Welcome, we're delighted to have with us today David Haberman from Indiana University. He's a professor there of religious studies, has published extensively. He spent many, many years in India from 1973, his first visit. He's become very good friends with Shrivasta Goswami, who we've also interviewed. David's work involves so many things, but in essence this sense of embodied divinity in rivers, in trees, in stones. And today we're going to talk about the Yamuna River and his book, which is a magnificent book, River of Love in the Age of Pollution. His book on trees is also extraordinary and he's working on one right now on stones. But we're going to begin with John's introduction of bhakti and drawing out from David. What is bhakti, what is this sense of devotion in the Hindu tradition? >> Thanks Mary Evelyn. So, very pleased David to have this opportunity for both of us to interact with you in this forum. In this course on South Asian traditions and ecology. We've chosen the three themes of the Vedic Vedanta, the Upanishadic perspectives and yoga and Bhakti. And quite often Bhakti is historically situated as emerging from the 9th century, 10th century of the current era. But in fact the lineage is obviously connected much earlier and embedded in those two themes that we've been discussing namely yoga and the classical Vedantic tradition. So, I was wondering if we could open with your observation of that location of Bhakti in those earlier themes. >> Well, in so many ways I would press the time of Bhakti back much before 9th century. To me, one of the foundational text in Bhakti is the Bhagavad Gita And much that follows refers back to that. But the Bhagavad Gita Itself, which if I had the data, it would be right around the beginning of the first millennium as we recognize it, right? So it's a text that is roughly 2000 years old. But that already is well along the line of development that could trace back to the Vedic period in a number of ways. So if I'm not sure what you're covering in terms of Vedic period, but one of the most famous hymns in the Rig Veda is called the Purusha Sukta. So that the one of the cosmic person that gets divided. So that's a creation story of everything coming from this one essence Purusha. And if you've worked with that text, you know that Purusha is divided into two different dimensions. And the fractions are actually given in that particular hymn, right? One quarter and three quarters. And I think the fractions aren't as important as the two components, the two dimensions of reality. And that is that one dimension of Purusha is said to rise up beyond that which we experience with our senses. And that later becomes identified as the formless, the unmanifest, the unchanging nature of reality. But there's the one quarter of Purusha that remains behind and out of that comes all animate and inanimate beings. So that is more of an expression of what we would call the imminent nature of divinity. The manifest, the forms that comprise reality. Those two concepts are then carried on and traced. And the concept of Purusha is move forward and to say text like the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Which is the oldest, the largest and I would say the most important of the Upanishadic And in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Brahman is defined again as having two dimensions. The moral and the immortal, the form and the formless, the manifest and the unmanifest. So from the get go we have this rather sophisticated understanding of ultimate reality is having what we might call a transcendent dimension and an imminent dimension. Or the formless and the form. And that is continued with the language, even the term Purusha has continued on into the Bhagavad Gita. And let's say the 11th chapter, I'm not sure if you're doing much with the bulk of the Gita. But the 11th chapter is an interesting chapter in so many ways. And that it begins with Arjuna understanding that he doesn't have a complete knowledge of Krishna. He thinks that Krishna is his friend the chariot driver. So I would say that he's locked into a very limited view of form and can't see beyond that. But by this point in the text, he understands that that's limited and he asked Krishna to remove his mask, so to speak, called the mask of particularity, and Krishna then reveals what is called the Vishvarupa, the universal form. And Arjuna has a vision of the infinity of all form in a single point. [Sanskrit], the text says, and that that there's really no difference from the perspective of human perception of nothing or everything right? Because if you were to see all colors simultaneously, you see no colors it'd be black if it were opaque or clear white in the place of translucent example of that. And and so Arjuna comes to understand that other dimension of reality, the unchanging, the unmanifest, the formless. And he has that moment of now I see that that was limited. But he begins to experience discomfort disorientation because it's no longer to connect with ultimate reality. And Krisha is Brahman if we want to use that term. And he is ultimate reality, expressed in that particular form of Arjuna's chariot driver. And so he asks Krishna to return to a relationship with him like a father to a son, a friend to a friend or beloved to a lover and return to relationship. And so then Arjuna can connect. And that's really what Bhakti is so much about is establishing connection relationship, interaction with some embodied form of divinity. And the Bhagavad Gita recognizes that other dimension and says that there's validity in that path. But finally says it's very difficult to connect with the void as an embodied being. So we are embodied beings. This is our condition to be in human form. And humans most naturally connect with some familiar form and Krishna returns to that. I think that's played out so that the Bhagavad Gita has really added now beyond those two dimensions or the third dimension. We have the formless and we have form, right? And then we have another dimension that is called technically in the Gita itself, Purushottama. Which is the personality, the face, so to speak, of particularity of that personality on the void. And Bhakti is then connecting with that. It is about connecting with embodied forms of divinity in significant ways to participate in finally, it would be expressed in the later traditions to participate in the play of the joy of love. >> Powerful, that's beautiful. >> So to pick up on this historical thread and the Gita is being read in the class. So that's a wonderful connection. We move to this sense even into the present. And that bhakti is still one of the largest forms of practice within Hinduism all over the sub in the Indian Continent. There's various forms of Bhakti and practitioners and so on. So give us a sense in the Vrindavan area that this is Krishna's birthplace this is the lila, the dance, the play of Krishna and so on. Give us a feeling for what it is that makes Bhakti distinctive here in this area of Vrindavan along the Yamuna? >> Yeah, I think that that's a great question. But generally I would say in many ways that Bhakti is the dominant form of Hinduism. And I would label at first that what Hinduism is about as an actual practice. So if we went to India and ask someone to show us something about Hinduism, they wouldn't whip out a copy of the Upanishads. They would take us by the hand and take us to the nearest temple most likely. So that what Hinduism is what I like to call worshipful interaction with embodied forms of divinity. And those can be invited forms of divinity that are housed in a temple. Or very commonly in a home shrine. Or can be natural entities such as rivers, trees, mountains, right? And that Vrindavan expresses all that. So in a place like Vrindavan there are many temples where there are murtis or embodied forms of divinity that are housed in the temple and celebrated in a variety of ways. >> But the murtis would be actual figures. >> They would be figures. And they would be figures typically different stories about them. But we could say that they are created by human artisans in a particular way are and then are ritually installed in a way that invites the divinity into those forms. Or if we look at it from another perspective involves a perspective. It'll shift of the human mind to look towards them. Because in some sense and human in a Hindu context, everything is God and God is everything. Everything is Brahman and Brahman is everything. But Bhakti is about not connecting with the totality of all reality. That's difficult, but rather connecting with some particular form. And the Gita calls this the svarupa, which is "own form", would be a literal translation of svarupa. And own form can be understood in two ways. It can be understood from the divine perspective as an essential form of divinity. So it's considered to be not a symbol of divinity, but it's an embodiment of divinity. So in that sense it's God's own form. >> And just to pick up. Sorry, the devotee is also doing a Darshan with this, right? >> Right. >> Can you tell us what that means? >> The Darshan, which is the most common feature of what goes on in temple people say they go to take darshan within a temple. And I think darshan is best translated as visual communion, because the eyes on the murti are important. So it's not just seeing the divinity but also being seen by. And that's why the visual communion gets at that inter connective relationship between the devotee and the embodied form of divinity that is there. And the other meaning of "own form" is the or svarupa is that it is the devotees own form. That it's the form that one is attracted to or the form that one has come to One in. That one develops a very particular relationship. And again, something like universal love is a very noble idea. But in terms of intense connectivity, our our most passionate love is not with all people. It's with a particular, a special person. And svarupa gets at that specialty in that way. So that all these embodied for the there are an infinite in theory number of embodied forms of divinity. But again, you can have a relationship. So the relationship is carried out more or acted out, performed with a very particular form of divinity. And that's what one finds in Hindu temple.