Developed from Guru Nitya talks given at the Stanford and Portland state university the book represents a study in the universal force of love in two major examples of sacred and prophetic literature: Jayadeva Gita Govinda and the poetry of St. John of the Cross.
The foundation of Guru Nitya approach lies in an exciting at once original unification of eastern meditation practices and western humanistic psychological theory. The outcome is his Love and Devotion, highlighting how the erotic mysticism of Jayadeva and St. John of the Cross exemplify as the two different expressions of the perception of God.
Unlike most works of literary criticism Nitya book present a breadth of understanding that illuminates the text and then extend the meaning of the text in terms of both personal and universal experience. It is essentially a poetic and spiritual treatment of poetic and spiritual themes, for love and devotion is itself a treatise on spiritually.
Nitya Chaitanya Yati: a well known poet, philosopher, mystic, psychologist and author is today one of the leading exponents of Advaita Vedanta and other system of traditional Indian philosophy. He has for long headed the Narayana Gurukula and the east west university of Brahavidya the two institution involved in promoting not only universal values but also a better understanding among people across the continents.
Fully versed in psychology, sociology, biology, psycho-chemistry and other areas of modern academic thinking Guru Nitya is a direct disciple of Nataraja Guru. And thus holds a key position in the spiritual hierarchy of Narayan Guru. In their togetherness these highly enlightened rsis have brought a modern scientific viewpoint to India spiritual and philosophic expressions.
Nitya Chaitanya Yati has written an exciting work of criticism. This volume represents a study in the universal force of love in two major example of sacred and prophetic literature the Gita Govindam and the poetry of St. John of the cross.
The study of sacred and prophetic literature is of increasing concern for in the spiritual testament found in such literature are the record of man encounter with God. These encounters transcend the conventional barriers of economic systems political ideologies color and creed. The study of the universal force of love begins in an understanding of the individual psyche in the symbols which represent the psychic development of the self and extends to the universal psyche represented by anagogic symbolism. Niltya love and Devotion succeeds in bridging the differences between eastern and western spiritual testaments by assuming that the individual response to God is based upon common pattern of experience which are represented in turn by symbols which communicate through time and across cultures.
The foundation of Nitya critical approach lies in an original and exciting unification of eastern meditation practices and western humanistic psychological theory. The result is a book that presents the Gita Govindam and the poetry of St. john of the cross as different expressions of the perception of God.
Most work of literary criticism fail in the final analysis because of the limitations of the critic own intellectual horizons. In love and devotion the reader is presented with a breadth of understanding that illumines the text and then extends the meaning of the text in terms of both personal and universal experience. It is a poetic and spiritual treatment of poetic and spiritual themes for love and devotion in itself a treatise on spirituality.
Of particular interest is the profound understanding of eroticism displayed. There is no evasion of the centrality neither of physical love nor of the inherent contradiction confusions and anxieties of the experience of love. The authenticity of the map of human consciousness found in love and Devotion is striking and valuable. The antiquity of the texts commented upon is rediscovered and the central concerns of man are seen as a continuum. There is no sense of modern knowledge having surpassed ancient learning; the timelessness of sacred and prophetic literature emerges clearly. However contemporary definitions permit the meaning of spiritual poetry to be conveyed simply. Thus the treatment of eroticism placed within the context of psychology provokes moral response. One is left then with a deeper understanding of one individual psychology on multiple planes of moral reference and the sense that one individual consciousness is a dynamic within the greater consciousness discovered by the spiritual testaments which are the heritage of all mankind.
In the Bhakti Sutra of Narada bhakti (devotion) is defined as absolute love in this definition love is qualified with the adjective absolute. This is to distinguish devotion from the several of relativistic love such as in the cases of conditional appreciations sentimental affectations and blind infatuations or various kinds of obligatory relationship that are cultivated between people of the same family tribe clan or other closed groups.
The intense love that is experienced between two persons is called prema in Sanskrit Prema can also be treated as bhakti if its quality is pure ennobling and of self-denial as in devotion.
When we look closely at people spiritual experience of devotion we can see in their affection an undercurrent of erotic pull. This is akin to the affinity that arises between member of the opposite sex an in heterosexual love or the intimacy that grows between member of the same sex as in homosexual love. Such kind of subliminal undertones of the former kind can be seen in the love of Radha and mirabai for Sri Krishna; many Magdalene and St. Teresa for jesus Christ; and Sankara Sri Ramakrishna and Narayana Guru for the Divine mother. The later kind can be seen in love of Ananda for Gautama Buddha Swami Vivekananda for Sri Ramakrishna and St. John of the cross for Jesus Christ.
We are using the word erotic in the sense in which St. Augustine terms it as the dynamic emotional pull that a person feels toward God and not in the vulgarized usage of cheap paperback trading in promiscuous sex. Eugene A. maio, in St. John of the cross: the imagery of Eros syas: in the mysticism of Plotinus Eros designates the universal tendency of all things toward the Good the desire for God. Love is the universal force which prompts all beings to seek its perfection. What Plotinus has done has been to take that blind impetuous sexual passion what plato calls the vulgar Eros and sublimate it into a spiritual desire for God into a heavenly Eros. Love is equally the dominant motif in the writing of John of the cross.”
There is no doubt that love is the most fulfilling and ennobling emotion in man emotion is here to be further qualified as a value oriented dynamic which can bring about a total transformation of the personality. The same in its purest and more intense state leads the lover to the peak experience of beatitude. Ultimately it can effect the total fusion of the lover and the beloved. That state is the same as nirvana kalivalya or mahalaya. Therse terms are equivalent to what is known in Christian mysticism as salvation of deliverance.
Love is usually understood as an emotional state between individuals belonging to a social contex and devotion is looked upon as a religious attitude belonging to an other worldly situation. Both the terms are misunderstood and misused and also used as excuses for various kinds of emotional cover ups and exploration in the present study we want to have closer look at the emotional context of love and present devotion and we want to examine the pure forms of their manifestation. It is with that intention we have chosen four mystical classics written by four great saints.
The saints chosen from the east are sankara (c.788-820 AD) and Sri Jayadeva (12th Century AD) their original works are written in Sanskrit. The saints chosen from the west are St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1581) and St. John of the cross (1542-1591). Even though we wish it very much it is not possible of include all the work of these four great mystics in the present discussion.
In our study we will be mainly focusing our attention on:
1. Saundarya Lahari of Sankara written in C. 810 AD.
2. Gita Govindam of Sri Jayadeva written in 1150 AD.
3. Poems of St. John of the cross written in 1877-89.
4. The interior castle of St. Teresa of Avila written in 1579.
When we think of India philosophy the first name that comes to mind is sanskara. He is more properly called Sankaracarya. The title acaya is equivalent to Guru or preceptor. Sanskara is believed to have been born in 788 AD, in a village called Kaladi in one of the southern states of India which is presently known as Kerala. There is no recorded biography of this great teacher.
According to popular belief he took to the life of a renunciate at the age of five and become an adopted spiritual son of a scholarly saint called Govinda. Govidna was the disciple of gaudapada the author of Mandukya karika. Gaudapada is truly the father of the philosophy of non-dual Vedanta and sankara in his turn became its most forceful exponent.
Sankara impact on posterity was such that no thinker or writer who came after him in India could ignore or be indifferent to Sankara. Most people implicitly follow him. Some others modified or complemented his teaching. The rest criticized him mildly or vehemently and build up their own systems as counterpoint to the basic assumptions of Sankara.
Sankara is said to have commenced his commentaries of the ten major Upanisahds the Brahama sutras and the Bhagavad Gita when he was only twelve years old and complete these monumental work at the age of eighteen. He spent the rest of his life traveling from Kanyakumari to the to the Himalaya and from coast to coast. Everywhere he challenged scholars and corrected false doctrines and set his own personal example of living a simple life of truthfulness and austerity love and compassion and tested the true unitive vision of seeing the visible world as a phenomenal superimposition which is ultimately unreal even though transactional validity of the empirical world hold good.
Sankara died at the early age of thirty two in his last days he composed several devotional hymns. The most outstanding of these compositions is the saundarya Lahari which can be translated either as the Billowy Waves of Beauty or the Ecstatic experience of beauty. Scholar think of this book as a masterpiece in classical Sanskrit poetry. It is highly symbolic. The archetypal mother image in it is used as an edifice on which to sculpt the intricacies of man woman dialectics the virtues and paradoxes of the female psyche and the semantic possibilities and even impossibilities that highlight shades of bliss ranging shades of bliss ranging from simple sensuality to the all consuming conflagration of beauty that is interchangeable with terms like love all consuming conflagration of beauty that is in terchangeable with terms like love total awareness wonder and absolute transcendence.
Saudarya Lahari can be treated as one of the major studies in the Indian approach to aesthetics.
Sri Jayadeva lived in the beginning of the 12th century in Bengal one of the eastern states of India. He was born in Kendoli as the son of Bhojadeva and ramadevi. King lakshmana sena of Bengal honored him by appointing him as his curt poet.
According to lesson Jayadeva wrote his immortal love poem Gita govindam in the year 115 AD. It was a practice in India to suppress the personal details of a saint life in whatever he wrote, and only his works were presented to posterity. Some works of inestimable value are not even signed by their illustrious authors and they remain anonymous.
In the Gita Govindam there is a prelude and twelve section each with an appropriate title. In each section there are several songs. These songs are composed according to classical Indian musical airs called ragas. Both the raga and the rhythmic beat tala of each song are given at the beginning of every song.
A modern student may find it difficult to identify ragas given in Jayadeva Gita Govindam. In the course of several centuries classical music that was passed on orally from generation assumed new name for the ragas. Both Edwin Arnold in his English rendering and lessen in his Latin study admit they could not identify the exact scale of what Jayadeva calls gurjjari. It is possible that this can be a variation of the ragas megha or arabhi we are not sure.
The Gita Govinda combines in it four major attraction such as: passionate love which is at once human and divine rapturous description of beauty musical excellence of free flowing poetry and a profound mystical insight into the passions that enhance the spirit which can be qualified more as a philosophy of the heart than that of the head.
As we already said the highlights of Jayadeva life can be obtained only from legends. According to one legend Jayadeva loved his wife padmavati as Lakshmi the goddess of grace and bounty. Padmavati love for Jayadeva was also unequaled. Everybody praised her virtues. This made king Lakshmana sena queen very led jealous. One when somebody told padmavati that a certain woman burnt herself to death in the funeral pyre of her husband she remarked it was only a case of committing suicide. She held the view that if the wife love for her husband was absolute she would have automatically died on seeing her husband death when the queen came to know of this attitude of padmavati she sent a false message to her that her husband Jayadeva had died. On hearing this padmavati dropped dead on the floor.
The queen became remorseful and brought jayadeva to the tragic scene. Seeing his dead wife Jayadeva became overwhelmed with grief and he sang to Sri Krishna to reunite him with his dear wife. The song revived padmavati. From that day he was venerated by all as a great saint.
In India of course the Ramayana and the universal acclaim as gita Govindam except of course the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is rendered in all of the seventeen major language of India and it has become the epicenter of several artistic creation of music dance and it has become the epicenter of several provoke passions lead to ecstasies and convey the final message to turn to God for never- ceasing happiness.
ST. John of the cross (San Juan de la Cruz):
The family name of St. John of the cross was Juan de yepes. He was born in 1542 in fontiveros a village between Avila and salamaca in spain. His father was a poor weaver. As his father died when John was very young he had the responsibility to help his mother in looking after the family. To make a living he had to assume several roles such as of a painter a carpenter and a tailor. He mother workers at the family looms.
In his adolescence the family moved to Meina del compo where John worked for a hospital that treated syphilitic patients. His duty was mainly begging alms in the streets. This helped him to have his first real education in Jesuit school. He was a brilliant student and became scholarly in latin. At the age of twenty one he took the vows of a Carmelite friar.
The new name John took as a Carmelite friar was juan de Santo Matias. In 1564 he went to the university of Salamanca which in those days was as important as the universities of oxford and paris.
It is presumed that at this time he must have come under the influence of Fray Luis de Leon who was a great humanist and mystical poet. Fray luis was condemned to be imprisoned in a dungeon for translating the Song of Stones directly from the original Hebrew of the old testament. There is no doubt the song of song made a great impression on the mind of John. The erotic images which are so vivid in his Dark night spiritual canticle and the living flame of love are of the same order of Solomon song of songs.
This was the time when St. Teresa of Avila made herself a controversial figure by starting her reform of the Carmelites. John came under the influence of St. Teresa and committed himself fully to her cause in 1568 he took the vows of the reformed Carmelites and changed his name to Juan de is cruz which in English is knows as john of the cross.
St. Teresa was already unpopular and joining with her made john an enemy of the mitigated Carmelites. In December 1577 a gang kidnapped John and put him in a prison in the Carmelites priory in Toledo. His unlit cell was a cupboard. He was subjected to the circular discipline of making him kneel on the ground while the monks walked around him and whipped him on his bare back. This fractured his shoulders and make him a cripple for the rest of his life. His windowless and airless cells was unheated in the winter and it was stiffing in the summer. In august of 1578 he decided to escape from the prison. Miraculously he old get out of his cupboard and he escaped by jumping over a high wall.
When he come out of his prison he wrote the Dark night and this was followed by his other poems except the last stanzas of the spiritual canticle. He wrote most of these during the six months which he spent in El calvario when he went as a fugitive from his prison life.
In all his troubles he received sympathy and encouragement from St. Teresa. But S.t Teresa died in 1582 and her successor was imprisoned. This led to the exile of John. As he fought for the rights of the runs to use the secret ballot to govern themselves democratically john was stopped of all officer and he was exiled.
He enemies used blackmail and other dirty tricks against him to prove that he was a vicious man and accused him to kissing a run through the grill of a window. He was treated with great hostility. A cancerous ulcer ate away a large part of his body and the died at midnight on December 14, 1591.
Even after his death his body was not allowed to rest. Because the people in the town of Ubeda considered him to be a saint a mob entered the convent and tore away from his body his cltothing bandages and even flesh. Nine months after his burial as the township of sagovia wanted his corpse his body was dug up. It is reported that at that time a sweet aroma came from his body. The was held as a proof of his saintliness. He was canonized in 1726. His body was again cut into pieces. A leg was given to Ubeda and an arm was sent to Madrid and the fingers are kept in other holy places. His first multilation came from his enemies and his second mutilation came from his devotees.
St. John of the cross is considered to be one of the greatest poets of spain. He combines in his poetry the poetic tradition of the Italian the Spanish the portugese and the Hebrew. It is difficult to find in Christian literature any work that is more human in the expression of love than that of St. John of the cross considering the puritanical tone of the Christian approach to spiritual love it is inconceivable that anyone could write like St. John especially in the mid sixteenth century when the Church was most fanatical in its dogmatism. Amazingly the spiritual canticle even corresponds to the spirit in which the Gita Govinda was written by Jayadeva.
In the present study we are confining our attention only to the Dark Night the spiritual canticle and the living flame of love. These poems are very exhaustively commented on by the author himself. Our main interest is to study the psychological image theses poem these make on the mind of the reader and to correlate the salient feature of conjugal love that is experienced between man and woman and spiritual love which manifests between man and god.
For a proper semantic of the poems of St. John of the cross one should know the sublte implications of the original poems in the Spanish language with its several shades of poetic allusions and its musical nuances. Unfortunately we have to content ourselves with its English version. We do not know how much we miss when our understanding of the Spanish language is next to nothing.
St. Teresa of Avila:
St. Teresa was born as the third daughter of Don Alonso sanchez de capeda b his second wife dona beatriz davile y Ahumeda. She was born march 28, 1515 at Avila in Spain.
William james in The Varieties of Religious Experience writes she (St. Teresa) has a power intellect of the practical order. She wrote admirable descriptive psychology possessed a will equal to any emergency great talent for politics and business a buoyant disposition and a firs rate literary style. She was tenaciously aspiring and put her whole life at the service of her religious ideals.
When we hear this description form one of the father of modern psychology it is hard to believe she was an invalid in her prime of youth and when was even physically paralyzed until the summer of 1542 when she was twenty seven from a woman with such a zest for politics and such a fighting temperament one certainly would not expect the manifestation of a pure humble saint of absolute dedication who would have such an unblemished mind to merge with the divine and be lost to the external world as she herself describes in the fifth mansion of the interior castle.
St. Teresa fight with the church to reforms the Carmelites and how after bitter opposition from several powerful opposition from several powerful opponents she finally succeeded in obtaining recognition for her reform and the Discalced Carmelites by a Bull of pope Gregory XIII in 1580 is well known to everyone. She died on October 4, 1582 at Alba de Tormes.
What is most interesting in St Teresa life is the glaring contradiction of her down to earth pragmatic approach to obtain what she wanted for the safe guarding of her ideals and her institution and the other wordy mysticism in which she resembles oriental yogis like Mira Bai and Sri Ramakrishna.
In our study we have chosen the interior castle for the reason that it comes nearest to the vision of the supreme descried in oriental books like yoga Vasishta of Valamiki Bhagavad Gita of Vyasa and Saundarya a Lahari of Sankara.
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