Thursday, October 18, 2012

Praised By Parrots

Parrots discussing Radha and Krishna“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who playfully announces Madanotsava (Cupid’s festival) with the melodies from His colorfully decorated flute, and whose pastimes are praised by a multitude of male and female parrots.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 4)

rāga-maṇḍala-vibhūṣita-vaḿśī
vibhrameṇa madanotsava-śaḿsī
stūyamāna-caritaḥ śuka-sārī
śreṇibhir jayati kuñja-vihārī

A notable behavior of the pet parrot is its ability to mimic what others say. Not that it can deliver a speech on the trade policy with China, but it can repeat words and phrases that it hears other say. This ability has made the word “parrot” into a verb, where it identifies the act of copying something else directly. In the chain of disciplic succession as it relates to Vedic teachings, the parroting is done on purpose, as the saints realize the Absolute Truth through their own practices and then reveal what they know. They start by accepting the words of their own spiritual masters. The object of their service is so wonderful that He can even get parrots to speak about His activities, giving a symbolic and practical example to follow.

The crack reporter rushes to the scene of a breaking story. If they are lucky, they are the ones to break it to the public. “Such and such went down at such and such place at such and such time.” A brief description of the participants and eyewitness accounts hopefully follow the lead in. The idea is that the reporter should ask themselves who, what, where, when, why and how. They are not to inject their own opinion or use mental speculation. “Just the facts ma’am.”

In practice this objectivity is very difficult to maintain. Each person has their own worldview, their opinion on things. For instance, if an alleged robbery has taken place where innocent victims were shot, is the reporter not supposed to feel sympathy for the victims? Are they supposed to be sympathetic to the thief’s plight? Bias also influences which stories are reported in the news and which ones aren’t. Through the modern day popular tool of the public poll, news organizations can shape public opinion with their stories rather than report on it.

Despite the low chances for the ideal condition of objectivity in reporting, it is nevertheless helpful to just describe what one sees. In the realm of spirituality this takes on an even greater importance. It is not as though we don’t have information about God. So many people have seen the Supreme Lord and then written down their experiences. Due to the nature of the events they witnessed and the amount of time that has elapsed since those observations were made, we doubt the authenticity of their words, but nevertheless the saints of high character don’t inject their own mental speculations when reporting on the factual occurrences relating to the Supreme Lord.

This is important in passing on information of the Divine to future generations. One person can theorize on the nature of the Absolute Truth, but due to the limitations imposed by the mind - which cannot think beyond time and space - a proper conclusion is never reached. Moreover, the human mind isn’t all-knowing, not even of its own experiences. We can’t remember every little detail from our life, so how can we theorize about that which is all-encompassing? Even if we could store all the recorded observations into our brain, we wouldn’t know what to do with the information.

In the above quoted verse from the Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, Shrila Rupa Gosvami says that Lord Krishna’s activities are praised by male and female parrots. The title of the poem praises Krishna’s attribute of preferring to enjoy in the Vrindavana forest. Krishna is the Sanskrit word for God that means all-attractive. Attractiveness is tied to a personality, and so Krishna is also a personality, the detailed image behind the abstract conception of a God.

Krishna’s preferred playing field is Vrindavana, and within that area the pleasure groves, the forests during the moonlit nights, are the scene for His rendezvous with the gopis, who are His greatest devotees. Krishna’s form is intoxicating to the eyes, and His playful sport is talked about even by the parrots. They can fly to different areas and speak of what they see, namely the enjoyment between Krishna and His friends.

The parrots don’t concoct anything. They describe through their own lens of course, but they don’t insert theories or false conceptions. The spiritual masters, the saints who follow devotion to the gopis, follow the behavior of the male and female parrots in praising Krishna’s activities. They describe what they and others have seen to other devotees in gathered assemblies. The idea is not to speak to the enemies of God, for what will they take away from the message? They are mired in a futile pursuit to surpass God in stature and strength, so if they hear that He enjoys with others, their vision will be tainted with envy. That will then lead them to describe the same events with their own incorrect twist inserted.

We see evidence of this with the commentaries on sacred Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Ramayana written using mental speculation. No genuine follower of the Vedas would take this tact, as the saints never make up anything on their own. Rather, they are always respectful of their own spiritual lineage, giving deference to the message they heard in a submissive attitude from their spiritual master.

Sometimes there are varying accounts of the pastimes of Krishna and His avataras, but this is due to the revolving cycle of creation and destruction for this and other universes. The pattern of behavior for the Supreme Lord is not always the same in each creation, so depending on the tradition that one enters, they repeat a certain set of accounts of the divine lila. For instance, Goswami Tulsidas wrote a famous poem called the Ramacharitamanasa, which describes the life of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God, in a slightly different way than the original Ramayana. Yet in the beginning of the work the author himself acknowledges this discrepancy, explaining that the version he presents is the one he first heard from his guru, whose chain of disciplic succession originated with Lord Shiva, an authority figure on devotion to Rama. It was thus out of deference to these personalities that the author presented the version that he did.

Radha and KrishnaThe most cherished pastimes are those which take place in the Vrindavana forest, where Krishna announces His presence with the sounds coming from His flute. The beautiful gopis meet Him to dance, and the devoted parrots watch the proceedings so that they can remember them and glorify them later on. In the same way, the saints like Vyasa, Shuka, Narada, and many others relish the pastimes of the Supreme Lord and present them to the devotees of the world for their pleasure. These pastimes simultaneously reveal the meaning of life. To hear about God and serve Him through hearing and chanting is the boon of a human existence, and this service can take place easily through chanting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the best sequence of words to parrot on a daily basis.

In Closing:

While seated on a tree,

Male and female parrots see,

The divine pastimes of Krishna,

Who sports with gopis in Vrindavana.

 

Just what they saw they later repeat,

With truth are their words replete.

 

Saints then cherish these talks with their ears,

Purpose in life automatically becomes clear.

 

Those in this line with authority speak,

Hear from them and holy names repeat.

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