question:  Does ISKCON promote subtle emotional enjoyment in the name of spiritual enjoyment

Answer: Yes it’s definitely possible that in the name of spiritual enjoyment one may be just having some sort of emotional feelings, emotional enjoyment, which may not be spiritual and that is why the scriptures are very clear in saying that

Shruti, Smriti, purana adi
Panchratri vidim vina
ekantiki harer bhakti
utpatayeva kalpate

That Bhakti which is not based on scriptures may lead to social disruption “utpata” but at the same time scriptures do talk about  spiritual  emotions. In fact at many places in the Bhagwad Gita also Krsna talks about the joy of remembrance he says in 10.11 in the Bhagvad Gita “Tushyanthi chramanti cha” that the devotees delight in remembering me and “ramanti” the word “raman” is always used in the vedic scriptures in the context of the male female attraction “ramanti cha” “Radha Ramana” as Krsna is said “Sita Ramana” is also used for Lord Ram so the “raman” is used in that context quite often.

Now we need to understand that the mind along with all its emotion is at the intersection between gross matter and spirit or matter and spirit because mind is subtle matter so gross matter is on the lower side and spirit is on the higher side. Now the emotions that come in our mind at our present state is largely material because they are caused by material stimuli and they result in material responses but matter and material realm does not have a monopoly on emotions that means all emotions don’t have to be material there can be spiritual emotions also. Infact if we look at the Gita’s conceptions clearly. The mind is also considered to be apara prakriti. The mind is also incenshuand (Word not sure)

It is not that mind is the Source of the emotions it is a tool of emotions. Just as we see without eyes we feel with the mind but where do the feelings come from? It is not that the sight comes from the eyes. Sight come from the soul similarly feelings ultimately come from the soul so at the very least we can be open to the understanding that there can be spiritual emotions.

Now Krsna doesn’t only talk about spiritual bliss only on terms of association with Brahman. He talks about Brahman for example he says in 6.27 and 6.28 in that section he says that from 6.22 it starts

Sukham atyantikam ya tad
Buddhi Grahyam atindriyam

Sukham atyantikam the ultimate happiness he is telling and then

Yunjann evam sadatmanam
Yogi Vigata Kalmashah
Sukhena Brahma sam sparsham
atyantam sukham asnute
Bhagvad Gita  – 6.28

That by contact with Brahma that sukha comes and he says atyantam Sukham this is the supreme happiness and the same sequence goes on and Krsna says or clarifies what that Brahma samsparsham means in 6.30 he says

Yomam pasyati sarvatra
Sarvam ca mayi pasyati
tasyaham na pranasyami
sa ca me na pranasyati

That “yo mam pasyati sarvatra” that one “who sees me everywhere and sees everything in me” so Krsna is not saying that this is something like impersonal bliss he is saying that it is personal and reciprocal “mam pasyati sarvatra” so that way Krsna is talking about something very pure and spiritual in terms of personal vision of him everywhere and then he says 6.31

Sarva bhuta sthitam yo mam
bhajaty ekatvam asthitah
sarvatra vartamano ‘pi
sa yogi mayi vartate

…….. one who sees the oneness between me and the all-pervading super soul such a person is actually the perceiver of the highest truth top most yogi and is well situated, is situated in me. So the point is Bhagavad Gita talks about progression in which it is not that the bliss of  with Brahman is considered to be the Ultimate actually it also talks about associating with the personal Bhagwan that is also considered blissful so it is true that when he hear the pastimes of Krsna we may experience something like material emotions only subtle material emotions that means when a mother hears about Krsna’s childhood pastimes how much Yashoda maiyya loves Krsna and how Krsna drinks her blessed milk and performs mischievous activities then she may feel maternal affection which is not dissimilar from the affection that she feels for her own children so is this material or spiritual? It depends. If this sort of emotion is divorced from any process of purification, then it can largely be material. In general when we hear any story for example when people watch a movie at that time in the movie they identify with the hero or heroine and that is why when the hero is embracing the heroine people whistle because they think if I was in the place of hero it would be so nice but in the case of pastimes of Krishna, we may also identify with the hero and say I am so great and I am enjoying over here but actually if we understand properly but we will identify not with Krishna but with the devotees of Krsna. This differences will very strikingly come out in Krsna’s Madhurya rasa past times because if we identify with Krsna’s in material sense that will trigger lust in our hearts but if we identify with Krsna spiritually in the sense that we identify ourselves as the devotee of Krsna then we will see how much Krsna is loving his devotees? and by that way we will also be purified purified in the sense we will also feel inspired to enter Krsna’s world of love and we will want to give up the material emotions the sensual emotions that will keep us away from that love and we will want to focus on pure spiritual emotions that attract us towards that love that will take us into the world of love. So that’s why philosophy is very important. And with that we can differentiate between material and spiritual emotions Krsna in 4.9 Bhagavad Gita says

Janma karma ca me divyam
Evam’ yo veti tatvattah
Tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘Arjuna 

so he says one has to know the tattvataha means of the truth. So philosophical understanding is important of the Janma and Karma of Krsna then we will attain him. So now what happens in our case or in the case of those who do not have a very clear philosophical understanding and feels emotions about Krsna So the Bhagavatam also describes

gopyah kamad bhayat kamso
dvesac caidyadayo nrpah
sambandhad vrsnayah snehad
yuyam bhaktya vayam vibho
Srimad Bhagvatam 7.1.31

So gopyaha kama so gopis were attracted to Krsna out of Kama now this Kama is often translated as lust but it just indicates a strong desire. Now it is described that the Gopis were in different categories so some Gopis were eternal associates of Krsna who had descended from the spiritual world and their attraction for Krsna was entirely pure and transcendental but some other women may have been just attracted to Krsna because he is was attractive good looking but if that inspires them to render devotional service to Krsna and that inspires them to redirect their love from material things to Krsna and if their initial emotional attraction becomes a stimulation, the stimulus for activating the process of purification for starting the process of Bhakti Yoga by which we redirect our desires from material realm to spiritual, then even that initial emotional attraction is not wrong it can be desirable but in other cases one hear about the pastimes of Krsna with the Gopis and think ok I will also enjoy like that with the opposite sex over here and thinks this is what actually Krsna is doing and I am doing the same. If god can do that I can also do that then that will lead to adharma and that is definitely undesirable. So at our level when we hear about Krsna’s pastimes we don’t have to do a hair splitting analysis of whether the emotion is just material or spiritual we have to focus on whether that emotion is anukool or pratikool to my bhakti. If that emotion, it may be at my level a material emotion, but if that emotion can inspire me to become more dedicated to the process of Bhakti then it will be eventually expressed as pure spiritual emotion even if right now it is some what material so that means material and spiritual can be based on two kinds of analysis one is what is the level of our consciousness? so that is based on our consciousness like a mother is primarily attracted to her child and when she hears about Krsna’s pastimes she also thinks in those terms only so based on our level of consciousness we can say that these are material emotions and then there can be spiritual emotions for those who are in love with Krsna and that is one way of analysing and by this way of analysing we can see that our emotions are material only and another way of analysing is  What is the source of those emotion? If that source is spiritual that source is Krsna then emotional connection with Krsna can be said to be spiritual because they are stimulated. And for those spiritual emotions to be sustainable and transformational those emotions should act as kindles for inspiring our practice of Bhakti and therefore what is being promoted by the descriptions of Lord’s intimate pastimes is not just a subtle emotional kind of enjoyment.  There may be some subtle emotional kind of enjoyment but that subtle emotional kind of enjoyment is just the beginning, just to give us a glimpse of what awaits us at the spiritual level when we become purified and when we return back to Krsna. Is this talking about independent emotional dependence? Not necessarily. Actually there is dependence,  there is independence and there is interdependence So in this material world in our relations there is dependence “ I scratch your back and you scratch my back” In the Brahman level there is independence “atamaramas ca munayo” Sukhadeva Goswami was atamaram not needing anyone else but the Bhagvatam says that although he was atmaram what happened

Suta Uvaca
atmaramasca munayo
nirgrantha apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukimbhaktim
ittham-bhuta-guno harih
(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.10)

He says one who is independent what happens to such a person nirgrantha he was completely free from all attachments urukrame and that Lord who performs wonderful pastimes what happens to him Kuruvanty ahaitukim he started to perform unmotivated devotional servive Bhakti why? itham bhuthau guno Hari such are the wonderful qualities of Krsna so yes the path of Bhakti talks about the  higher kind of dependence and that is interdependence.

In the spiritual world the Lord can be happy on his own as the Lord is atmaram and the pure spiritualist can also be satisfied independently but both choose interdependence over independence both choose the ecstasy of Love over the passivity of non dualism and that is what makes the transcendental realm supremely relishable and that the God does not delight in his supremacy nor does the soul delight in his autonomy both put aside their supremacy and autonomy so that there can be love eternal.

Thank you. Hare Krishna.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan das

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