Speech of the Spirit

By Swami B. V. Tripurari

In our quest to commune with God, what will be the language of our communication? While no language is inherently spiritual, some may look to Sanskrit, which is called the language of the gods. But this title refers to the gods who reside within the material realm of experience, while the realm of God is said in the sruti to lie beyond the reach of words and mind, yato vaco nivartante aprapya manasa saha: “From whom speech and thought return (unable to reach him).”1 This, of course, means that Bhagavan cannot be adequately described by words or fully understood by thought. Thus there is not enough that we can say about him. While it is said that those who sincerely chant his name capture Bhagavan, such utterance is not just a lip exercise. Rather it is a heart exercise. He is bhava grahi janardana. He accepts the spirit of our offering and speaks the language of our heart.

Sriman Mahaprabhu told Sri Isvara Puri that the learned say “visnave” and the ignorant “visnaya.” However, Bhagavan hears and understands the heartfelt utterance of “visnaya“, but not the learned but heartless utterance of “visnave.” So, to enter the lila we must learn the language of the heart, as this is the real language of the lila, even though what is spoken may appear to be a vernacular of this world.

We do know from sastra that Sri Krishna speaks all languages, even those of the less evolved forms of life, birds and beasts. He is vividhabhuta-bhasa-vit, expert in different and astonishing languages. However, knowing another’s language does not ensure actual communication. Thus here again the spirit of this quality is that Krishna knows the hearts of all, for it is our heart that we try unsuccessfully to express in words: “I wanted to tell you that I love you, but the words got in the way.”

The above notwithstanding, Sri Rupa Goswami tells us,”Krishna expresses himself in the vernacular of the young gopis of Vraja, in Sanskrit to the respectful Indra, and in the colloquial dialect to the animals, the people of Kashmir, and the parrots. How amazing! How has he become expert in all these languages?”2 Sri Jiva Goswami comments as follows:

This is the statement of an elderly observant resident of Vraja. Though the young girls of Vraja are mentioned, it is understood that all the residents are included. Krishna spoke to them all in a special dialect of that particular region called sauraseni, which is the language of Mathura. Vraja and Mathura, of course, were practically the same place with the same dialect. The word saurim, from the word sura, means Sanskrit, the language of the devas. Krishna also spoke to animals, including the cows and buffalos. Kiresu refers to the people of Kashmir and to parrots. Apabhramsa refers to a very low form of colloquial language. The idea is that according to the situation, he spoke the particular language.

In the above quotations, Sri Rupa and Jiva Goswamis are describing the prakata, or manifest, lila of Sri Krishna, but there is no reason why the same cannot apply to his aprakata-lila. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu primarily spoke Bengali in Navadwipa during his prakata-lila, and he was also a Sanskrit scholar. However, as already pointed out, such languages are not inherently spiritual anymore than any other aspect of the lila is, such as the style of clothes Mahaprabhu and Krishna wear. One may dress oneself in an approximation of the fashion of the dhama-vasis and learn the languages they appear to speak, but this will not qualify one to enter there. To enter we need to import the bhava that fuels the lila into our hearts, for in actuality the dress and language of the lila are all bhava. We must learn to speak in this tongue.

  1. Taittiriya Upanishad 2.9 []
  2. Bhaktirasamrta-sindhu 2.1.66 []

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5 Responses to Speech of the Spirit

  1. How soft and gentle! Not so much thought provoking, as thankfully, thought-arresting.

    I was thinking today, while doing the daily chores on the land, that it is only when I choose to tune my heart to a mood of cheerfulness, and gratitude and service, that I can do these simple activities, not officially as devotional service, but actually with a feeling, that Krishna is so kind that He allows, and encourages us, to to do these things as a way of feeling connected with Him in a loving way.

    “To enter we need to import the bhava that fuels the lila into our hearts…..”

    Sublime poetry indeed! It causes me to say, “Please do say more about the ways and means of importing that bhava.”

    Just having that bhava ……, “fuels the lila into our hearts”! How wonderful! Please say more about this!

    I was thinking today, that chanting Hare Krishna, is saturated with the feelings of love that flow between Radha and Krishna, and taking pleasure in that love is accepted as devotional service! How wonderful! Like a person who offers us a feast, and if we agree to partake of it with relish, that person considers that we are serving Him!…..

  2. Can’t help coming back, as this article, most excitingly, directs us to focus on the essential aspect of bhakti yoga, viz., the commodity we call “bhakti”.

    How do we measure this commodity? In pounds, in volts, in temperature, in volume, …….? And yet it is so powerful that it can cause Krishna to become one’s servant!

    How valuable is this commodity! We live in a world where at every second we are propelled by a desire for fulfillment. And therefore the most valuable commodity must be that which provides the highest fulfillment. Srila Rupa Goswami describes the devotees as eternally diving and surfacing in an ocean of nectar.

    In university we learned about the Skinner box. Rats were placed in the box with electrodes implanted in their brains, attached to a pleasure center. And when the rats pushed on a lever in the box, this sent stimulation to the brain’s pleasure center. And so the rats were seen to be endlessly pushing on the lever.

    It appears that there is an invisible feedback loop between Krishna and His devotees. Rather than electricity, bhakti is the energy of communication that fuels that invisible circuit. The more that energy is directed at Krishna and Krishna’s devotees, the more the limitless ocean of bhakti rasa expands causing the devotee to drown in the bhaktirasamrta sindhu, the ocean of the eternal nectar of devotion to Krishna.

    One meaning of the word “yoga” is to link up, to connect. Although we have this energy potential already in our hearts, there is a short-circuit, and the flow is directed towards the material energy, which merely absorbs our affection without reciprocating. We should know and reflect upon each desire that emerges within our hearts, understanding it intellectually as a misconstrued desire for Krishna. Recognizing our desires as such, we can willingly redirect the flow towards it’s most natural and intended object – Krishna, changing the short-circuit into the yogic linking up process. Linking up by redirecting the bhakti flow. Hence bhakti yoga.

    “Raso’ham apsu kaunteya”, says Krishna: “I am the taste of water.” So when we are thirsty, we can taste that water, sincerely feeling, “Oh Krishna, you are so nice!”

    There are so many levels of bhakti, but as has been recently written: “Anadi for Beginners: We All Have to Start Somewhere…”. In this case we do, and we can.

    We can taste Krishna with great appreciation when drinking a glass of water.

    We can do our daily work in the mood that it is an assignment from Krishna, and feel so grateful that He is willing to accept our sincere effort to perform the task, moment by moment, in a way that is pleasing to Him.

    Our Tripurari Swami writes, “.. to enter the lila we must learn the language of the heart, as this is the real language of the lila.” This is not about a glass of water, nor about karma yoga. This is about real transformation. But how can I learn this “language of the heart”? Shastra and sadhu inform us: “yasya prasadad bhagavat prasado”. By the mercy of the spiritual master one is benedicted by the mercy of Krishna.

    In the prayer Sri Guru Carana Padma it is written:

    “The lotus feet of our spiritual master is the only place from which to obtain this spontaneous flow of pure devotion…

    By his grace one can cross the ocean of material suffering and obtain the mercy of Krishna….

    From our guru, this ecstatic prema emanates….

    O revered master, be merciful to us, and give us this shelter from illusion, at your lotus feet…”

    Therefore Tripurari Swami encourages us: “… to enter the lila we must learn the language of the heart, as this is the real language of the lila.” To learn this language of the heart, we have to approach the real salesman who carries the real commodity. And we have to approach him/her in the mood of insignificant beggars, so that he will be pleased to share his heart with us. In this way we can “learn the language of the heart”, imbibing the essence of disciplic succession.

  3. A little reflection has prompted me to admit that although I like our Gaudiya philosophy, like to talk about it and sometimes to write a few words about it, the truth is:

    I have not been able to apply it in my own spiritual life to the extent that my spiritual master would see fit to enlighten my heart with “the bhava that fuels the lila into our (my) hearts.”

    I do believe that this can only be received through grace, by the mercy of the spiritual master. But I have not been able to earn that kind of grace.

    Still, I continue on, cultivating Krishna Consciousness according to my ability, as there seems to be no alternative.

  4. Lalasamayi Sullivan

    The language of bhava. Just opening my curtains to the dampness of a much-needed rain, I see a large brown rabbit munching on the grass. The “wild” rabbits are usually smaller, but perhaps they don’t make it to be so large without protection from predators. I love to watch him or her. I have an opossum that crunches the bird seed in my flat feeder off my deck at night. I hear loud crunching, and I know he is there. All manner of birds and squirrels come to eat the dried fruit, seed, and nuts that I must get for them. Then there are the fairy-like hummingbirds that come to their feeders—I wonder what world they came from with their unique flight patterns and colors, with their tiny, yet fierce demeanor. They are not afraid; they have few predators if they are healthy. They often build their nests close to eagles or hawks for protection. Nothing comes to near enough to disturb them as such, and the hawks can’t catch them. They are too fast. And so goes the blinding beauty among many horrors in our Age of Kali.
    The language of love emits an aura that humans and animals can sense, a force-field of non-violence.
    Last year at Krishna Caitanya and Gopal Nandini’s home before Maharaja came in to speak, we worshipped the bulls. My heart opened like a music box that sings. I was unfamiliar with most of the devotees in our sangha and as is my nature, a bit introverted around them all. But we worshipped the bulls, and it was such rapture to pet them, to talk to them, to rub their horns, to see their huge eyes—pools of peace–with their long eyelashes.
    The photos of Amrta and Gundica take me to them. Swami holding little Gundica’s head to get her first warm taste of mother’s milk. Sometimes the earth is so beautiful, so sensitive, so language-less. Forgive my writing this comment on the article. I should be posting on my site, I suppose, but perhaps it’s close enough to the topic to justify putting it here.
    My love for Krishna and Gurumaharaja increase daily, my understanding is slow, but at times my heart races ahead of my mind. I look forward to October . . .

    • Dear Lalasamayi Prabhu, Hare Krishna!

      Swami Tripurari is not only an intellectual of the highest order, but a poet as well. And by reading your comment, I can see that you also have that poetic nature.

      Your expressions of your appreciation for the beautiful things of this realm are appreciated by me. You are reminding me to see the beauty of Krishna as they are reflected in these gifts of mother nature.

      These perceptions and impressions that you are expressing are indeed heartfelt. And as Swami Tripurari writes: “we need to import the bhava that fuels the lila into our hearts.”

      Now I may be wrong about what I am going to say, and if so, please forgive me. But I am thinking that Swami is saying that if we would have the experience of witnessing Krishna’s lila, directly, within our hearts, then we have to “import” a special quality of love into our hearts. The quality of that love is so wonderful that it acts like a “fuel”. When a fuel burns, it creates a lovely light and warmth. But when the fuel of this special love (bhava) burns in one’s heart, the heart becomes illumined with the warmth of Krishna’s pastimes, in living color. In other words, when one’s heart is burning with that specific quality of love, Krishna’s pastimes come alive in one’s heart, just as if one had entered into the spiritual world.

      So Swami is saying, “we need to import the bhava that fuels the lila into our hearts.” We have to “import” that very specific quality of love. But where can we obtain it? Our hearts are already soft enough so that we can appreciate the beauty of nature. But still we are not witnessing or entering into Krishna’s pastimes first hand. So, how to import that quality of love that qualifies us, that when it burns in our hearts, it illumines our hearts with the glories of Krishna Loka?

      Our vaishnava siddhanta advises us that this quality of love only comes to us by grace, by the mercy of the pure devotee. No amount of intellectual comprehension of our philosophy, no amount of austerity, of good works, of renunciation, will enable us to taste that kind of “fuel”. In our vaishnava bhajan we sing, “the lotus feet of our spiritual master are the only way to obtain pure devotional service…… From him, Krishna prema emanates.”

      I think that Swami is pointing us in that direction, so that we may not forget the goal and the means to achieving that goal.

      Now, I may be wrong in interpreting Swami’s message in this way. I have been wrong before. And I am only a third class devotee, with no realization. I mean you no disrespect. And if I am in error, please forgive me.

      But I can see that you have a very warm heart, and that is indeed an important qualification.

      Your servant, Ishan das

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