Sunday, September 16, 2018

On Saubhagya Sampradaya and the Sunday Homily

Every kid who was ever made to go to church hated the sermon more than any other bit. Not only did we have to sit through _all those words_, we had to act like they were important. Pullleezze. A homily is a shorter sermon, usually an explanation of "scripture." The definition of scripture, leaving aside it etymologies that have to do with "writing," is actually "never has so much been written or said about so very little."  Nearly everything thing about preaching is maudlin, prating nonsense, and that's when the sermon is good.  But I still can't help myself.  It must be some deep wound I'm working out, some piece of my dark shadow that is looking to relive what I did to myself for no good reason.  If you need your moral edification from a sermon you're in way bigger trouble than you think.  I don't do it for that.  More or less, I sermonize to see if I understand something I think I understand, but may not.  Why you might like 'em is totally beyond me.

With this in mind you are prepared for far more words than are ever necessary, the requisite fake solemnity that spares you any parental aftermath punishment for laughing at all this ridiculousness, and a certain kind of incredulity regarding the grown ups who make you listen to reallystupidshit and must somehow know this too. Now I say all of this, which is likely to offend someone or another, and my parents _never_ even made me go to church. I sent myself. WTF was that about? What kinda'akid does that? The result is that I now mean to torture you occasionally as I self-tortured myself with an old fashioned Sunday homily. Praise the 330 Million. Or not. Caveat: never ever ever take anything too too seriously unless you have to. When you have to, do that, but otherwise mostly laugh it off, roll with it, let it be no more than it needs to be. Onward.

Today's homily is just that, a few paragraphs about some Sanskrit words and ideas that are _nothing_ like what I endured in church. But it's still a homily and that's always a little annoying. Enjoy.

***

Appa often referred to Rajanaka's relationship to Shrividya, the goddess traditions of Auspicious Wisdom, with the more common older term "Saubhagya Sampradaya." This is how Jayaratha in his brief notes on Vāmakeśvarimata and others from the contemporaneous Kashmiri tradition refer to the Traipura-s, the followers of Tripurasundari, the Beautiful One of the Three Cities. "Saubhagya" means prosperity, good fortune, bounty, and beneficence. The -bhagya bit is a noun form that you will recognize in Bhagavan, bhaga, and other words that mean to share, to enjoy, to bless, to make blessed---these are all in some sense food-words, that is, about being nourished, satisfied, soothed (the opposite of hangry), and feed. The prefix su- means "good" the way its opposite dur- (or duh. as in duhkha or suffering, literally "bad sky") means "bad" or "detrimental." When make the vowel heavy by gradation from su- to sau- then it means made of or possessed of, in this case goodness. So "saubhagya" means especially well nourished, truly contented or assuaged, well-soothed, taken care of, brought to good fortune, enjoying good fortune or prosperity.

The word "sampradaya" is an easy etymology. Two prefixes: sam- means to collect, to put together, to exalt, to celebrate, to make whole; pra- means to bring forward, to take apart, to advance, to fall or lean towards or into. "Dāya" is a noun form from the verbal root /dā, to give, offer, make a gift. A "sampradaya" means tradition because it is the collection that carries forward, but it also has the sense of that which pays forward (as we use that term nowadays). When you pay forward you reach into the past, collect what is valuable and make it a gift to others: this is the _purpose_ of tradition. It is not to create dogma or catechism that keeps people in line; it's not about merely preserving the past or holding on to the anachronistic. Rather it's about collective value, advancement, and offering: this is how Appa described it, and that changed everything I thought about "tradition."

What makes Rajanaka different than most other Shrividya traditions is that others usually say that the _real_ saubhagya is liberation, some exalted state of identity with the essential power that is the goddess such that the Self is now no longer confined or bound by the terms of samsara. This is---how shall we put it?---typical liberation theory stuff. Appa was keen not to talk about this, which was his way of respecting others' viewpoints without endorsing them. This supreme state of liberation, the majority contend, then becomes the experience of the everyday, which is the goddess in the form(s) of the world. So, like the Kashmir Shaivites, this is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too sort of claim. So much for the majority's opinion. What say Rajanaka?

Rajanaka takes the more this-worldly approach to such saubhagya inasmuch as there is no claim to some ultimate relief, extrication, or liberation from any particular bondage or samsara claim. We will suffer in this mortal life and there is no unconditional relief somewhere or somehow, there's just life. Further, the liberationists will contend that their liberation not only solves suffering ultimately but that it relieves the burdens and bondage of the shadow, of the problematics, regrets, losses, and pains, seen and unseen, known and hidden.

Rajanaka's idea is that in saubhagya we learn how to incorporate, adapt, integrate, and include the shadow, the pain and the loss, the known and deeply concealed forms of inextricable and oh so mortal existence. To wit, there is no liberation either in some ultimate sense or from the shadow's continued presence in mortal life. Rather, there are ways to continue to "enjoy" the struggle, the strife, the incomplete and unfinished business, the broken, missing, and extra pieces of a life that we want to be "well-lived."

And that's the take away from this Sunday sermon. What is Rajanaka's saubhagya-sampradaya? Rajanaka is a life well-lived---with all its slings and arrows and outrageous fortunes and misfortunes. This is saubhagya. The tradition, the sampradaya, as participation invites us to reach into the value of provenance in our own experience and pay it forward to make one's own life a gift to others. That's when we will experience others for who they are, for better and for worse, as beings of light and shadow, just like everyone else.

As for "liberation," well, you are most free when you feel and fathom the boundaries of a mortal life---revel in human accomplishments and acknowledge every human error. Savor the rasa, the flavor and feeling, of each breath for what it has to offer, love your life even when that seems near impossible to do. Rajanaka doesn't promise what can't be delivered in this world and has no views of any other. So dream like you'll live forever and live like there's always more life yet to live. Happy Sunday. Now go do something fun.

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