Explorations in Tantra and Bhakti


Took a chill day at home with Vallabhdas and Premdas, while Vraja Gopi took the visitors around on Vrindavan yatra. I had a chance to do a brief interview with Premdas ji, Dr. David Haberman, asking him about his sense of the differences and overlap between the whole “tantra” and “bhakti” philosophies here—definitely added some depth and color to my own evolving sense of how these paths intertwine.One of his main points of distinction was that tantra tends to aim at identity, absorption—the drop yearning to become part of the ocean again—while bhakti orients around relationship, the drop enjoying its connection with the ocean. But he also colored in one of the main overlaps: that each path strongly views the material world itself as a part of the sacred whole, rather than as an unclean or “unholy” place ultimately to be left behind on the journey to wholeness. The idea that the jagat, the world, is false, is rejected by both the tantrik and the bhakta, who both view the world as fundamentally part of the non-dual spiritual whole rather than as an illusion to be overcome or risen above. I look forward to listening to the tape and recovering further details my mind was unable to retain properly in the real time blur of data immersion.

At sunset Vallabhdas and I did a short parikrama on the inner path ‘round Govardhan, through the area near the temple where Vallabh said they were working on a deal with the local forest service/NGO administration to re-plant and try to bring back a forest in honor of Shyamdas, as part of the Shyamdas Foundation’s efforts to continue nourishing Shyamdas’ vision for local Vraja seva.

Another late (10:30 pm) evening dinner prasad and then the guest house crew—down to Majer, Ishwari, Anja and myself—ambled down the lanes back to our crash pad du semain.

It looks like I have one more day here in Vraja, then it’s a train trip from Govardhan (!?) to Jaipur to visit with Raju ji and enjoy Shri Govind Devi darshan for a couple days before heading over to Delhi and gearing for the trip home…