Rasa cover

Rasa: Love Relationships in Transcendence

Softbound, 121 pages, 5 1/2" X 8 1/4"

table of contents

excerpt

While analysing the mindset of the spiritual seeker while living in the holiest of places, Sri Vrindavan, I began to develop the chapters of this book. It is a book about just how different sexuality is from spirituality and how, ironically, the two, sex and the soul, are at the same time inseperable. Pure sexuality is the purest spirituality. The nine chapters of this book qualiify this statement, distinguising spirit from matter while establishing the novel idea that the soul has emotions and a sexuality of its own separate from the flesh. This is the precious gift of Sri Caitanya to the world.

The self-evident nature of the teaching of Sri Caitanya is its beauty. This book culminates in what appears in the mundane sense to be lawless (and thereby irreligious and nonspiritual) love. This revolutionary concept is called parakiya bhava. In human society to date, nothing higher has been told about the possibilities for loving relationships with Godhead. In this teaching lies the truth of the sexuality of the soul.

We live in postmodern times, and the religon of divine love of Sri Caitanya is the fulfillment of these times. It can save us from the frustration arising from the fact that we are now, after more than two centuries of so-called reason and enlightenment, morally and spiritually bankrupt. This frustration, although leading us away from senseless sense indulgence to a new and nonmaterial life, does not contain the potential to deliver a life of spiritual love. Sri Caitanya's prema-dharma does. This book, Rasa, explores how this is so.

—from the Introduction

“It is perhaps the most helpful exposition of the Bhakti religion that has come my way. Thank you for writing it.”

Huston Smith. Author of the best-seller The World’s Religions. Professor at UC Berkeley.

“Tripurari Swami, perhaps the most noted Western exponent of the philosophical tradition of Bhakti, brings the deep perception of the devotional mind to the modern age and unravels the problems of contemporary living through its insight. Such a contribution brings a new dimension to the spiritual life which all serious seekers should examine, at the very least to broaden their horizons.”

David Frawley, Vedacarya. Author of Gods, Kings and Sages

Rasa helps us to face and formulate critical issues of life in personal and religious terms, and thus bespeaks hope and offers explicit possibilites for living and loving in ways that are both humane and devout.”

Professor Joseph T. O’Connell, St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto

“This book is an absolute treasure, and it is delightful to read. You have given the world a prize jewel, a book that will teach people to love each other and the Lord as well.”

Steven Rosen. Author of Food for the Spirit. Editor of Journal for Vaishnava Studies.


Table of Contents

Foreward by Joseph T. O'Connell

Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1

From Body-Negative to Body-Positive Spirituality

Chapter 2

Wishful Oneness and Monistic Vedanta

Chapter 3

The Heart of Compassion

Chapter 4

From Physics to the Metaphysics of a Personal God

Chapter 5

The Bhagavata

Chapter 6

Vaidhi-Bhakti and the Visnu of Vaikuntha

Chapter 7

Sri Caitanya and the Path of Spontaneous Devotion

Chapter 8

Rasa: Love Relationships in Transcendence

Chapter 9

From Postmodernism to Prema-dharma

About the Author

Pronunciation Guide

Glossary

Bibliography

Index


Excerpt

Postmodern times are at best moving us in a spiritual direction. As we are groping for a new model of life on which to place our feet firmly and move forward, the confusion that so characterizes postmodernism opens us to considering alternatives to outdated modernistic thinking. Hacker ethic, the idea that nothing is sacred and all things are open to be tampered with, is in one sense the direction that postmodern times are taking us, a direction that is not very appealing to the sensitive.

Yet when nothing is sacred and we have no fear to open any door, we may just open the right one and be surprised to learn that life itself is sacred and spirituality is our goal. Spirituality, humanity's greatest quest, will be attained neither by conquering the world of our senses nor by submitting to our present sensual demands, but by finding the source of our innate drive for love and embracing that love with all our being. This spiritual love is, in a sense, the emotional fulfillment, even the sexuality of our soul.

The popular image of the Madonna as a prostitute and a “material girl,“ represents only the surface of what has been called the sexual revolution. Underneath this sacrilege is a stirring of consciousness in search of deeper meaning in life. Now this consciousness is rising above the rejection of traditional religion's sexual mores and the embracing of a “no-holes-barred” sexual policy to a deeper understanding of our innate drive for love.

Since the time of Peter and Paul, the Church has made it clear that God is good and sex is bad. Indeed, it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where original sin was the Eve of Adam's eye. The Catholic Church officially accepted marriage only as a necessary evil. Sex for procreation was allowed, but the founding fathers openly preached the virtues of continent life. Paul himself, through whom marriage became acceptable, wrote, “It is a good thing for man to have nothing to with women.” For Paul and his church, marriage was clearly second best.

For the sexually active, things got worse before they got better. Augustine, whose influence pervaded the Church for more than a thousand years, was antisexual to the extreme. Augustine found in the act of procreation the seed of original sin. He taught that Adam's sinful nature was biologically transmitted through procreation.

Matthew Fox, the Dominican priest who was recently silenced by the Church for one year, is prominent in the body-positive spirituality of alternative Christianity. Fox's “creation spirituality“ calls for a renaissance of sexual mysticism. “The cosmic Christ,” writes Fox, “rejoices and is intimately at play when loves make love. Angels flap their wings in envy at those times.”

Fox speaks of sex as the “original blessing” rather than original sin. His creation spirituality, as opposed to what he calls fall/redemption spirituality, a term he uses to characterize the Church's body-negative stance, is molded after the philosophy of Meister Eckhart. Eckhart is still, after five centuries, under doctrinal scrutiny. Fox remains Christian in his own way, but it is questionable how long he will remain Catholic in the eys of the Church. Fox's ecumenical leaning far outreaches that of Thomas Merton and other notable Catholic theologians.

Whether it be alternative Christianity or an Eastern spiritual discipline, the goal is to reach that state beyond form, beyond sex. Yet we have heard from alternative spirituality that sex is a positive spiritual influence, a beautiful blessing, even the very essence of our spirituality. Therefore, it is ironic to advocate, at the same time, an impersonal, voidistic, formless, and thus an even more asexual Godhead than that of traditional Christianity!

If after scrutiny we conclude that our sexuality in all its subtleties is integral to our being, there must be a truly sexually positive spirituality in which Godhead is not asexual. This cannot be a mental God, but one that all reason points to, leading us beyond reason's own limitations. This focus will bring about a normalizing and harmonizing of our sexual urge, such that is understood in terms of its spiritual source. It will enable us to realize that whatever we find in illusion has its origin in reality. Thus a sexual, and thereby necessarily personal Godhead, both masculine and feminine, must come into focus.

The Vedas declare, raso vai sah. The essence of life is rasa, love relationships in transcendence. Raso vai sah is a clarion call for transcendence beyond the constraints of genital sexuality, as well as beyond sexless, formless knowledge of Brahman or the Cosmic Christ, to a suprasexual transcendental relationship with Godhead. Such a divine personal Godhead is one with whom we can be one in purpose, thereby transcending duality. Duality is not created by individuality itself, but by interest seperate from the whole. When our intent becomes one with the whole, we do not become the whole but enter a state of divine rapture—rasa. This state of divine rapture is the subject of this book.