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Re: Religious experiences of others.

From: Krishna Susarla (krishna_at_ticnet.com)
Date: Thu Apr 30 1998 - 21:32:36 PDT

From: Tatachar <Tatachar@aol.com>


>no problem with it.  Now, I have learn't that the episodes have a higher
>message- it is immaterial if it happened word by word as stated. Remember,
>most of our scriptures are poetic. Poetry has nmore freedom than prose at
word
>play.
>IT IS THEMESSAGE OF THE EPISODES THAT IS MORE IMPORTANT.
>I benefitted a lot by viewing POWER of MYTH  by Joseph Campbell. I believe
>others who are ready for it will too.


Hare Krishna!

I disagree with the above. Why do you distinguish between the message of the
puraaNic stories and the historicity of the stories?

First of all, if the stories were mythological, then they would not be
scriptures since scriptures cannot tell falsehoods. The whole point of
turning to the Vedas and PuraaNas for our spiritual upliftment is that we
expect them to be free of defects, thus removing any doubt about the
validity of their message.

Secondly, not all stories are told simply for the purpose of illustrating
the necessity of performing some dharmic duty. The highest dharma and the
whole point of all scriptures is to establish loving service to Lord
Krishna. Thus it is stated in the Bhaagavatam:

vaasudevaparaa vedaa vaasudevaparaa makhaaH |

vaasudevaparaa yogaa vaasudevaparaaH kriyaaH || Bhaa P 1.2.28 ||

vaasudevapara.m j~naana.m vaasudevapara.m tapaH |

vaasudevaparo dharmo vaasudevaparaa gatiH || Bhaa P 1.2.29 ||

This contradicts the idea that merely developing good and pious conduct is
the point of various religious paths, a misconception which is frequently
the basis of the "mythology" speculation so widespread in Hindu society
today.

Furthermore, pure devotees of the Lord interact with each other by
discussing Krishna-katha. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna confirms this
fact:

machchittaa madgatapraaNaa bodhayantaH parasparam |
kathayantash cha maa.m nitya.m tuShyanti cha ramanti cha || BG 10.9 ||

mat-chittaaH-their minds fully engaged in Me; mat-gata-praaNaaH-their lives
devoted to Me; bodhayantaH-preaching; parasparam-among themselves;
kathayantaH-talking; cha-also; maam-about Me; nityam-perpetually;
tuShyanti-become pleased; cha-also; ramanti-enjoy transcendental bliss;
cha-also.

The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted
to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always
enlightening one another and conversing about Me (bhagavad-giitaa 10.9).

What does "conversing about Me" mean? It means speaking Hari-katha,
specifically those stories about the Lord and His liilas as they are
described in the shaastras. If these were mythological stories, then the
pure devotees would not derive so much pleasure in discussing them. Even the
devotees who are not on the liberated platform still enjoy discussing the
Lord's pastimes, understanding them to have been actual events and not
merely childish stories. This talking about Lord Krishna is actually a form
of kiirtana, and it is a vital part of one's saadhana because such kiirtana
helps one to develop the taste for devotional service.

We can see this illustrated in the life of Shrii Naarada Muni, whose story
is discussed in the Bhaagavatam. In his previous life, Shrii Naarada was the
son of a servant woman who was engaged in serving some sages in an ashrama.
Naarada describes to Shrii Vyaasadeva how by taking the remnants of their
food and hearing them speak about Krishna, his own taste for hearing
Krishna-katha was increased:

tatraanvaha.m kR^iShNakathaaH pragaayataamanugraheNaashR^iNava.m manoharaaH
|
taaH shraddhayaa me.nupada.m vishR^iNvataH priyashravasya.nga
mamaabhavadruchiH || bhaa 1.5.26 ||

tatra - thereupon; anu - every day; aham - I; kR^iShNa-kathaaH - narration
of Lord Krishna's activities; pragaayataam - describing; anugraheNa - by
causeless mercy; ashR^iNavam - giving aural reception; manaH-haraaH -
attractive; taaH - those; shraddhayaa - respectively; me - unto me;
anupadam - every step; vishR^iNvataH - hearing attentively; priyashravasi -
of the Personality of Godhead; a.nga - O Vyaasadeva; mama - mine; abhavat -
it so became; ruchiH - taste.

O Vyaasadeva, in that association and by the mercy of those great
Vedaantists; I could hear them describe the attractive activities of Lord
Krishna. And thus listening attentively, my taste for hearing of the
Personality of Godhead increased at every step (bhaagavata puraaNa 1.5.26).

Thus, he came to the mature conclusion regarding stories about Lord Krishna:

ida.m hi pu.msas tapasaH shrutasya vaa sviShTasya suuktasya cha
buddhidattayoH |
avichyuto'rthaH kavibhirniruupito yaduttamashlokaguNaanuvarNanam || bhaa
1.5.22 ||

idam - this; hi - certainly; pu.msaH - of everyone; tapasaH - by dint of
austerities; shrutasya - by dint of study of the Vedas; vaa - or;
sviShTasya - sacrifice; suuktasya - spiritual education; cha - and; buddhi -
culture of knowledge; dattayoH - charity; avichyutaH - infallible; arthaH -
interest; kavibhiH - by the recognized learned person; niruupitaH -
concluded; yat -what; uttamashloka - the Lord, who is described by choice
poetry; guNa-anuvarNanam - description of the transcendental qualities of.

Learned circles have positively concluded that the infallible purpose of the
advancement of knowledge, namely austerities, study of the Vedas, sacrifice,
chanting of hymns and charity, culminates in the transcendental descriptions
of the Lord, who is defined in choice poetry (bhaagavata puraaNa 1.5.22).

Thus, Krishna-katha is not merely a means to an end (such as illustration of
some dharma, etc.). Being able to appreciate Krishna-katha is the very
*point* of studying the Vedas. In fact, simply by hearing Krishna-katha, one
can become elevated to the status of a pure Vaishnava as Naarada was.

So it is really not proper to emphasize the *message* of the puraaNic
stories above the stories themselves. The real *message* of the puraaNa-s is
that we should cultivate pure devotional service to Lord Naaraayana.
Discussing stories about Him, which is one form of devotional service
(shravaNa.m kiirtana.m viShNoH smaraNam...) is our constitutional position
as jiiva-s. They are not mythologies. They are nectar for the pure
Vaishnavas who can enjoy them again and again without ever getting tired. In
this regard, we are fortunate that many of these stories are preserved in
the itihaasa-s and puraaNa-s for our benefit. So proclaim it boldy that
these stories are the very point of our existence! Without them, religion
would be bland and pointless.

yours,

- Hari Krishna Susarla