29 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside Caitanya’s Śikṣāṣṭakam.
What questions arise when I focus on “devotion” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
Long ago, Caitanya was a great sage, an incarnation of Krishna. He gave eight verses that teach seekers how to live as a lover devoted to service to the divine. The first verse describes the effect of chanting the maha mantra: Hare Krishna. It’s very poetic: “May Krishna sankirtana be supremely triumphant. The chanting of the names of Krishna cleanses the mirror of the heart. It extinguishes the great forest fire of samsara. It bestows moonlight on the white night-blooming lotus of supreme benefit. It gives life to the young bride of wisdom. It increases the ocean of bliss. It bestows the taste of the highest nectar at every step. It cleanses the mind completely.” (trans. Edwin Bryant).
Back in New York City, I used to visit Dharma Mitra’s yoga studio where Krishna Das would play his harmonium and chant the Hare Krishna mantra. This was in 2002 when Krishna Das was not as popular as he is today. It was an intimate setting. It was blissful. Those kirtan sessions started me on this path with a full and open heart. Since then, I have attended many of his kirtan sessions and witnessed his following grow so much larger. Eventually, I saw he was playing at a Bhakti fest in Joshua Tree, California in 2012. I attended. That festival is where I found Kundalini Yoga in a Kia Miller class. Then, I went to Sat Nam Fest 2013 in Joshua Tree where I felt that Krishna Kaur was my teacher. I felt an intense pull: I must train as a yoga teacher with her.
This past year, I abandoned my role as a yoga teacher. I have been studying Yoga Philosophy with embodied philosophy. The program offers a variety of teachers who are both scholars and practitioners of yoga, none practice kundalini yoga. Over these years, I have practiced hours of White Tantric yoga; I’ve attended Summer Solstice Sadhanas in New Mexico; I’ve visited the Himalayas; I’ve bowed at the Golden Temple in Amritsar; I’ve studied Gurmukhi and Sanskrit. After all this, I am happy to finally find Advaita Vedanta. I hope this philosophy can be my spiritual home. Advaita Vedanta feels so pure and straightforward for me. I am tired of whistles and bells. For now, I feel like saying this: forget yoga’s accoutrements: the music, the festivals, the trainings, the pilgrimages, lulu lemon, and cults of personality. Goodbye to all that!
I simply enjoy the Path of Knowledge. For now, I remain devoted to the Path of Knowledge.
Meditating on devotion, a Jnana yogi might ask: “Yes, embrace cultural humility, practice sadhana, chant divine names, bow to sacred shrines, see god in all hearts; but doesn’t she still feel that the best way to inspire devotion within is through questions, through stories, through dialogue, through language study? Who says a path of inquiry cannot bestow nectar and make the hairs stand on end in ecstasy?”