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Home » featured, philosophy

Entering the Flow of Lila

Submitted by on August 15, 2017 – 12:30 am33 Comments

By Swami B. V. Tripurari

Lila, or divine play, is a philosophical/theological necessity arising out of metaphysical worldviews such as Sri Caitanya’s acintya-bhedabheda, as well as other Vaishnava interpretations of revelation/Vedanta. Lila also plays a prominent though secondary role in Advaita Vedanta, where the divine play of Godhead is said to be a manifestation of ultimate reality in this world that does not endure in liberation.

The Bhagavata itself is decidedly theistic and embraces a post-liberated life of participation in lila with God as its end (prema prayojana), thus it was firmly embraced by Sri Caitanya. Although Krishna lila as depicted in the text represents an impression of the nature and basic structure of his transcendental lila, it at the same time represents an approximation of the lila, for Krishna lila lies beyond the scope of thought and language. Suffice to say that God plays; God celebrates himself and thus dances out of fullness. The nature of his static (unchanging/passive) reality is that it is simultaneously dynamic (active). Thus in various forms, his reality overflows into the world of our experience, and sacred texts such as the Bhagavata try to capture and relate to us the essence of that expression. While Krishna lila refers specifically to the romantic, carefree life of svayam bhagavan, in a broader sense it refers to all forms of divine lila on the part of the various Vishnu avataras. Allegory may play a role in describing such divine expressions, but the lila itself is an ontological reality.

In some respects the descriptions of lila need not be taken literally, for the experience of lila transcends any attempt to describe it. However, the descriptions of lila represent the bhava of devotees immersed in love of God, their attempts to describe their experience. People sometimes question if the lila is real as described. It is as real as the bhava of the devotee who experiences and describes it, and bhava is about as real as one can get.

However, most important in all of this is entering the flow of the lila oneself. Dhara means stream, and the name Radha, in which the same syllables are found in reverse, implies that the stream of love of God flows two ways: from Bhagavan to bhakta and from bhakta to Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the ocean of rasa and the bhakta is a drop, which the stream of love—best exemplified by Radha—connects to the ocean of rasa. Love, giving, is at the heart of lila. Give yourself and try to enter the stream of love—Radha Bhagavatam, Srimad Bhagavatam. Taking the description of lila in the text literally may be helpful in this pursuit, in bhajana. No harm. Our interest is in jnana sunya bhakti, unencumbered by knowledge or the need to know, and for that matter, to love is to know in the full sense of the term.

33 Comments »

  • Ishan das

    Dear Swami Tripurari,

    This present article, like your Speech of the Spirit, holds the fragrance of the essence of condensed nectar.

    It is very exciting in that it gives hints of a vision of horizons beyond my pervue. And at the same time disquieting in that it shakes some of my fragile conceptions.

    In some of our literary heritage, such as Ujjvala Nilamani, and other works, we have descriptions that give me more of feeling for the personalities of the nitya siddhas, their intimate dealings with Krishna, as well as Krishna’s extreme vulnerability in relation with those who are embodiments of love for Krishna. And I begin to think, “Aha, so that’s how it is….. how wondrous, how beautiful…”. And I aspire to hold onto the flavor of these descriptions as I embark on a new day of simple duties, as these remembrances afford the tiniest subtle insulation from the onset of disparagement at the effect of the ever-present flow of dualites of everyday life.

    I reach out to these impressions, like a drowning man whose fingertips can just barely feel the touch of the life preserver floating on the surface of the waves.

    But here you are raising the topic of allegory, of approximation,… “Although Krishna lila as depicted in the text represents an impression of the nature and basic structure of his transcendental lila, it at the same time represents an approximation of the lila, for Krishna lila lies beyond the scope of thought and language.”

    My thought has been, up to this point, that although “Krishna lila lies beyond the scope of thought and language.”, that persons like, say, Maharaja Pariksit, can actually enter into a transcendental experience of those lila through the process of aural receptivity. And therefore, how to reconcile your guidance with respect to “approximation” with the living first hand experience that such descriptions can deliver?

    So as you encourage us to “Give yourself and try to enter the stream of love”….and…. “Taking the description of lila in the text literally may be helpful in this pursuit..”, is it not that these two pieces of advice are in actuality one and the same, that the more we fully embrace these descriptions, the more we will find ourselves in that stream?

    Is it possible that behind your presentation lies a hint of a “preaching strategy” so as to make the nectar of Krishna lila accessable to the taste buds of the intellectually inclined cerebral cortex of your western audience?

  • Ishan das

    Dear Swami Tripurari,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!

    I have been giving a lot of thought to your article during the day and have read it several times. There are aspects that I find very attractive. There are some sentences that are beyond my capacity to comprehend, intellectually. And there are statements that I find very disturbing.

    “Although Krishna lila as depicted in the text represents an impression of the nature and basic structure of his transcendental lila, it at the same time represents an approximation of the lila, for Krishna lila lies beyond the scope of thought and language.”

    Such an idea has never been presented as a problem before. We have the Deity forms of Radha and Krishna. These are based upon the descriptions that we derive from our scriptures like Brahma Samhita and Srimad Bhagawatam. And we are encouraged to offer the arotik paraphernalia with full confidence that we are engaging in direct worship of God. And furthermore that that God can speak with us.

    Similarly we are told that the self-realized souls are engaged 7/24 in proclaiming the glories of Krishna in terms of the very statements of shastra that you are evaluating as “represents an approximation of the lila.”

    Why is it that “Krishna lila lies beyond the scope of thought and language.”? We have always been taught that by applying our minds to the descriptions of lila as they are presented in sastra, with faith and devotion, that we will have realization of the contents.

    As I say, these kinds of considerations have never occurred to me before. I have simply taken the whole presentation of Krishna Consciousness as the Absolute Truth, because it was presented as such by someone who had unfathomable conviction based on realization. And he has promised that by faithful application of the process, the whole thing will come into focus as reality. And that as realization grows, these very descriptions that you say are “approximations” will actually become more and more attractive, until we become mad after hearing and chanting them.

    Prabhu, my heart-felt feeling is that your understanding of Krishna Consciousness is many lfetimes ahead of my own. But your statements, or my inability to understand them properly, is very disturbing to me. Perhaps you can say something that will remove my confusion.

    • Dear Ishan,

      You wrote,

      Why is it that “Krishna lila lies beyond the scope of thought and language?” We have always been taught that by applying our minds to the descriptions of lila as they are presented in sastra, with faith and devotion, that we will have realization of the contents.”

      One of Krishna’s names is Adhoksaja, which means, as Srila Prabhupada explains many times, beyond the scope of the mind and senses, or sometimes, he says, beyond the scope of the mind and language. Sometimes, borrowing, I believe, from Srila Jiva Goswami, he explains adhoksaja as not knowable by everything from “a” to “ksa,” ksa being the last compound in the Sanskrit alphabet (this corresponds to our
      “everything from A to Z.” As Krishna is thus transcendental, so is his lila.

      You also wrote,

      I have simply taken the whole presentation of Krishna Consciousness as the Absolute Truth, because it was presented as such by someone who had unfathomable conviction based on realization. And he has promised that by faithful application of the process, the whole thing will come into focus as reality.

      We can rely, indeed, on the absolute truth of such descriptions. That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that they’re empirically verifiable physical reality, as are the things we experience in our everyday lives. They’re more real than that. They constitute what Srila Sarasvati Thakura sometimes called real reality, rather than apparent reality. The confusion we experience is in the way we understand these things. We are meant for constant progress, which means progress on the path to realization of these things.

      • Ishan das

        Hare Krishna! my dear Babhru!

        As I have just written to our dear Swami Tripurari, (and I hope you look though that) my main concern was that unschooled readers might unknowingly misconstrue the intended meaning of the “word” approximation”.

        Viz., what we have here is “dynamic approximation” as opposed to “static approximation”.

        The Deity form in the temple is not static approximation. Rather it is a dynamic approximation, in that He can walk, talk, and reveal Himself to the realized devotee in unlimited ways.

        Also Nama as “Krishna” meaning all-attractive, is not a static approximation of God as all-attractive, but rather an unlimited dynamic approximation through which one can literally enter into the unlimited spiritual realm of qualities, forms, and lila of the Absolute.

        In the same way, authoritative presentations of lila are not static approximations, but rather are dynamic approximations, dynamic windows of sound, through which one can enter into the unlimited kaliedescopic manifestations of the Absolute within the spiritual dimension of reality.

        That is like E = mc squared, wherein a tiny piece of radioactive metal that one can hold in one’s hand can level, say, a city like New York. We can say “powerful”. That is an approximation. But when that power is released we have more of an appreciation.

        My understanding that this power potential of the atomic bomb, is insignificant relative to the power potential of the literary description of lila as presented by the realized scientist of Krishna Consciousness. And therefore to simply describe that literary presentation as approximation may not necessarily inform the unschooled reader about the spiritually dynamic unlimited potential of such presentations.

        As you write, such things are not “empirically verifiable physical reality”. Rather, as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada has written:

        “People are so much apt to indulge in transitory speculations even when they are to educate themselves on a situation beyond their empiric area or experiencing jurisdiction…….no clue of which could be discerned by moving earth and heaven through their organic senses.”

        However, this life is the laboratory for the discovery of the Absolute. The procedural textbooks have been written, and the acaryas walk the talk. The Price for realization is that the student has to place himself in the crucible of procedural practice until all impurities are burnt off and the luminous resplendent qualities of the soul become manifest for direct experience. And every man must prove it for himself.

        Just having a bit of fun with words with my godbrother Babhru. So happy you’re there. Obeisances from all sides. Ishan

  • Ishan das

    Again, in connection with vibrating the maha mantra, we do not say that the senses are material and the sound they are making is material, and therefore this sound can only be an approximation, some form of referring to the nature of the Absolute.

    Rather, we say that this sound vibration is completely spiritual. In fact, that this sound vibration is directly God Himself and His internal potency.

    Further, we say that there is no difference between the name, the form, the qualities and the pastimes, or lila of the Absolute. And that by chanting these names we will become purified and have realization of direct connection with God, Krishna, and even enter into those lila through the sound vibration of those names.

    And we say that if one thinks that such statements of the glories of the holy name are an exageration, then that is an offense to the holy name of God.

    In the same context, we have the book bhagawat and the person bhagawat. And the book tells us that by regular hearing of the book and regular service to the pure devotee all material impurity will be removed from the heart and one will become established in pure devotion to Krishna.

    That book tells us that when the pure devotees vibrate the descriptive glorification of the Supreme Lord, their sound vibration is tinged with the saffron dust particles coming from the lotus feet of God. To think of this sound vibration as material sound goes against our metaphysical understanding. And to think of the expressions of the pure devotee as material also goes against our philosophy.

    So when you write that “Krishna lila lies beyond the scope of thought and language.”, it may very well be that the spiritually unpurified mind and heart cannot enter into the lila by hearing the descriptions left to us by the pure devotees. But the short-coming is not in the thoughts and language employed by the realized souls, but rather, in the inability of the soul, subject to the influence of material nature, to properly “hear” the shabda brahman, the transcendental sound vibration, which is perfect and complete, and in no way deficient in its ability to convey and absorb the senses of the purified soul in the full effulgent experience of the transcendental lila of the Absolute.

    Therefore the language is not deficient as a medium, even though the senses may be deficient in power of receptivity. That very language that impurified senses may regard as material sound vibration is in fact cent percent spiritual sound, requalified by the experience and presentation of the requalified senses of the enlightened soul in relation to the Absolute context of Reality.

    Maharaja, I do not doubt your understanding of these ideas, but think that you are realized in them. But your written words, or my misunderstanding of them compells me to make these assertions strongly, because if these concepts are not enshrined on the altar of my heart, then my tiny life of useless insignificance ceases to have any meaning or shelter.

    Please do not be offended by my assertions. I see you as the foremost, if not the only, real representitive of His Divine Grace, A. C. Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhupada, in this world today. And I hunger for your association and good wishes for my spiritual advancement. Please don’t kick me away. Ishan

  • Gurunistha dasa

    Very Nice article. I especially appreciated this short sentence:
    “Bhava is about as real as one can get.”

    • Ishan das

      Dear Gurunistha Prabhu,

      Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!

      Please define “bhava” for me. Then please elaborate on “bhava is about as real as one can get.” What does this mean to you? Can you put it in different words so that perhaps I can understand the intention here?

      I do not experience “bhava”. The best I ever do with my sadhana is to feel the evaporation of anxiety, and a degree of peacefulness. And since I am chronically in anxiety, I keep coming back for more, like getting another “fix”.

    • B.Govinda Ram dasa

      Hari Hari Gurunista prabhu, your spot on with your comment on the realism of Bhava.

  • Ishan das

    ” Give yourself and try to enter the stream of love—Radha Bhagavatam, Srimad Bhagavatam. Taking the description of lila in the text literally may be helpful in this pursuit, in bhajana. No harm.”

    The above sentence implies that we have a choice – to take the description of lila literally, or not to take it literally. If one has no first hand experience of lila, and chooses not to take the discription of the lila in the text literally, then what kind of bhajana is that?

    That was the teaching of Neem Karoli Baba, who taught that we do bhajan based on these descriptions – until we have realization that we are God, after which we do not have to do bhajan any longer.

    Some Buddhist sects do a similar orientation in bhajan. They also say “no harm” as they believe that in the ultimate issue it is all sunya, void. But they accept that the bhajan is useful for attaining the void. Therefore they say, “no harm”.

    Why not write:

    ISVARA PARAMA KRISHNA
    SAT CHIT ANANDA VIGRAHA

    and,

    ALOLA-CANDRAKA-LASAD-VANAMALYA-VAMSI etc.
    Translation:
    “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, round whose
    neck is swinging a garland of flowers beautified
    with the mooon-locket, whose two hands are adorned
    with the flute and jewelled ornaments, who always
    revels in pastimes of love, whose graceful three-
    fold-bending form of Syamasyndara is eternally
    manifest.”

    and follow it up with,

    “And if you don’t take it literally, then there is no way you will ever enter into the lila of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Big harm!”

    You have written: “Taking the description of lila in the text literally may be helpful in this pursuit, in bhajana. No harm.”

    So I have to ask, if our goal is to enter into Krishna’s lila, how helpful will it be to us to engage in bhajana if we don’t take it literally? If we don’t take it literally, how can we give our heart to such descriptions? If we don’t embrace these descriptions as the Absolute Truth, what will induce Krishna to reveal Himself to us?

    Again, I am apprehensive that my words will invoke your rejection, but if I have understood you correctly, then I am compelled to take that chance. My only hope is that you are you are trying to make it easier for the faithless to enter into the spirit of Krishna Consciousness. Even then, I question this approach.

    • Ishan dasa,
      When I say that descriptions of Krsna-lila are approximations I mean they 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 that from a particular perspective—(dasya, sakhya, etc.). 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. While you can say they were experienced differently by different devotees or that they are not bound by history to repeat themselves in exactly the same way, but this is really only saying what I am saying. 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 lia 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 e Supreme. ”

      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—that 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.

      • Ishan das

        Dear Tripurari Swami

        Please accept my humble obiesances.

        Thank you for your kind and patient explanations.

        As you write, “Lila is dynamic, not static”, and have also explained that these lila will be experienced differently by different realized devotees, and therefore “couched” differently when described in the literary medium by these different devotees…
        so also I have been assuming that each realized devotee will experience a given literary portrayal of lila from his/her unique angle of vision.

        In this sense, not only is the lila dynamic and not static, but the written protrayal of that lila is not limited to what those words would indicate to one who reads those words from a materially conditioned perspective.

        Just as all of the lila are potentially contained within the vibration of Nama, and just as you write that the Deity form of Krishna “… 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.”

        Therefore when you use the words, “approximations” I become concerned that the unschooled reader may take this word “approximation” in the mundane sense, in the static sense. But as you explain, although the “symbolic presentation” of the Deity may appear to be static, in actuality that presentation is so much more. And, so much more can be experienced by one who approaches that seemingly static presentation with faith and devotion under superior guidance. In the same way, then, the apparently static verbal description of lila coming from realized souls can be entered into and experienced dynamically by one who approaches those words with the requisite faith and devotion.

        And therefore although one may say description of lila is “approximation”, that description is also a spritually dynamic window into the spiritual world through which each mature devotee will obtain a unique experience of vision. It is that qualification of the word “approximation” that I was wishing you to bring out more empahatically, as opposed to the mundane, more static sense of the word. And I believe you have done that most authoritatively.

        Again I sincerely thank you for your kindness in addressing my concerns.

        Your servant, Ishan

  • Ishan das

    Again, putting aside my argumetative nature, I wish to offer for the pleasure of interested parties the comments of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati from his writings on Sri Brahma-samhita, chapter 5, text 37.

    “The conception of Goloka manifests itself differently in proportion to the degree of realization of the various pastimes of Vraja….

    “The more the eye is tinged with the salve of love, the more will the transcendental concept gradually manifest itself.”

    “It is therefore one’s bounden duty, by refraining from the endeavor to know, to try to gain the experience of the transcendental by the practice of pure devotion… It is this which has been described in the narrative of the pastimes of Gokula. Those devotees, who follow the dictate of their pure spontaneous love, should base their devotional endeavors on that narrative. They will attain to the more wholesome fundamental principle on reaching the stage of realization.”

    The above words of guidance from the pamahamsa nitya siddha, I take as follows. Meditate on the authorized writings which describe the lila of Vrindavan. Cultivate our devotion and love in accordance with those written descriptions of lila, and the more we become filled with love, the more those conceptions will be revealed to us, progressively, until ultimately we achieve the wholesome fundamental realization of lila as it exists eternally in the spiritual realm of Goloka.

    Therefore let us take these “approximations” to heart. Or as stated by our acaryadeva,”Taking the description of lila in the text literally may be helpful in this pursuit, in bhajana. No Harm.”

  • Ishan das

    Dear Swami Tripurari,
    Please accept my humble obeisances.

    “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.”

    Now, I believe that you have more realization in relation to your quoted excerpt above than I do. So it is not your understanding that I question, but rather your use of the word “symbolic”.

    Webster’s II: Symbol: 1. Something representing something else by association, resemblance, or convention, esp. a material object representing something abstract.

    My understanding, and Webster’s, is that the symbol and that which it represents are two different things. Therefore the Deity is not a “symbolic representation”. The Deity is the Deity, Krishna Himself. As you have written, if we treat the Temple Krishna Deity “as if he is personally present, we will find that he is.”

    Therefore according to our siddhanta (a term I learned from you), the Temple Deity, authoritatively installed by a qualified devotee is not a “symbolic representation”. He is Krishna Himself, whether recognized as such by people or not. And the maya apahritajnana, the mundaners of academia, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, they will say “symbolic representation.”

    Srila Prabhupada can never be faulted for his choice of words as English is not his native tongue. But you have more command of the English language than I will ever have. And you teach us that if we relate to our temple Deity “as if he is personally present, we will find that he is.” Therefore why do you use the words “symbolic representation”, which would be a contradiction in terms? Unless, of course, you are addressing people who actually believe that the Deity is a “symbolic representation”. Taken in that context, your sentence would be more understandable and acceptable to my intelligence.

    Is this knit-picking? Am I simply clammoring for attention? Or may I continue with these kinds of questions?

    You know?, it is not simply out of argumentativeness that I raise these points, but because, in part, of a concern about how others will take your words in relation to our Krishna Consciousness.

    It’s as if some of your sentences afford a kind of slack, so that the mundaners can maintain their distance from Krishna (while considering Krishna), while the devotees can lean closer to Krishna. Is this intentional on your part?

    Always wanting your association,
    and to become your servant, Ishan

  • Ishan das

    Dear Swami Tripurari,

    Please accept my humble obeisances.

    Re:

    “Lila also plays a prominent though secondary role in Advaita Vedanta, where the divine play of Godhead is said to be a manifestation of ultimate reality in this world that does not endure in liberation.”

    Now I am not knit-picking, but I am seeking information and understanding.

    I have always understood the classical followers of Sripad Sankaracarya to have been embracers of the maxim:

    BRAHMA SATYAM JAGAN MITHYA

    I.e., “Impersonal brahman is the reality;
    this material world is illusion.”

    Vaishnava siddhanta states that the material world is illusion because it’s manifestations are all temporal. And because we cannot keep any part of it, that is one reason why we should not grasp after it. The other reason being, of course, that there is no fulfillment in any of it.

    But the Sankarite concept of illusion is that the jagat, the creation, is completely false, that it doesn’t actually exist. And because there are no activities and no one to perform them in the impersonal brahman, therefore for them there is no dharma, no marriage, no family,no relationship, no singing, no dancing, no social existence – simply eating the dry toast of sitting and hearing Sarirakhya Bhasya of Sankharacarya asserting that we are all God, impersonal oneness of homogenized spiritual substance.

    So my question is: How does this impersonal conception, of the material creation as a great illusion, cater to having an interest in the incarnations of Godhead and Their lila on this or other planets within the cosmos?

    You are great mine of knowledge. I always want to hear from you.
    Aspiring to become yur servant, Ishan

  • Ishan das

    Dear Swami Tripurari,

    Please accept my humble obiesances.

    I have another serious question.

    Re:

    “However, most important in all of this is entering the flow of the lila oneself. … the stream of love of God flows two ways: from Bhagavan to bhakta and from bhakta to Bhagavan. …. Love, giving, is at the heart of lila. Give yourself and try to enter the stream of love.”

    Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada writes:

    “Bhakti is roused by following with a tinge of faith in the rule of the sastras and instruction of the preceptors. Such bhakti is of the nature of loyalty to the scriptural regulations. It continues to be operative as long as the corresponding nautral feeling is not roused. If a person loves Krishna out of natural tendancy, there is the principle of raga, which is no other than a strong desire to serve, which turns into bhava or sustantive feeling. When the substantive feeling (his text indicates that he is referring to the four rasas) is aroused the devotee becomes an object of mercy of Krishna. It takes much time to attain this stage. Devotion which is of the nature of feeling is superior to that connected with scriptural regulation, soon attains to the realized state and is attractive to Krishna.”

    You may remember that you have told me that I am not at the stage of raga. Also, although I may be obedient in behavior, I can confess that I am not actually on the stage of anartha nivritti, and am prone to having material hankerings and lamentations. In other words I am a third class materialistic devotee. What to speak of raga and bhava?

    Still, you are encouraging us to try to enter into the stream of understanding the moods of the inhabitants of Vrindavan. At the same time I am understanding that the experience of these rasas is not accessable to one who still identifies with the material body as the self.

    Please do not misunderstand me. I do want to enter into an understanding of these rasa. And I read the various vaishnava literatures that describe the lila. but sometimes I am feeling like I am visiting into areas where I am not actually qualified enter.

    As I once wrote to you, I one time asked Srila Prabhupada a question regarding the subject matter of siddha deha, and he very sharply repremanded me: “Frist understand that you are not this body!” End of conversation. Therefore I hesitate to enter into that stream – even though, I admit, I keep wanting to peek into that arena, with the hope that one day I will develop a great taste for it.

    Swami, is there something you can say that will enable me to harmonize your encouragement to proceed with Srila Prabhupada’s seeming message that I am not qualified to enter? What was he guarding me against? What were his concerns about how I could go wrong in that persuit? Why did he come down on the “gopi bhava” meetings of devotees in L.A. where the devotees were simply reading these descriptions of rasa together? What was he trying to avert, and how does that fit with what you are encouraging here?

    Although I do try to do as you are saying, I always have a feeling that it not appropriate. Perhaps you can help me with this.

    Aspiring to become your servant, Ishan

    • Nitaisundara

      Haribol Ishan,

      Guru Maharaja asked me to write and just let you know that he is not able to keep up and respond right now because he is preaching in Poland with minimal internet connection. 🙂

      In service
      Nitaisundara dasa

      • Nitaisundara

        While I am not entirely sure that it follows logic that something with no beginning cannot end, even if that were the conclusion of logic, you must bear in mind that as Gaudiya Vaishnavas, pure logic (kevala-yukti) is not our standard of knowledge. Begininglessness with an ending may be hard to comprehend, but so is eternity itself. That is the point. These are not subjects that we can understand independent of sastra, and these articles have presented what sastra says. Within the internal logic/standard of knowledge of Hinduism, all of this is indeed logical and reasonable.

        Regarding karma as action, I understand your point, but that is merely semantics. We do not find terms like ‘Krishna-karma’. What we find is “lila” “svarupa-shakti” etc. But more importantly, it is not that we develop an “ability to do actions in relationship to Krishna.” Rather we become an extension of his action via the svarupa-shakti. Because our nature is marginal, we either have material conditioning or the influence of svarupa-shakti. From this angle, our volition is extremely minimal, as objectionable as that may be to our cultural mindset. Prema-bhakti is not a progressive undertaking in the sense that we “are always learning” on a “great adventure.” It is not something that we can accomplish over time. It is grace. If the notion of beginingless conditioning is troubling, what about the fact that release from the conditioning is entirely dependent on the will of God and his agents? But that is what sastra teaches.

        • Ishan das

          “Prema-bhakti is not a progressive undertaking in the sense that we “are always learning” on a “great adventure.” It is not something that we can accomplish over time. It is grace.”

          Yes, this is my understanding and assumption, but I am looking for some nice quotes to reinforce this conviction.

          Aside from, “Sri guru carana padma….”,

          and,

          “yasya prasadad bhagavat prasado…”,

          can you supply me with any other quotes that drive that point home?

          Thanks, Ishan

      • Ishan das

        Nitaisundara Prabhu,

        So very, very sweet to hear from you! You are one of the wonderful memories of my Audarya visit, and I am looking forward to the day when we will cross paths again.

        It is so kind of Maharaja to send that message. I was beginning to think that perhaps he was getting a bit impatient with my endless clammoring, and so took to ignoring my imput, which would be an understandable response.

        Obeisances, Ishan

  • Tarun

    Hi Nitai!
    It seems you have responded to my posts in Anadi again over here.. I just read this thread and there is nothing about anadi over here, so i guess this is a reply to my comment.. Thank you..
    Regarding eternity, as I understand it is understood in any tradition around the world, means no beginning and no ending. And it implies outside of time, with no past and no future as well. That is, only the present moment is real. Is that not the Vaisnava understanding? Am I spouting mayavada teachings.. Well if i am, then i am quite comfortable with it at this point. And anyway, we are followers of bhedabheda, so this understanding ought to be taken into consideration. Yes? Karma that has no beginning but has an ending seems off to me. And you say this is what shastra teaches. Well if shastra says that one place and says something quite different many other places one has to use ones own intuition and common sense, though not perfect, to come to some kind of understanding that satisfies. Many who practice submission, in fact don’t have clear understandings. They simply parrot what they have been told, without realization, and I have found out some of the things i have been told are wrong, or just very neophyte.
    You said “Because our nature is marginal, we either have material conditioning or the influence of svarupa-shakti. From this angle, our volition is extremely minimal, as objectionable as that may be to our cultural mindset. ” And furthermore, it is grace. So maybe beginningless karma has no end, it just becomes irrelevent.. Of course what you are saying there is debatable, that it is not a gradual process. But i have to think there is a lot of truth there as well, as in my own career, there have been moments of great progress (using that word eh) when things lined up around a new teacher and teaching. This is Krishna’s mercy. By progress, I suppose we could mean a bigger opening to the svarupa shakti. Rupa Goswami definitely posited some steps along the way from Shradha to Bhava, and the raga marg is all about mercy so.. It gets acintya, and also bhedabheda doesn’t it. I have come to believe that all of life is under the law of balance. That there is no one way, rather everything is balanced by its opposite. I love this philosophy.
    But I also believe that Krishna is helping everyone to progress, not just Hare Krishna devotees. (We are a self absorbed lot) Everything is a learning experience. It has to be so. When we are ready for it, the next installment is delivered. The other idea is by some chance we run into a pure devotee and only then do we make advancement that is actually worthwhile. And i think that pure devotee has to be a Hare Krishna devotee as well. Am i right? How about the idea that God has been coming himself and sending his representatives in the form of persons and shastras, since time immemorial. The human form of life has traditionally been religious. Of course mostly materialistic religion, but then again, Hare Krishna devotees are notorious for being materialistic. Even ones who have had the association of pure devotees. So go figure.. It has so much to do with desire, doesn’t it? There is more to say on this topic, but we are in the wrong thread.. Oh me oh my!! Over and out for now…

    • Nitaisundara

      It seems I am on the wrong post somehow, which is odd, because I merely clicked respond on your comment from within the moderation panel, I think. Anyway, my connection is sporadic at the moment so I will read what you have written offline and get back to you.

      In seva
      Nitaisundara dasa

  • Nitaisundara

    Hi Nitai!
    It seems you have responded to my posts in Anadi again over here.. I just read this thread and there is nothing about anadi over here, so i guess this is a reply to my comment.. Thank you..
    Regarding eternity, as I understand it is understood in any tradition around the world, means no beginning and no ending. And it implies outside of time, with no past and no future as well.

    The sastra repeatedly says the conditioning of the jiva is anadi – “without beginning.” I don’t see why some feel a need to reinvent the wheel.

    That is, only the present moment is real. Is that not the Vaisnava understanding? Am I spouting mayavada teachings..

    I dont think those are exactly any Vedantin’s teachings. But in light of karma, if the present is real, so are the past and future in some capacity as they are inextricably tied to the present by karma.

    Well if i am, then i am quite comfortable with it at this point. And anyway, we are followers of bhedabheda, so this understanding ought to be taken into consideration. Yes?

    But bhedabheda is not really a license to come up with any interpretation of sastra and give it equal validity to more logical and traditional ones because everything is “one and different.” Just as “acintya” is not a license for the same kind of activities, either. Once we start doing these things in ways that have little support from guru and sastra, the sastra becomes increasingly relativized and subsequently so does the entire foundation of acintya-bhedabheda.

    Karma that has no beginning but has an ending seems off to me. And you say this is what shastra teaches. Well if shastra says that one place and says something quite different many other places one has to use ones own intuition and common sense, though not perfect, to come to some kind of understanding that satisfies. Many who practice submission, in fact don’t have clear understandings. They simply parrot what they have been told, without realization, and I have found out some of the things i have been
    told are wrong, or just very neophyte.

    Many who practice submission do indeed parrot, but submission remains essential to any substantial spiritual attainment. In other words, submission is an unavoidable risk in spiritual pursuit and no matter how many times it may go awry, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sastra is the base level standard of knowledge. To be a Vedantin means to submit to sastra as the standard of knowing those things which cannot be accurately known through the senses (like the nature of the soul). This discussion is one that inherently relies on such an internal logic. If one wants to untether themselves from this foundation, fine, but then they are not really tthinking as a vedantin and anything goes anyway. All of that is fine, in one sense, but we cannot have both a claim to the grounding force of sastra and sadhu and a claim to conjecturing unbound from those things.

    You bring up the fact that sastra contradicts itself. In this instance I am not so sure, but I suppose one can say it does because it refers to the jiva as both anadi and as nitya (baddha). Two points arise in my mind: a)When sastra contradicts itself (or even when it does not, for that matter) sastra’s teaching is that we understand it through parampara, the importance of which also has its own supporting logic. Intuition and common sense have their place, but I do not think I would necessarily make them my “go-to” tools in a situation like this. b) If one wants to emphasize the nitya-baddha side, as you are, you must recognize that a literal reading of this means not that we move from “guna-karma” to “Krishna-karma,” as you are kind of suggesting, but simply that we that are eternally bound by the gunas. Certainly this is not your idea. Indeed even when we see the term nitya-karma in sastra, we find it referring to daily duties of the dharma-marga.

    You said “Because our nature is marginal, we either have material conditioning or the influence of svarupa-shakti. From this angle, our volition is extremely minimal, as objectionable as that may be to our cultural mindset. ” And furthermore, it is grace. So maybe beginningless karma has no end, it just becomes irrelevent.. Of course what you are saying there is debatable, that it is not a gradual process. But i have to think there is a lot of truth there as well, as in my own career, there have been moments of great progress (using that word eh) when things lined up around a new teacher and teaching. This is Krishna’s mercy. By progress, I suppose we could mean a bigger opening to the svarupa shakti. Rupa Goswami definitely posited some steps along the way from Shradha to Bhava, and the raga marg is all about mercy so.. It gets acintya, and also bhedabheda doesn’t it. I have come to believe that all of life is under the law of balance. That there is no one way, rather eve
    rything is balanced by its opposite. I love this philosophy.

    My point was not that progress does not exist and is not gradual, but it is not an accomplishment in the sense of an ascending path. It is a mercy path, and mercy, by definition, is whimsical. It knows no rhyme and reason. At the same time we are taught perhaps that we can predispose ourselves toward mercy, so when it falls we are ready, like the cakora bird.

    But I also believe that Krishna is helping everyone to progress, not just Hare Krishna devotees. (We are a self absorbed lot) Everything is a learning experience. It has to be so. When we are ready for it, the next installment is delivered. The other idea is by some chance we run into a pure devotee and only then do we make advancement that is actually worthwhile. And i think that pure devotee has to be a Hare Krishna devotee as well. Am i right? How about the idea that God has been coming himself and sending his representatives in the form of persons and shastras, since time immemorial. The human form of life has traditionally been religious. Of course mostly materialistic religion, but then again, Hare Krishna devotees are notorious for being materialistic. Even ones who have had the association of pure devotees. So go figure.. It has so much to do with desire, doesn’t it? There is more to say on this topic, but we are in the wrong thread.. Oh me oh my!! Over and out
    for now…

    I think this is branching off topic a bit too much for me. But as I am not a “Hare Krishna devotee,” I will just say that your depiction above I do not feel applies to me, but neither do I think it reflects all the nuances and intricacies of the subject of different traditions and the role saintly association in spiritual progress. Hari!

    • Tarun

      Hey Nitai;
      Just a few more thoughts on the matter. I have ruminated a while on the concept of anadi karma, and found that it indeed is not conceivable… Although one could say that time is indeed beginningless and endless, karma cannot be beginningless for an individual, unless the beginningless karma is something we take on when we fall into time. I can conceive of the eternal soul who exists outside of time, falling into the illusion of time, for a time, and then eventually leaving the illusion of time behind. This was Sridhar Maharaj’s take on the matter, and a reasonable one too, though like all the positions, not entirely free of issues. But time is an illusion, is it not? The spiritual is the reality, and that is not conditioned by the illusion of time. What is spiritual is real and what is material is not. Though the energy of matter may be real, the material conception is illusion, and time is ruling that conception. Without time, we would be only in the moment, and only in the moment is Krishna to be found. Past and future are illusions we hold, that keep us from experiencing the moment, that keep us from experiencing Krishna. It is said that the only place where eternity (Krishna) intersects time is in the present moment.

      And so it seems that the concept of anadi karma might just be a preaching strategy, meant to scare the bejeesus out of conditioned souls, to get them to surrender to a guru, and follow some discipline, or be faced with the prospect of remaining in the material world suffering karma birth after birth. Whatever works eh.

      I personally am not such a sastra follower, and don’t trust the old books so much, like Bhaktivinoda advises. The heavens and especially the hells we are told, are included there to create fear in wayward souls, but fear can only help so much, and then it creates impediments to the devotees ability to surrender in love. Surrendering in fear will not produce love, but respect and awe, and duty to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. I’m saying this to show that not all that is shastric is relevant in all times and circumstances, and there could be much there that is just ‘preaching strategy’. Saying that the jivas are Mahavisnu expanded for love and joy and unlimited suffering has it’s problems too eh. Like WHY!! Maybe we aren’t to question this. We aren’t to ask why would there even be a maya shakti and a Mahavisnu if it wasn’t for punishment. I admit I haven’t read all three hundred comments posted on this topic, so I’m probably going over ground that has been well trod. Swami did say somewhere that this might be Krishnas subconsciousness. Fine, so then lets not get so serious about it. It’s a dream, and we just need to wake up!! Or rather a nightmare.

      My point was not that progress does not exist and is not gradual, but it is not an accomplishment in the sense of an ascending path. It is a mercy path, and mercy, by definition, is whimsical. It knows no rhyme and reason. At the same time we are taught perhaps that we can predispose ourselves toward mercy, so when it falls we are ready, like the cakora bird.

      Is there really such a thing as an ascending path anyway? Where does intelligence come from? Einstein, the great jnani, spoke of inspiration (in spirit) as a mystical happening. Whether it comes from without in the form of sadhu or shastra, or from within in the form of inspiration, it still is coming from the source, albeit unrecognized.

      Mercy knows no laws like you say, but there does seem to be some rhyme and reason to it, and so it can be systematized as Rupa Goswami has done. In the upward stages mercy may be the only necessity, but in the middle ground gathering some knowledge and experience may be more important for creating a stable foundation from which to progress. The fact that the Bhakti path is quite dualistic, makes for some trouble if the neophytes are not given proper jnana, and we can see the results of this with so much fanaticism and factionalism around the movement. I have gathered some teachings from outside of Vaisnavism proper, and feel they have helped a lot in coming to terms with duality to some extent. I’m still quite astounded with what i hear come from senior devotees who have studied the teachings for decades. It’s what comes of too much insularity and not enough balance in the teachings. Our Sridhar Maharaja is the glowing exception. His teachings are so powerful because they are so balanced and complete, a truly realized soul!

      As far as concocting something on the basis of acintya bhedabheda tattva, i don’t need that help. But if it truly is a universal tattva, then it can be applied in all times and circumstances, and I have seen over and over that it is the core truth of the universe. All manifestation is based on duality, and even duality is balanced by nonduality. And so the spiritual world need be balanced by the material world. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. When we finally get out of the well, all will be revealed, if we still even care about such irrelevancies. Jai Radhe Shyam!!

      • Ishan das

        Hare Krishna Tarun!

        You are a muni. One who likes to see things from all different angles of vision. That is my impression.

        At the same time, you are bolder than me. Because I am fearful of allowing my mind to stray off the beaten path, because I feel that there may be danger of getting lost. I have been lost. And accepting the traditional vaishnava formulas and equations has been a solace and shelter. They provide for me a sense of security, that I admit, I really need.

        You have written: “But time is an illusion, is it not?”

        Let us translate the word “time” by applying a functional definition to it. As I understand our philosophy, the substance of the material realm, earth, air, fire, water, mind, etc., is always in flux. Because the material energy is always in a process of change (when the cosmos is manifested) therefore we experience this change. Whatever we percieve in all part of an endless sequence of frames, so to speak. And therefore whatever we experience can never be experienced again, because of the changes that have taken place. We call this experience of change “time”.

        “Time” is our way of attributing measurement to this ongoing process of change. We say “twelve hours” ago, but we mean on half of a revolution of the planet as it spins in space. We call it time. But it is our experience of change in the juxtiposition of things. And that is all that time seems to be.

        Now, actually, my better half is advising me that it is time to eat supper, so I have to break off here, and return to this conversation again. At another time. I.e., after the planet has changed its position with respect to the sun and other bodies in the cosmic manifestation, and so many other things have changed, both macroscopically and microscopically.

        To have a good time, is to dove tail all of our changes in the context of Krishna consciousness. Have a good time! Ishan

        • Tarun

          Happy Janmastami Ishan Prabhu:

          Had a great time tonight celebrating the appearance in time of the One beyond space and time… that is how the spiritual world is described isn’t it… time is conspicuous by its absence… I’m not sure why it would be conspicuously absent, if it is never there at all… maybe to a new arrival…

          There are some great lines from a song by Leonard Cohen that seems to describe the spiritual world:

          “There is no time, but there’s day and there’s night,
          And there is no space, but there’s left and there’s right….”

          Time is absent in the sense that it is here. there is no withering away, time does not consume like it does here.. the past is non existent because there is nothing to lament, nothing to grieve about. Just the ever existing present where we have always been with Krishna, except if yogamaya has us thinking there is some separation to overcome.. in that sense Vraj is a lot like this world, and we can use our idea of separation from Krishna as an impetus for reunion.. but did it ever happen?? Is it possible even, to be separated from Krishna…. we can turn our face away, and he allows for that, but there is no direction where Krishna is not…. so it is an illusion he allows us.. for a time….. only for a time….
          I don’t know if i am correct in this Ishan, but it’s a good story, and so for now i’ll stick to it…. at least for a time…. Jai Govinda Jai Gopal!!

          • Ishan das

            I have described my understanding of “time” as it appears in the material realm, viz., that time is nothing but the experience of change. Our mutual standard of experience is the revolving of the earth on its axis at a uniform rate. One revolution = one day. We divide that into 24 equal increments of revolution and label those units as hours. While these changes are going on, so many other changes are going on. Our food is being digested. Our bodies are transforming. We go through the motions of work. And our frame of reference for keeping track and keeping ourselves on track – is the rotation of the planet in space.

            We say,”I have been working for one hour.” But really there is no such thing as an “hour”. What we ought to say, is “I have been involved in the process of changes in my mind/body complex while the earth planet has made one tewnty-fourth of a revolution in space.” To call it an “hour” makes it sound absolute. But it is not. It is only a description of change in terms of the movement of this planet in space. Our experience of “time” is nothing more than our experience of sequential, incremental change.

            However, when we begin to discuss activity in the realm of eternity – I cannot begin to understand it. For example, in the spiritual realm there is activity. Krishna dances with the gopis. If there is dancing, there must be a sequence of steps. But if everything in that realm is eternal, then every step in the sequence must exist eternally. How can that be? If Krishna shares a piece of fruit with a gopa, there must be a sequence of movements involved. But if everything is eternal, then each increment of change is also an eternal moment. My mind cannot encompass this kind of talk.

            Herein we are being encouraged to enter into the flow – not the flow of impersonal oneness – but the flow of emotional out-pouring of spiritual feelings that accompany the out-pouring of spiritual activities, wherein every increment of that activity is an eternal moment in “timelessness”. I must confess, I have no idea of any of this.

            I only know that we are told that there is activity within the realm of eternity. And there are emotions flowing within the realm of eternity. And although all these changes are going on, there is no such thing as past and future because every moment is eternal. I cannot understand these things.

            Still I am very willing to enter the flow of the lila, simply because we are told by guru and shastra that there is nothing in this world that can compare to the joy that will be tasted in that flow.

            Also, my tiny understanding is that no one who identifies with this material body as oneself can possibly have a taste of that spiritual flow. Still, we are being encouraged to try to enter into that flow.

            Of course I am very interested to get as close to that flow as I possibly can, with the faith that this is part of the process. I.e., by hearing about that which we are unqualified to enter into, we will gradually become qualified to enter therein.

            What do you think about all of that, my dear friend, Tarun?

      • Ishan das

        Hare Krishna! Tarun,

        I have read over the rest of your comment. Your way of thinking seems to be very nebulus. You mention things that I have never considered. And you seem to be saying things that I have never read in Srila Prabhupada’s books. I cannot say anything against your ideas, because I actually don’t know anything. That conviction enables me to hang as tightly as possible to the teachings and instructions of my spiritual master. Perhaps I am one of those fanatics that you are mentioning. But I do believe that all advancement comes only by the grace of the spiritual master. And therefore to take his instructions and teachings as the all in all seems to make sense to me. After all, if advancement comes only by his grace, then it would make sense to take an attitude of total subordination and menial servitude, hoping to invoke his blessings.

        All that being said, you are a devotee who enjoys saying “Jai Radhe Shyam!!” And therefore I am grateful to you that we can reciprocate on that level. Hare Krishna! Ishan

        • Tarun

          HI Ishan! I couldn’t respond to your other comment so I’m replying to this one..and all I’ve got to say is, isn’t it delicious this not quite knowing but just getting some glimpses.. some hints of what is behind the screen.. It is all quite inconceivable but that doesn’t preclude us having some fun with it in the short run.. and after all whatever we need to know will be revealed.. all in good timelessness…

          Tattva and leela are two poles that have to both be assimilated me thinks… in this intemediate stage we find outselves in.. and using whatever we have gotten from our gurus to further our understandings is bonafide philosophical endeavors.. Kaviraja Goswami advised to not avoid controversies as they strengthen the mind.. Srila Prabhupada would have mock debates with his disciples to get them energized in utilizing the philosophy and thinking about things… saves us from being fanatics too.. but we don’t want to just become munis or jnanis, so entering leela is an ongoing occupation as well.. two in one… can’t have one without the other.. eh?

  • Avishek

    Hare Krishna Prabhu,
    Please accept my respectful obeisance,
    All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga,
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    As my question is why the body is changing, and does the soul also change in course of changing the body?

    I read recently that anything material comes into being, stays for a while and is destroyed.
    These are the 3 transformation of material things,
    but when soul enters the body, it goes through 6 transformation, that is, it is born, it stays for a while, it produces some by products, it dwindles and it vanishes,but how it can be?
    Please try to make me clear about this changing soul from one body to another body.
    Your servant of servant
    Avishek Prabhu

    • Nitaisundara

      Hari!

      The Gita makes clear that the soul does not change with the body. Chapter 2 verses 18-30 make this point many times. The 6 transformations include the 3 transformations, so they are just different ways of speaking about the same principle: that matter is impermanent. 🙂

      In service
      Nitaisundara

      • Avishek

        Hari Bol
        thankyour prabhu for you humble reply,yes generally the soul neither it can be born or neither it can be destroyed.It is eternal as we look in spiritually.So,as you said i will learn it from Bhagwat Gita,thankyou prabhu
        Hare krishna

  • Vāyu.

    It seems that Śrīmad-bhāgavatam—-and the whole gauḍīyā literary corpus—-only describes a few multifaceted diamonds of the unlimited kṛṣṇa-līlā’s mine; and it also seems that this purāṇa has a limited and temporal utility in the rāgānuga-sādhana since finally each śuddha-bhakta will see the līlā according to his own bhāva. So do you believe that the living gauḍīyā theology and mysticism will continue displaying more descriptive jewels of that inexhaustible realm? Will there one day be an eight Gosvāmī?

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