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Was there institutionalization in Gaudiya Vaisnavism before Srila Prabhupada became?

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Adi-Guru and FounderAcarya





EDITORIAL, Nov 16 (VNN) — Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari


"Srila Prabhupada himself never explained the terms adi-guru and founder acarya in the way that you have done. So from the start we are left to accept the explanation of these terms with no supporting evidence. Indeed, there is evidence to the contrary."


Q. Srila Prabhupada is the founder acarya of Iskcon and because the position of founder acarya is unique it mandates that all Gaudiya Vaisanvas follow him today. Was there institutionalization in Gaudiya Vaisnavism before Srila Prabhupada became the founder acarya of Iskcon? Do you underestimate the importance of the institutionalization of Lord Caitanya's teachings?


A. It is important to note that Srila Prabhupada is the founder acarya of an institution, not a religion or even a lineage. The founder of Srila Prabhupada's religion is Sri Caitanya. This is explained in Sri Jiva Goswami's Sarva-samvadini tika on Sat-sandarbha. In Sri Caitanya's religion there are many lineages. Srila Prabhupada is a member and prominent guru in one of them, one that in modern times follows the vision of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada identified his movement as the movement of Thakura Bhaktivinoda. This statement is merely factual. It does not minimize Srila Prabhupada and would not need to be made if it were not for those who have tried to identify the title "Founder Acarya," with founders of sampradayas, such as Madhva, Ramanuja, and Sri Caitanya. Unfortunately, this kind of so-called glorification of Srila Prabhupada is often done to minimize other Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas and inadvertently clouds philosophical discussions with emotions and tears that smear the ink on the printed page of sastra.


As for the institutionalization of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, other than the softer form of institutionalization in the form of literature, not much had been done previous to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. He was perhaps the first to make a major experiment in institutionalizing Gaudiya Vaisnavism, even though he made a number of statements about the potential problems that could arise from this. Given what has occurred in Iskcon in recent decades, it might be in the interest of spreading Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's precepts to place more emphasis on his essential teachings rather than so much emphasis on institutionalization.


Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura wrote, "The idea of an organized church in an intelligible form marks the close of a living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dikes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivances. They, indeed, indicate a desire on the part of the masses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. They also unmistakably indicate the end of the absolute and unconventional guidance of the bona fide spiritual teacher." (The Harmonist, January 1929)


Q. I read in an Iskcon publication that there are four disciplic successions and the leaders of these successions are known as adi-gurus, or original gurus. The duty of each member and all subsequent gurus in the sampradaya is to simply transmit the message as received from the adi-guru without adulteration. Is this correct?


A. The Padma Purana says that there are four Vaisnava sampradayas. In relation to this statement our sampradaya would be the Brahma sampradaya and our adi-guru would be Brahmaji. He passed the teachings through Narada to Vyasadeva, who compiled the Vedas. When the teachings came to Madhvacarya, he did not simply repeat what he had heard from others, rather he shed new light on the Vedas by interpreting them according to his own spiritual realization. His interpretation, known as dvaitavada, gave birth to a new spiritual movement, in which prominent members further elaborated on the philosophy of Madhva, as the tradition developed its own rites, rituals, and spiritual practices.


Later in the Brahma-Madhva sampradaya, Sri Caitanyadeva, in accordance with his own spiritual experience, shed new light on the teachings that Brahma received from Krsna. His disciples, the Six Goswamis of Vrndavana, further elaborated on the teachings of Sri Caitanya. In this way the Caitanya branch of the Madhva sampradaya came into being and developed its own rites, rituals, and spiritual practices. It is the religion of Sri Caitanya that Srila Prabhupada came west to establish.


He did not come to establish a new sampradaya or religion. He came to promote the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, which he did by innovative preaching, not by simply parroting what he had heard from his guru.


The point here is that while it is true that the teachings should be passed on without adulteration, the real spirit of the parampara involves shedding new light on the teachings, making them relevant to people of the times. While Srila Prabhupada would often say to pass on what you have heard without adulteration, his own example of adjusting the teachings according to time and circumstance clearly demonstrates that preaching involves understanding the teachings enough to deliver the essential message, in the midst of altering many nonessential details. Disciplic succession is not simply about repeating what you have heard from the previous guru. It is about realization.


Q. I read that the adi-guru is the devotee who founds the disciplic succession and establishes its original teachings, and that "founder acarya" refers to the devotee who redirects the parampara and corrects the teachings when they become lost or altered. In this regard some consider Srila Prabhupada's contribution to be like that of Madhva and Ramanuja, who are founder acaryas. Some consider them adi-gurus as well, so I guess Srila Prabhupada could also be both an adi-guru and a founder acarya. The book I read says further that Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that devotees who succeed the founder acarya are duty bound to see the teachings of the parampara through the founder acarya's instructions. There was however no reference from the writings of Bhaktivinode Thakura given to support these statements. Did Bhaktivinoda Thakura actually say all this?


A. The terms adi-guru and founder acarya are defined here in a novel way. Except for one instance, I have never read where any acarya used the term adi-guru to refer to anyone other than Krsna, the original guru. Similarly, the term founder acarya is not a scriptural term. If it were, it would be a translation of a Sanskrit term. Founder acarya refers to the founding acarya of an institution. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was the founder acarya of Gaudiya Math, Srila Prabhupada was the founder acarya of Iskcon, Srila Sridhara Maharaja was the founder acarya of Sri Caitanya Saraswat Math, and so forth.


Srila Prabhupada himself never explained the terms adi-guru and founder acarya in the way that you have done. So from the start we are left to accept the explanation of these terms with no supporting evidence.


Indeed, there is evidence to the contrary.


Srila Prabhupada writes, "If we are to accept guru, so the original guru is Krsna because He instructed Lord Brahma, the first living creature within this universe. Tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye [sB 1.1.1]. He instructed the adi-kavi (Brahma, the original poet from whom the Vedic scriptures emanate). He is the guru, Krsna. And in the Bhagavad-gita, he also says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam [bg. 4.1]. So He (Krsna) is adi guru. In Bhagavad-gita also he is instructing Arjuna. He is adi guru."


Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes, "The adi-guru of all the spiritual masters in the disciplic succession is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Showing his great mercy, he instructed Brahma, the adi-kavi.


These truths were in turn taught by Brahma to Sri Narada, by Narada to Sri Vyasa, and by Vyasa to Sri Madhvacarya. Such instructions as received through this disciplic succession are called guru-parampara-upadesa."


The one instance I mentioned of adi-guru referring to someone other than Krsna is in Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Harinama Cintamani, where he refers to Madhva, Ramanuja, Nimbarka, and Visnuswami as adi-gurus. In Gaudiya Vaisnavism the term founder acarya first came into use during the time of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. It is not found in Harinama Cintamani or any of the writings of Bhaktivinoda that I am familiar with. Therefore I don't know how anyone could justify writing that Bhaktivinoda Thakura interpreted the term founder acarya in any particular way. In this case it appears to me that this reference from Harinama Cintamani has been grossly misconstrued to equate the term founder acarya with the founder of a sampradaya. I have already explained that the terms adi-guru and founder acarya are not synonymous. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, not Srila Prabhupada, is the founder of the Gaudiya Sampradaya.


Q. I am trying to understand the role of the siksa (instructing) guru in the Gaudiya sampradaya. Some people are under the impression that the Gaudiya sampradaya means Iskcon exclusively and are teaching that members of Iskcon should not receive instruction in Gaudiya Vaisnavism from devotees outside that organization. What is your opinion on this?


A. The International Society for Krsna Consciousness (Iskcon) is the largest international Gaudiya Vaisnava organization. Some members of that organization may believe that Iskcon alone, at the exclusion of other similar Gaudiya sects, represents the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. In my limited experience, even when they know otherwise in theory, in practice some Iskcon devotees tend to forget this fact, which sometimes leads them to disrespect the rest of the sampradaya.


While you may have accurately described Iskcon's official policy in regards to siksa guru, the truth is that many disciples of Srila Prabhupada have at one time or another accepted advice and spiritual instructions from senior devotees outside that organization.


In spite of their rules to the contrary, I have found that Iskcon members have no difficulty in applying the principle of siksa guru in a way that extends beyond the boarders of that society. Many Iskcon devotees to Sanga and send me relevant questions on Gaudiya Vaisnavism, although I have not been a member of Iskcon for twenty years. Others regularly read the writings of acaryas who are outside of Iskcon or have accepted one or more these acaryas as their siksa guru(s), while remaining within Iskcon for convenience sake or other nobler reasons.


Yet some members of Iskcon are still blinded by the glaring misconceptions that their official siksa guru policy is based on. The official position, stating that disciples of Srila Prabhupada, my beloved diksa guru, cannot accept someone outside of Iskcon as their siksa guru without being considered deviant, is understood by many devotees as not only theologically unacceptable but insulting as well.


One result of this ill-conceived policy is that devotees who practice Krsna consciousness outside of Iskcon are ostracized and vilified by Iskcon members, instead of being embraced as fellow Vaisnavas, which is the type of non-sectarianism that Srila Prabhupada had ultimately hoped for.


At any rate, differences of opinion are a fact of spiritual life and it should be clear on this matter that I differ with Iskcon's official policy. However, differences should only remain if each party can muster sufficient scriptural support to justify their opinion. I have yet to see any actual scriptural support justifying the theory that one can only take siksa from a member of one's own religious institution.


Indeed, if this were an actual scriptural imperative then no member of any other Gaudiya Vaisnava sect or organization could take siksa from anyone in Iskcon.


Q. I read that there are many types of siksa gurus and their role is to give instruction in devotional service, generally known as abhideya. Is it correct to say that a founder acarya is the siksa guru for his or her followers, and the diksa guru initiates disciples giving instructions in devotional science, known as sambandha?


A. There are many types of siksa gurus and of course the founder acarya of an institution is certainly one of them. The founder acarya's influence on the spiritual life of any particular devotee will depend on many factors, but generally the best siksa guru for a devotee is the one who is helping him or her the most at any particular point in time.


While Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, Srila Prabhupada, Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Kesava Maharaja, and so many others are founder acaryas for their respective missions, it is left to those who represent them to make their teachings understandable and accessible to devotees and the general public. This is what these founder acaryas did with regard to the teachings of the acaryas who came before them. Therefore to the individual, a particular representative of the founder acarya may be even more important than the founder acarya of the institution. This is the dynamic principle of disciplic succession.


Otherwise, when it is said that the diksa guru gives sambandha jnana, this really refers to the fact that he or she gives the mantra, wherein knowledge of one's relationship with Krsna is found. Diksa means giving the mantra. Everything else that follows is siksa. The disciple requires siksa at every stage of progress. There is siksa on sambandha (conceptual orientation), siksa on abhideya (the nature of the path), and siksa on prayojana (the goal). Siksa may come from friends and associates, but the most helpful and meaningful siksa comes from the association of advanced devotees. One should seek out this type of siksa regardless of where it is found. Prohibiting devotees from going beyond institutional boundaries to seek advanced association can sometimes constitute an offense to the principle of guru, of which Krsna is the adi-guru. Krsna cannot be imprisoned within the walls of any particular religious institution and offenses to the principal of guru cannot be counteracted by official institutional policy.

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I wonder about the relationship is between the words organization and institution. Their meanings sometimes shift and blend into each other and may obscure the original intent. Something to ponder anyway.


Also we can never forget the uniquness of Srila Prabhupada's preaching mission. For it to flourish an organized effort was essential. Organization is always a necessary tool. One needs to be oraganized to write one book let alone 50 or more and sell them by the millions world wide.


But one soul's success in such efforts does not preclude others from making similar attempts. Just the opposite really as it shows by example what can be done.


A tree is said to be healthy when it is full and flush with many branches of varying sizes and pointing in different directions while producing much fruit of the same sweet taste.


Appreciate ye one another.

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But one soul's success in such efforts does not preclude others from making similar attempts. Just the opposite really as it shows by example what can be done.



It also doesn't preclude others from trying something a little different, as time and circumstance may suggest.

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What other models of, or vehicles, would be helpful?


What if one of Srila Prabhupada's diciples started a simplified version along this model for example.


A bhajan/kirtan center or hall with just constant chanting and classes being broken only for prasadam BUT WITH NO FORMAL DEITY WORSHIP, only a nice picture of Panca Tattva and the devotee.


Would that be considered somehow less then the parampara standard? Or even unbonefide entirely?

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I think different people will try different things, as they are inspired, in repsonse to the environment they find themselves in. I remember that when I lived on Maui, Siddhasvarupa's folks had a big kirtan hall they met at for kirtans and classes. when the devotees asked if we would bring our Deities up there, Siddha asked us to bring them back to our house and suggested that anyone who wanted to join us in worshipping them come down to our house (we lived on the same property--6 acres on Peahi Road, just up the road from what had been The Banana Patch commune in the late '60s). Here on the Big Island, his disciple Garuda das has a kirtan hall with an altar, with big pictures of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda. Garuda's wife does arati as part of their programs.


I think that whatever helps others become more Krishna conscious and doesn't flagrantly flout the guidelines of bhakti would be considered bonafide. In Jaiva Dharma, the babajis at Godruma just get together under nice trees for hearing and chanting.


I remember hearing that, before he even spent any time with devotees, Tripurari Maharaja would have Krishna Book classes at his place. When the devotees came up there and found him, they brought him back to LA, where he was inititated and engaged in distributing books as no one else had.

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Meditation On The Siddhadeha





— Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari


"Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura characteristically did not discuss in detail the emergence of a disciple's siddha deha, but emphasized its realization through kirtana of Krsna nama and the smarana that arises naturally from this."


Q. Some devotees say that one's svarupa, or spiritual identity, is already within us and is realized through spiritual practice (sadhana).


Other devotees say that it is not something that is already existing but rather manifests according to one's desire. Which is it?


A. One's eternal svarupa is already existing but needs to be realized by hearing and chanting. This is explained by Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, krsna prema nitya siddha sadhya kabu naya, sravanadi suddha citte karaye udaya. One's svarupa is a manifestation of Krsna prema, which is eternally existing in perfection (nitya siddha krsna prema).


It is not something that was not existing at some point and later comes into existence (sadhya kabhu naya). Hearing, chanting, and so on, about Krsna (sravanadi) purifies one's consciousness (suddha citte), at which time one's eternal svarupa awakens (karaye udaya). This awakening involves the experience of desiring to serve Krsna in a particular sentiment. According to Bhaktivinoda, as the svarupa becomes visible to the guru, he or she guides the disciple's bhajan accordingly, at which time the disciple cultivates the budding desire to serve Krsna in a particular sentiment. It is also possible that one's inherent svarupa may begin to awaken and then be cultivated by the disciple without external guidance. This is explained by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in his Ragavartma Candrika. The Thakura cites the following verse from Srimad Bhagavatam:


yatha yathatma parimrjyate 'saumat- punya-gatha-sravanabhidhanaihtatha tatha pasyati vastu suksmamcaksur yathaivanjana-samprayuktam


"Just as a diseased eye treated with medicinal ointment will gradually be able to see more clearly, similarly a conscious living entity--the seer--purified by hearing and chanting the virtuous narrations of my glories, is gradually able to see more and more subtle truths." (SB 11.14.26)


Commenting on this verse in his Ragavartma Candrika 1.9, Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes that when sacred greed for Vraja bhakti awakens within the sadhaka's heart, Bhagavan illuminates the sadhaka's goal both externally as Sri Guru and internally as the indwelling oversoul, the antaryami. The Thakura explains that such sadhakas may receive instructions concerning the esoteric truths of raganuga sadhana bhakti either directly from the mouth of Sri Guru or a qualified sadhu, or such instructions will manifest of their own accord in the heart of the sadhaka purified by hearing and chanting.


Thus one's svarupa is already existing and at the same time it is experienced as the sadhaka's desire to serve in a particular sentiment.


When Bhaktivinoda Thakura speaks about one's svarupa being inherent, he means that one's svarupa exists in potential, just as an infant's capacity to walk is inherent, and given the right circumstances, he or she will eventually walk. The jiva is a manifestation of the tatastha sakti, which is a partial manifestation of the svarupa sakti, the svarupa sakti being the source of all sakti. Unlike the maya sakti, which is a distorted manifestation of the svarupa sakti, the tatastha sakti has the potential to live in the conscious world as an eternal servant of Bhagavan. This potential can be realized when the tatastha sakti comes in contact with the current of the guru-parampara, which is the channel through which the svarupa sakti extends itself to the jiva soul. The partial expression of the svarupa sakti that the jiva is constituted of is insufficient to afford it standing in the lila of Bhagavan in and of itself. In order for it to realize its full potential it requires an investment from above, just as a small business requires an investment of capital to realize its potential to go public.


Q. In his Harinama Cintamani, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains the manifestation of the spiritual body in five stages, from sravana dasa to sampati dasa. The third stage smarana dasa has five levels. In the first of these levels meditation is said to be unsteady or fluctuating.


However, in Madhurya Kadambini, it is said that meditation on the asakti level is uninterrupted. Does this mean that meditation on one's siddha deha can be performed before the devotional stage of asakti?


A. In his Harinama Cintamani, Thakura Bhaktivinoda emphasizes that as one advances in chanting the holy name one should simultaneously engage in smaranam (meditation) on Sri Krsna's form, qualities, and lila in this order. The particular form in which Krsna appears in meditation replete with particular qualities corresponds with his worshiper's budding sentiment. This meditation then places one's Deity in the appropriate lilas for further meditation. After explaining this, Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes that meditation on Sri Krsna's lila is to be performed from the perspective of one's siddha deha (perfected spiritual body).


In support of the practice of meditating on one's siddha deha and Krsna's eightfold daily nitya-lila, Bhaktivinoda Thakura cites the Ramananda-samvada of Caitanya-caritamrta. Therein Ramananda Raya, acting as the raga marga guru of Sri Krsna Caitanya, explains to him the theoretical truth concerning one's siddha deha. It is notable that this occurs after Mahaprabhu has taken sannyasa and has been engaged in Sri Krsna sankirtana for some time.


At this point in Harinama Cintamani the Thakura writes that in order to begin this bhajana of meditating on the daily lila of Sri Krsna and one's siddha deha, one must first hear about these things in theory from one's guru. He calls this sravana dasa. Sravana dasa is followed by varana dasa. Varana dasa involves the disciple expressing his experience of his emerging spiritual identity, and in response to this revelation Sri Guru confirms and further clarifies this identity. When the disciple embraces this identity, he or she begins the practice of meditating on both the siddha deha and the daily lila of Sri Krsna.


This meditation involves five stages, remembrance (smarana), self-reminding (dharana), absorption in the object of meditation (dhyana), uninterrupted meditation (anusmrti), and comprehensive meditation (samadhi).


It appears from the text of Harinama Cintamani that the emergence of one's siddha deha occurs at a later stage of devotion. Indeed, the entire discussion of this is reserved for the final section of the final chapter of the book, the greater balance of which consists of a treatise on offenseless chanting of Krsna nama. The idea that the emergence and subsequent discussion or experience of one's siddha deha develops at a later stage of devotion is consistent with the Thakura's bhajana siksa in his book Bhajana Rahasya.


The foremost follower of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, characteristically did not discuss in detail the emergence of his disciple's siddha deha, but emphasized its realization through kirtana of Krsna nama and the smarana that arises naturally from this. He writes that hearing about Krsna-lila (sravana dasa) is followed by kirtana of that which one has heard (varana dasa). When this kirtana is performed in light of a particular devotional mood cultivated by the kirtaneer, this in turn gives rise to meditation (smarana dasa). See also his commentary on Upadesamrta 8.


Both of these acaryas have emphasized that one's siddha deha is experienced at the stage of asakti, at which time deep meditation on one's siddha deha is possible. Thakura Bhaktivinoda writes in his Bhajana Rahasya, pancamete suddha dasya rucira sahita hare rama sankirtana smarana vihita:


"With the fifth pair of names (in the maha mantra--Hare Rama), as one's taste (ruci) for chanting increases (asakti), one attains an attitude of pure servitude (manifestation of the siddha deha); and as one chants "Hare Rama," one should take up the practice of smaranam."


Examined in context, this is a clear reference to the stage of asakti, at which time Bhaktivinoda writes one should "take up the practice of smaranam." Commenting further on the stage of asakti, Thakura Bhaktivinoda writes later on in Bhajana Rahasya, "At this stage of cultivating the practice of the holy name, the aspirant prays for knowledge of his eternal spiritual identity and for service to Lord Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu sets the example in his Siksastaka (5)."


However, some followers of these acaryas feel that nistha is the threshold for the practice of raganuga bhakti that involves meditating on one's emerging siddha deha, while others stress the stage of ruci just prior to asakti. Ruci is the stage at which raganuga bhakti sadhana proper (jata ruci raganuga) is performed, and thus some degree of meditation on one's siddha deha is certainly possible.


Ruci has two stages of its own. The first stage involves taste for bhakti that is dependent on externals being in place, such as the kirtana being performed with musical proficiency, or Hari katha being poetically embellished. The second stage involves taste for bhakti that is not dependent on these externals. In these respective stages meditation can be distracted (smarana) and involves a deliberate effort (dharana).


Anusmrti (the fourth stage of uninterrupted meditation) is achieved in bhava-bhakti. Asakti involves natural meditation from which one cannot trace how one's mind drifts from mundane thought to absorption in the object of devotion. This is the opposite of the experience at the stage of nistha, where one cannot trace out how one's mind drifts away from thoughts of the object of devotion to mundane thoughts. This is not anusmrti, but rather the third stage of meditation, dhyana, wherein meditation is not deliberate but spontaneous.


The above analysis of the stages of meditation in relation to stages of advancement is no doubt a conservative one. In his Bhakti-sandarbha, Sri Jiva Goswami, citing verses from several scriptures, has described the five stages of meditation similarly. He describes the first stage of meditation (smarana) in a more liberal way ("a sinner somehow or other thinking of Visnu"); however, he describes the second stage of self-reminding (dharana) as anusmarana, "constant meditation." Sri Jiva describes the third stage (dhyana) as "undivided meditation" on God that enables one to endure the dualities of heat and cold, pleasure and pain, and so on, envisioning such difficulties as blessings. Jiva Goswami describes the fourth stage (anusmrti) as never forgetting Krsna even for a moment. He cites Vyasa's trance that gave rise to Srimad Bhagavatam as an example of the fifth stage (samadhi).


While Sri Jiva's description of the second through the fifth stages apply well to the forgoing analysis, I don't think Sri Jiva's liberal explanation of the first stage of meditation is what Thakura Bhaktivinoda had in mind when writing about the first stage of meditation on the eightfold nitya-lila of Sri Sri Radha Krsna from the vantage point of one's eternally perfected spiritual body. Nor does it fit well with the teaching of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.


Overall, so little is written anywhere on these stages that they are left open to some degree of interpretation, and acaryas have thus taken an interpretive license when writing about them.


As mentioned above, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura discusses sravana dasa, etc., including the five stages of meditation, in his commentary on Upadesamrta 8. After concluding this discussion he states:


"When a devotee following the path of vaidhi bhakti (here he refers to ajata ruci raganuga) abandons his variety of material desires and performs bhajana in accordance with the instruction of sat-guru, sastra, and Vaisnava, ruci arises in his bhajana. Upon the appearance of ruci, he abandons the path of vaidhi bhakti and enters the path of raganuga (jata ruci raganuga)."


Ajata ruci raganuga bhakti, or raganuga sadhana bhakti that is not motivated primarily by taste but rather by intellect, is often referred to by both Bhaktivinoda and Saraswati Thakura as vaidhi bhakti. By this they do not mean the path of vaidhi bhakti that leads to majestic love of God. Thus their emphasis on raganuga bhakti seems to stress jata ruci raganuga as that sadhana in which all the components of raganuga sadhana, such as meditation on one's siddha deha, will be in place.


This is certainly the emphasis of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura in expressing his understanding of the teachings of Thakura Bhaktivinoda.


As a rule, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura did not personally discuss in detail meditation on the siddha deha with his disciples. In this regard he did not do what Thakura Bhaktivinoda writes about in Harinama Cintamani with regard to the guru discussing the siddha deha with a disciple at an advanced stage of practice. He emphasized realizing one's siddha deha through kirtana and the smaranam that arises naturally from it.


In this regard I was recently forwarded biographical notes from one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, and a section of his notes contrasts the approach that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura taught regarding realization of one's siddha deha and that of Lalita Prasada, his brother. Both of these gurus considered themselves followers of Thakura Bhaktivinoda. This disciple of Srila Prabhupada was initiated first by Srila Prabhupada and later he received bhajana siksa, etc. secretly from Lalita Prasada while Srila Prabhupada was still among us. To my knowledge he is not active in Gaudiya Vaisnavism at this time.


He relates the following: "When Prabhupada came to Vrndavana for a visit, I got Dr. Kapoor to come with me to ask about it (discussing one's siddha deha). Prabhupada said, "This is not done in our line. One must realize his relationship for himself. One cannot just jump ahead.


When one is ripe and ready, it will be revealed from within . . . I am a cowherd boy."


This, I believe, represents the policy of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Representing the approach of Lalita Prasada, the same devotee writes:


"He [Lalita Prasada] called Bhakta Ma to help pick a name for me. She came up with Sudha Manjari. He had me pick an age I wanted to be from eight to thirteen. Thirteen. He said my color was golden, and I wore a sky blue sari, and that color combination was very beautiful. He asked me what service I liked performing the best. I enjoyed bathing the Deity of Radha and dressing her in the morning. That became my eternal service. My abode is Mahananda Kunja, a bower in Vrndavana. Lalita Prasad told me not to change any of these things without his permission, and to always meditate on them. He gave me a printed list of the disciplic succession with their spiritual identities and a place to add my name and information to the succession."


It should be noted that this devotee had not attained a particularly advanced stage of devotion such as nistha or ruci when Lalita Prasada gave him this information. I leave it for the reader to decide which approach better represents Bhaktivinoda Thakura.


Some devotees feel that the early stages of devotional life before ruci is attained involve at least "remembrance" (smarana) and "self-reminding" (dharana) of one's siddha deha, as given by gurus in various Gaudiya lineages. Some of these devotees also point to evidence in the life of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and others he associated with that could be construed as support for this approach, one that is popular and has a long-standing tradition.


For the followers of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, perhaps the conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that meditation on one's siddha deha is appropriate at whatever stage and to whatever extent it manifests. By all means, whenever one's siddha deha begins to manifest, to that extent one should try to meditate on it. To get to that stage, take shelter of the guru of your choice and follow his or her bhajana siksa.


Questions or comments may be submitted at the Q&A Forum http://www.swami.org/sanga/ or email sangaeditor@swami.org.

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by Swami B.V. Tripurari


"Without desiring to overcome impediments while chanting, progress will be very slow. Sadly, we see this all too often. Despite chanting for years, many experience that their taste for chanting the name of Krsna has not increased."


Q. What can you tell me about Vyasadeva? Did he write all of the Vedas?


A. The life of Krsna Dvaipayana (Vyasa), the legendary editor of the Vedic scriptures, is recorded in the Mahabharata. He was the son of Satyavati, a fisherman's daughter, and the sage Parasara. Later he fathered Dhrtarastra in the womb of his brother's wife, as per the custom should one's brother be impotent. He also fathered Sukadeva Goswami, the celebrated speaker of Srimad Bhagavatam.


Following in his father's footsteps, Sri Krsna Dvaipayana became a "vyasa," or compiler of scripture. The title Vyasadeva implies that he was specifically empowered for this undertaking and is thus considered an empowered incarnation (saktyavesa) of God's knowledge potency (jnana-sakti). According to the tradition, he mystically remains alive today and resides in the Himalayas.


In his maturity he compiled Srimad Bhagavatam. This was his final work, one that arose out of his samadhi, or spiritual trance in meditation on Krsna lila, samadhinanusmara tad vicestitum. His trance, its significance, and the compilation of Srimad Bhagavatam arising from it are discussed at length in Sri Jiva Goswami's Tattva-sandarbha.


It is possible that over the ages various sages have added to the scriptural legacy of Vyasadeva, editing existing works and writing others, and in so doing they may have assigned his name to their work considering it to have been empowered by him. This is one way to harmonize academic dating of the scripture with the tradition's sense that the entire scriptural corpus of Vedas, Itihasas, and Puranas were all written personally by Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasadeva.


Editors note: Swami Tripurari's commentary on Tattva-sandarbha is available from the Audarya bookstore: http://www.swami.org/store


Q. Krsna clearly says in the Bhagavad-gita to surrender to him. In this context, what specifically does surrender mean?


A. When at the Gita's conclusion Bhagavan Sri Krsna tells us to surrender, he means that those in whom he has awakened faith should take refuge in him alone through devotion. Such surrendered souls do not take shelter of the path of action (karma yoga), knowledge (jnana yoga), mystic yoga, or any other means to salvation, nor do they take shelter in any other god or goddess.


Sri Krsna instructs us at the Gita's conclusion that surrender is the very life of devotion. Without the spirit of surrender, bhakti is lifeless and mechanical. In the Gita Krsna first tells us to become his devotee (man mano bhava mad bhakta). Then he tells us about the altar on which the sacrifice of devotion is to be performed and ultimately the stage on which the drama of his lila of love is enacted (mam ekam saranam vraja). That altar and stage is saranam (surrender), both for the beginner and the adept, respectively. Surrender, or saranagati, is expressed sixfold as accepting that which is favorable to devotion, rejecting that which is unfavorable, considering Krsna as one's protector, considering Krsna as one's maintainer, embracing humility, and submitting oneself fully to Krsna.


These six expressions of surrender are supported by five underling mental conditions: pratijna, the promise that I that will do everything favorable and give up everything unfavorable; visvasa, confidence that Krsna will protect me and thus I do not need to look elsewhere for protection to any god or mortal; nirbharata, dependence on Krsna such that I rely on him for my maintenance (the application of this principle will be different for householders and monks); dainya, humility or foregoing the enjoying spirit; atma-nivedana, forgoing the spirit of independence and embracing the sense that one is owned heart and soul by Krsna. Of the six expressions of surrender, considering Krsna as one's maintainer is the principal characteristic (svarupa laksana) of saranagati. The other five expressions are its marginal characteristics (tatastha laksana).


Q. Adwaita Acarya was a close associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and in many temples he is worshiped in Deity form along with Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada depicted Adwaita Acarya with a beard even though his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, wrote that Adwaita Acarya did not have a beard when he appeared in Caitanya lila. Why then did Srila Prabhupada establish Deities of Adwaita Acarya with a beard?


A. Adwaita Acarya has five ages in his lila: kumara (childhood), pauganda (boyhood), kishore (adolescence), yauvana (youth), and varddhakya (old age). He was present for 50 years before Mahaprabhu's appearance and 25 years after his disappearance. Altogether his manifest pastimes lasted for 125 years and as he was the senior most among the devotees, even Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed him respect.


In spite of his apparent age, Adwaita never suffered from symptoms of old age because like Caitanya Mahaprabhu he is God himself. Once, however, Mahaprabhu chastised Adwaita for ostensibly glorifying jnana over bhakti. During this lila, Adwaita's wife, Sita Thakurani, appealed to Mahaprabhu to desist because her husband was an old man. (He was approximately 70 at that time.)


Adwaita Acarya was thus transcendentally youthful but old at the same time. In order to stress his seniority in Caitanya lila, some Gaudiya acaryas, including Srila Prabhupada, have depicted him as bearded. This, however, does not mean that they thought Advaita Acarya suffered from old age. In this particular case, what it does illustrate is that there are details and there are principles. Srila Prabhupada and his guru agreed on the essential principles of Krsna consciousness. That is what is important. Sometimes acaryas, even when one is the guru and the other the mature disciple, differ on details.


Q. In your article "With the Help of the Demons", you wrote that Bhaktivinoda Thakura described the demons of Krsna's Vraja-lila symbolically with each of the demons representing anarthas (impediments) that must be eliminated if one is to advance from devotional service in practice (sadhana-bhakti) to pure love of God (prema-bhakti). Could you tell me how different anarthas correspond with various demons in Krsna lila?


A. Krsna's lilas of killing demons and chastising those who exhibited demoniac qualities have been interpreted differently by various acaryas. Bhaktivinoda Thakura's interpretation is novel and very helpful for the sadhaka (practitioner) who is serious about advancing in devotional life. In his Sri Caitanya Siksamrta he writes, "The devotee who worships the holy name should first petition the Lord for the strength to cast out all these unfavorable tendencies and should pray thus before Lord Hari on a daily basis. By doing this regularly, the devotee's heart will eventually become purified. Sri Krsna has killed a number of demons, which may arise in the kingdom of the heart. In order to destroy these problems, a devotee must cry very humbly before the Lord and admit defeat. Then the Lord will nullify all contaminations." Bhaktivinoda Thakura then gives the following analysis of Krsna's pastimes of killing demons in relation to impediments on the path of bhakti:


Putana (the witch) represents the pseudo guru. Sakatasura (the cart demon) represents carrying the burden of a cartload of old and new bad habits, as well as lethargy and vanity. Trinavarta (the whirlwind demon) represents false pride, which comes from material scholarship and leads to adherence to bogus philosophies. Deliverance of Nalakuvara and Manigriva (breaking the twin arjuna trees) represents arrogant pride, which comes from puffed-up prestige and is rooted in a madness for wealth. Vatsasura (the calf demon) represents a childish mentality that gives rise to a type of greediness resulting in wicked mischievousness.


Bakasura (the stork demon) represents cunning duplicity and deceptive behavior. Aghasura (the snake demon) represents cruelty and violence. The Brahma-vimohana pastime (Lord Brahma steals the cowherd boys and calves) represents mundane activities and speculative scholasticism. Dhenukasura (the ass demon) represents gross materialistic intelligence, ignorance of spiritual knowledge. The Kaliya serpent represents brutality and treachery. Krsna's pastime of extinguishing the forest fire represents inter-communal discord among Vaishnavas. Pralambasura represents lusty inclinations and desire for personal gain and honor. The second forest fire represents disturbance of religious principles and interference with religious people by those who are atheistic.


The pastime of the brahmanas performing sacrifice represents indifference toward Krsna caused by pride because of one's status or caste in varnasrama society. Overcoming the pride of Indra represents demigod worship and the tendency to think, "I am Supreme." The pastime of Nanda Maharaja being captured by Varuna represents thinking that spiritual life can be enhanced by intoxication. The pastime of Nanda Maharaja being swallowed by Vidyadhara (the snake) represents rescuing the truth of Krsna consciousness from being swallowed by impersonalist philosophers.


The conch shell demon and getting the jewel that was stolen by him represent acquiring name and fame and desire for sensuous enjoyment under the plea of devotion. Aristasura (the bull demon) represents pride arising from indulging in false religions that were created by cheaters. This causes neglect of devotional service. Kesi (the horse demon) represents the false pride of feeling that "I am a great devotee and spiritual master." Vyomasura (the demon in the sky) represents associating with thieves and other rascals and with people who put themselves forward as avataras.


In considering these demons, the sadhaka should feel free to adjust the Thakura's analysis in a dynamic way, making it applicable to one's own life. For example, Putana is said to represent the false guru. This may not apply to a person who has a qualified guru, therefore that devotee may think of the slaying of Putana as overcoming hypocrisy, which could apply to any of us regardless of the qualifications of our guru. Thinking of Krsna slaying Putana, we should pray that the hypocrisy in our heart, which is masquerading as something else, be exposed to us as the ugly thing that it is.


One can study a particular lila in which Sri Krsna has killed a demon and find any number of undesirable qualities in that demon. Then one can think of that lila in relation to any of those demoniac qualities that one wants to overcome. Have firm faith that Krsna can remove these undesirable qualities from your heart. Krsna is nondifferent from his name so the power he exhibited in his lila of killing demons is present in the form of his name. Beg the divine name to exhibit this power in your heart by chanting and remembering how Krsna did this previously in his lila. Anyone who chants in this way will get strength and advance in devotion. Without desiring to overcome impediments while chanting, progress will be very slow. Sadly, we see this all too often. Despite chanting for years, many experience that their taste for chanting the name of Krsna has not increased.


These topics are important to discuss. We have come to Mahaprabhu and Sri Krsna Nama for a noble cause. This cause begins within each of us, first by being sincere and then by being careful not to cheat ourselves by being complacent about our own anarthas. There is so much wealth to be had in the jewel of the holy name--nama cintamani. By the grace of the holy name all anarthas can be removed, thus clearing one's path to prema.

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by Swami B.V. Tripurari

"The sage Karabhajana does not specifically ask the King to pay attention at any point in the discussion until he begins to speak about the Kali-yuga avatara. Why? Because this avatara is difficult to understand in that he is a hidden avatara."

Q. What does tattva-viveka mean?


A. Tattva-viveka means deliberation (viveka) on truth (tattva). This exercise is necessary for devotees. They should study the philosophical canvas on which the art of Krsna lila is drawn with a view to fuel their practice with the appropriate conceptual orientation to their ideal. The attempt to realize the truth can be aided considerably by theoretical knowledge of the same. Therefore devotees should participate in meaningful philosophical discussion of Gaudiya Vedanta in proportion to their capacity to do so. Not all devotees will excel in studying and discussing philosophy. Some have a propensity for this more than others. Still, all can participate on some level and benefit. Asking questions is as important as giving answers.


Q. I would like to advance spiritually but it seems that I just don't have the interest or mental capacity to discuss Gaudiya Vedanta. What should I do?


A. Don't be intellectually lazy when it comes to spiritual life. Your intelligence belongs to Krsna. Give it to him. One of the biggest problems in the Gaudiya community today is sentiment for Srila Prabhupada that is not grounded in or tempered by proper understanding of scripture. Prabhupada himself liked to quote Rabindranath Tagore who said, "Religion without philosophy is sentiment."


Religious sentiment ungrounded by philosophy leads to religious fanaticism. Our religion divides us and our philosophy unites us. When properly united by philosophy, our religious differences (sentiments/bhava) are ornaments. When the differences are not grounded in tattva, there will be no bhava, only anarthas (false values). Indeed, in the opinion of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, distortion of tattva is itself an anartha. Furthermore, Bhagavan Sri Krsna says, adhyesyate ca ya imam dharmyam samvadam avayoh jnana-yajnena tenaham istah syam iti me matih: "It is my conviction that whoever studies this sacred dialogue of ours worships me by the sacrifice of intellect." Thus for beginners some study of philosophy must be there. Of course, if you just sing the Gita in glorification of Krsna without knowing the meaning of its verses, Krsna will deliver you, but who will have the conviction to sing the Gita unless he or she has some understanding of its meaning?


Q. Shouldn't we understand that we are not the body before we try to understand higher topics like Gaura and Krsna lila?


A. Yes, you have to understand that you are not your body in order to understand Gaura and Krsna-lila. But what are you doing to understand that you are not your body? If you do the spiritual practices recommended in our tradition, then that understanding will come quickly and interest in these higher topics will manifest in proportion to your realization of the difference between your self and your body. These topics are not too high for a serious sadhaka, so be serious about spiritual practice and be happy that you have the opportunity to discuss these things.


Q. Doesn't sastra teach the evils of industrialization?


A. In sastra it is mentioned that once Arjuna saved the demon Maya Danava from a forest fire (Agni). Maya Danava then offered Arjuna the benediction of yantra-vijnana (science of machines), but Krsna told him that this science was for Kali-yuga and thus he should refuse it. However, Krsna himself did exploit Maya Danava's yantra-vijnana by having him build the Pandavas' palace. So it seems that industrialization is a symptom of Kali-yuga that can also be used in Krsna's service. The trick is to become attached to Krsna seva and not modern technology. This is called yukta-vairagya, or balanced renunciation.


Q. In your commentary on Bhagavad-gita 4.6 the last line reads, "Another meaning of the word maya is mercy." Can you provide some insight or some scriptural reference to this definition?


A. This is a good question, especially for preaching in circles where others are familiar with the teachings of the Gita, but not the Vaisnava conception. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly makes this point (maya also means mercy) without documenting it. The Goswamis also make this point, and I believe that Sri Jiva Goswami documents it with a particular Sanskrit dictionary definition. In my Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary, "ma" means to measure, apportion, grant, to help anyone to anything, or of course negation as in "not that." This dictionary also defines maya as art, wisdom, and supernatural power. Otherwise, in Vaisnava theology we have the dual conception of yogamaya and mahamaya. While mahamaya usually denotes a negative illusion tantamount to ignorance, yogamaya denotes an illusion that facilitates the highest knowledge--transcendental love.


Raja vidya (the king of knowledge) of the 9th chapter of the Gita is pure bhakti, the art of love. So yogamaya is associated with knowledge and mahamaya is associated with ignorance. Thus it is clear that maya means both wisdom and illusion. We need to go another step to come to mercy, although even mahamaya is associated with compassion, a kind of "tough love" if you will. Here is something from Srila Prabhupada commenting on Bg 4.6: "The word maya, or atma-maya, refers to the Lord's causeless mercy, according to the Visva-kosa dictionary. Thus Krsna appears by his mercy to fulfill his own desire and to uplift others." I think it is safe to say that when Srila Prabhupada says that the Visva-kosa dictionary defines maya or atma-maya as causeless mercy he is saying that this particular dictionary defines the word maya as mercy. But if it defines only atma-maya as mercy, no harm. That is how I have written about it in my commentary on Bhagavad-gita.


Q. How important is good health to the practice of bhakti?


A. Good health is helpful but more important is having the proper conceptual orientation to devotional life and a clear sense of the value of spiritual practice. Our most revered Thakura Bhaktivinoda once cursed good health because he reasoned that in good health there was more opportunity to forget Krsna. This is very instructive, but not something for neophytes to imitate.


Q. Self-analysis seems a lofty idea that is impossible in practice because we just cannot see ourselves as well as others do. Don't we need the help of others in order to know ourselves?


A. It's true that to know ourselves we need the help of others. Not just any "others" but specifically "others" who understand scripture and the science of bhakti, especially those more spiritually advanced than we are. Even Krsna, to better understand himself, desired to see himself from Radha's perspective. Thus he appeared as Sri Caitanya who is Radha-Krsna combined.


Q. I heard that there was preaching even in the Brahmajyoti. Any comments?


A. Srila Sridhara Maharaja once said, without elaborating, that there may be preaching even in the Brahmajyoti. Such souls have entered the land of no return but from there, forward progress may theoretically be possible. This is because Sri Krsna can do anything and the compassion of his devotees is limitless. Thus the jivanmukta in pursuit of sayujya-mukti may not be entirely lost to its devotional prospect.


Q. Can you explain something about the Gaudiya Vaisnava understanding of the verse krsna varnam tvisakrsna from Srimad-Bhagavatam?


A. There is much to be discussed here. Gaudiya Vaisnavas understand this verse to be a prediction of the advent of Krsna as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus this verse holds a very important place in Gaudiya Vaisnavism. In this verse because the final vowel in tvisa is long, this phrase (tvisakrsna) can be read as either krsna or akrsna (tvis akrsna or tvisa krsna). The two readings give opposite meanings: "black" or "not black" or "Krsna" or "not Krsna." Either one is grammatically correct. Gaudiya Vaisnavas tend to understand it as tvisakrsna (not black and thus fair or golden) and therefore as a reference to Sri Caitanya, whose complexion is golden. But we can also go with both readings and admit to its ambiguity in a way that serves to underscore the fact that the verse speaks loudly about Sri Caitanyadeva. It refers to someone who is Krsna, but who is at the same time is not Krsna. This is Sri Krsna Caitanya, who is Krsna appearing as a devotee of himself. Thus in this sense he is not Krsna.


Before citing this verse in chapter three of Caitanya-caritamrta's Adi-lila, Kaviraja Goswami cites the Bhagavatam verse that precedes it. In that verse the second two lines are significant: nana tantra vidhanena kalav api yatha srnu, "Pay attention (Raja Nimi), as I (Karabhajana Muni) speak about that Kali-yuga dharma based on the regulations found in the tantras."


Two things here are noteworthy. First the words nana tantra vidhanena indicates that this avatara is worshipped by regulations drawn principally from the tantras, agamas, pancaratras, and so on, which is the case for nama dharma as taught by Sri Caitanyadeva.


Secondly, the Muni tells the Raja to listen carefully--pay attention--(tatha srnu), which the King is already doing as the sage Karabhajana is in the midst of describing to him the yugavataras. The sage Karabhajana does not specifically ask the King to pay attention at any point in the discussion until he begins to speak about the Kali-yuga avatara. Why?


Because the Kali-yuga avatara is most difficult to understand in that he is a hidden avatara who is Krsna and not Krsna at the same time (tvisakrsna). Only those who take the Bhagavatam's advice to pay special attention to this verse will be able to unlock the mystery of this transcendental riddle about Krsna who is not Krsna. That is, they will be able to understand that in Kali-yuga Krsna appears as his own devotee in order to propagate the yuga dharma (sankirtana).


The last line of this verse reads, yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah: those who know what is meant when we say, "Krsna who is not Krsna," are to be understood as spiritually insightful (sumedasah). They will worship the Kali-yuga avatara through sankirtana, the chanting of his holy name. In this way the verse krsna varnam tvisakrsna from Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us that the Kali-yuga avatara is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.


Questions or comments may be submitted at the Q&A Forum http://www.swami.org/sanga/ or email sangaeditor@swami.org.

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Volume III, No. 32



Rasa-tattva and Rasabhasa




Q & A with Swami B.V. Tripurari


Q. What is the difference between the gopis' love for Krsna and the manjaris' love for Radharani? I would also like to know about Lord Caitanya's love for the Divine Couple and the relationship between the guru and the disciple. Is there any devotion like the love that Radha and Krsna have for each other and how do we maintain a rational mind and sober service mood when discussing such advanced rasa?


A. Krsna is the supreme nayaka (hero) and Radha is the supreme heroine (nayika). Radha's love for Krsna is nayika-bhava. Her eight expansions (asta sakhis), while competent to be nayikas of Krsna, do not desire this, and thus gopis like Lalita and Visaka relish sakhi-bhava, in which they assist in bringing about the union of Radha and Krsna. Those who assist these gopis are called manjaris. Attaching themselves to sakhis such as Lalita sakhi, they relish the bhava of Radha vicariously. Thus manjari-bhava is subservient to nayika- and sakhi-bhava, yet it is considered the primary expression of kamanuga/raganuga-bhakti.


Acaryas differ on their assessment of sambhogecchamayi, in which one aspires for a direct conjugal relationship with Krsna. For the most part such an aspiration is considered kamapraya, or "not quite" kamanuga/raganuga, as is exemplified by Kubja, who desired direct union with Krsna in Mathura. Her love contains elements of spiritual selfishness, whereas the Vraja gopis' love does not, and thus although they themselves are competent to be nayikas of Krsna, Lalita and Visakha subordinate themselves to the supreme nayika, Sri Radha. If, however, sambhogecchamayi is taken to refer to the aspiration for becoming a direct mistress of Krsna in Vraja, as in the case of Radha or Candravali, such a desire is still a secondary expression of kamanuga/raganuga bhakti, as it would involve competing with those such as Candravali and especially Radha, who are more competent to satisfy Krsna. In this scenario, such kamanuga would be possessed of a degree of spiritual selfishness.


The idea is that the more selfless one's desire is, the higher one's corresponding experience in transcendence is. This is why sakhis such as Lalita sakhi, who are competent to be nayikas of Krsna, choose not to be, and instead seek to assist Radha in uniting with Krsna. In our sampradaya, those eligible for conjugal love aspire for the primary form of madhurya rasa known as tadbhavicchamayi, in which one aspires to experience the bhava of Sri Radha vicariously, as an assistant of Radha under the guidance of Lalita sakhi and Sri Rupa manjari. This is also called bhavollasa or simply manjari-bhava, and this is what Sri Caitanya experienced in fulfilling his desire to taste the love of Radha for himself. It is the special gift of Sri Caitanya to the world, which he tasted in his lilas such as falling into the ocean at Jagannatha Puri (See Cc. Antya 18.80-84).


Bhavollasa-rati is peculiar in that it involves love for Radha in a dominant mood (sthayibhava). In Vraja all of the devotees have a dominant mood of love for Krsna. He is the object of their devotion in moods of servitude, friendship, paternal, and conjugal love. Devotees of Vraja also have love for one another, yet these sentiments of love are not dominant moods but represent a particular type of sancari, or transitory, bhava. This sancari-bhava never overpowers the devotee's dominant love for Krsna, but serves to increase it. In the case of bhavollasa-rati, however, the manjaris' love directed towards Radha does take precedence over their feelings of love for Krsna on an ongoing basis. Thus it is not a sancari-bhava, yet because it is directed towards Radha rather than Krsna one would not expect it to be classified as a stayibhava either! The resolution of this dilemma is that the manjaris' love, while more intense for Radha than Krsna, is nonetheless for Krsna as well. The manjaris love both Radha-Krsna combined with emphasis on Radha, and thus they are in a unique position in which Radha-Krsna combined become the object of their romantic love. Representing bhavollasa-rati Narottama dasa sings jivane marane gati, radha-krsna prana pati, "In life or death my ideal is Radha-Krsna." Prana pati means "Lord of my life" and refers to one's lover. Here the "lover" is Radha-Krsna.


You should be aware that in reality these topics are over your head. Nonetheless, it is important to understand theoretically that in our sampradaya attaining conjugal love means attaining manjari-bhava in the service of Radha and Krsna. Otherwise, at this time you should be more concerned with the basic practices of sadhana bhakti. Focus your energy on that which will call your immediate spiritual progress and serve your guru with complete faith and affection like a servant bordering on friendship.


Q. Can you say something about writing transcendental literature and avoiding rasabhasa?


A. Svarupa Damodara Goswami has advised us as follows with regard to writing on transcendental topics and rasa sastra in particular.


yaha, bhagavata pada vaisnavera sthane

ekanta asraya kara caitanya-carane

caitanyera bhakta-ganera nitya kara 'sanga'

tabeta janiba siddhanta-samudra-taranga

tabeta panditya tomara ha-ibe saphala

krsnera svarupa-lila varniba nirmala

"If you want to study Srimad-Bhagavatam, you must approach an advanced Vaisnava surrendering exclusively at the feet of Sri Caitanya. Always associate with the devotees of Sri Caitanya, for then only will you understand the siddhanta of the waves of the ocean of bhakti. Then your learning will be fruitful, and you will be able to describe (write about) the transcendental pastimes of Krsna without material contamination."


This is the principle involved in writing on transcendental subjects. The detail of being educated in the rules of Indian aesthetic theory must also be in place if one is to write transcendental poetry, or rasa sastra, in our sampradaya. In this regard, Mahaprabhu said the following about Sri Rupa and his poetry: madhura prasanna ihara kavya salankara aiche kavitva vinu nahe rasera pracara, "His poetry is sweet, pleasing, and replete with literary ornaments. Without such poetic qualifications there is no possibility of disseminating rasa."

This does not mean that one needs to be a poet in order to be a medium through which others experience rasananda. It means that writing original poetic works concerning Krsna-lila as the Goswamis did requires this kind of education as well as the necessary realization derived from taking shelter of a Vaisnava of consequence.


Thus only very qualified persons with proper spiritual and material training can write rasa sastra. The Goswamis of Vrindavana represent this standard. Our task is to explain and comment on their work. Actual insight into the lilas of Krsna will be apparent in the writing of those who can draw down the theological and philosophical implications of these narratives and help others apply them in their practice. Those who appear to write about lilas that they themselves are experiencing are suspect at best. We need not worry about writing rasa sastra ourselves, nor do we need to worry about what to read when it comes to rasa sastra--we should read Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrita, and the granthas of the Goswamis relative to our guru-determined eligibility.


Otherwise, in general there are two things to be avoided when writing about Krsna, rasabhasa and siddhanta-virodha. Mahaprabhu could not tolerate these two discrepancies, rasabhasa haya yadi siddhanta-virodha sahite na pare prabhu, mane haya krodha. We do not find these things in the Goswamis' writings.


Siddhanta-virodha is a discrepancy in tattva, or the metaphysical truth of devotional conclusions. Technically speaking rasabhasa is a discrepancy with regard to elemental constituents of rasa that results in a semblance (abhasa) of rasa. Rasabhasa is not undesirable in every respect. However, when two incompatible sentiments interact under certain circumstances, this is called virasata, and this virasata results in something less than the full experience of rasa. Because it results in only a semblance of the full and spiritually satisfying experience of sacred aesthetic rapture (bhakti-rasa), it can also be called rasabhasa, and because this virasata causes an undesirable distasteful effect it is to be avoided. When Krsnadasa Kaviraja cautions us to avoid rasabhasa, he is primarily speaking about this sense of rasabhasa arising out of virasata and secondarily about the predominant expressions of rasabhasa involving discrepancies with regard to the fivefold elemental constituents necessary for rasa to occur.


However, the mixing of incompatible sentiments (virasata) does not always produce an undesirable effect, and Rupa Goswami describes the conditions under which this does and does not occur. Detailed information on this complicated topic can be found in the last two waves of the Northern division of Rupa Goswami's Ocean of bhakti-rasa. These are the final chapters of his treatise, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu.


Therein, Rupa Goswami gives examples of rasabhasa found in sacred literature that are not necessarily distasteful, but as the term rasabhasa suggests, they involve emotional exchanges that do not rise to the aesthetic height of rasa. Aside from virasata resulting in rasabhasa there are three types of rasabhasa: uparasa, anurasa, and aparasa. Uparasa-rasabhasa occurs when one of the fivefold ingredients of rasa (sthayibhava, vibhava, anubhava, sancari-bhava, and sattvika-bhava) is distorted. For example, when the sthayibhava of conjugal love is not mutual between two parties, this does not allow the emotional experience to rise to the condition of madhura-rasa. The wives of the yajnika brahmanas expressed romantic sentiments for Krsna like those of the gopis, but Krsna did not have the same sentiments for them because they were brahmanas rather than vaisyas like himself. Thus instead of tasting madhura-rasa, they experienced a semblance of it, or madhura-uparasa-rasabhasa, due to the absence of mutual sthayibhavas between themselves and Krsna. Madhura-rasa-uparasa can also occur when the vibhava or anubhava are distorted. In each of the other four primary rasas, uparasa can also occur under certain conditions.


Anurasa-rasabhasa involves a semblance of rasa appearing rather than aesthetic rapture of rasa itself due to the fact that the sentiment experienced is not related to Krsna. When Narada saw two parrots in Vrindavana reciting Vedanta he was astonished (adbhuta), but because his astonishment was not in relation to Krsna it amounted to anurasa-rasabhasa.


Aparasa-rasabhasa occurs when those who are not devotees experience a semblance of rasa, as when demons in Krsna-lila appear to taste rasas such as laughter (hasya/Jarasandha), fear (bhayanaka/Kamsa), etc. Only devotees can experience bhakti-rasa.


Of the above three forms of rasabhasa, uparasa comes closest to actual rasa, followed by anurasa and aparasa. It appears that all three of these forms of rasabhasa are for the most part relative to the manifest lila of Krsna and not to the unmanifest lila of Goloka. In this sense they may also be considered undesirable. Otherwise, uparasa-rasabhasa in particular has some utility because it brings one in touch with ecstatic love of Krsna. As you can see, this is an enormous topic that cannot be done justice in this medium, but I hope the above is helpful.


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By B. V. Tripurari Swami – http://www.swami.org/sanga


Question: What is your opinion of widows remarrying? It seems odd to me that the Vedic culture which claims that women always need to be protected, would not allow women without sons old enough to look after them to get remarried.


Answer: Isolating a social norm form an ancient culture and trying to make sense out of it in terms of modern sensibilities is problematic. I am confident that there were numerous elements in place in Vedic culture that enabled the prohibition against women remarrying to work and make sense, but I am not an expert on Vedic social customs. As far as I know, in ancient times the family unit was stronger and widowed women were protected by family members and encouraged to pursue spiritual life while other members of the greater family helped to care for a widow's children.


However, today we see an abuse of this principle in modern India, where widows are victims of grave social injustice even in Vrindavana. Apparently this principle was also abused during the time of Sri Caitanya, who criticized the socioreligious policy that enjoined widows to follow ekadasi, while other women were absolved from this austerity. While Prabhupada spoke in favor of the original principle, he did not enforce it in his mission. He did allow women to remarry, but he encouraged both men and women not to remarry. Personally, I have no objection to a widow remarrying if this brings greater balance to her life and thereby help her to focus more on spiritual pursuit.

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"Saranagatas will feel themselves making progress daily. If you do not feel like this, you have to do whatever it takes to focus your mind and give your heart to your nama japa, mantra, and kirtana. Nama and mantra are the real gifts of Sri Guru. Use them wisely; they are your real wealth."


Would share with me your perspective on deepening the inner connection with one’s spiritual master.


Should Krsna or the Guru be worshipped first?


What are your standards for initiation?


Is it necessary to take re-initiation if one’s guru leaves the movement?


Reconciliation of Jiva Goswami, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati.


What does Krsna mean when he says in Bhagavad-gita to give up all dharma and surrender unto him, and how does this relate to having a guru?




Q. I attended two of your lectures last week when you were speaking in the area. I am very appreciative of the time you took and your example of deep reflection and surrender. As a disciple of Bhakti Tirtha Swami, who is now confronting his greatest challenge, I would be most grateful if you would share with me your perspective on deepening the inner connection with one’s spiritual master.


A. Thank you for your kind words. I think that the answer to how one can deepen the relationship with one’s guru lies in the desire to do so, and this is often born of apparently disconcerting circumstances. This appears to be your situation.


Otherwise, the spiritual master is the embodiment of the scriptures. We can find the guru and that which he or she lives for in sastra. When Srila Prabhupada left the world, I had the good fortune of associating with my siksa guru, Pujyapada B. R. Sridhara Maharaja. He helped me to enter more deeply into the spirit of the sastra and this in turn helped me to better understand all that Srila Prabhupada represents.


Your guru, Sripad Bhakti Tirtha Swami, has written many books, and these books are all drawn from a common source and brought to life by his realization. This common source is sastra. You must learn to bring the sastra to life as he has done and then live with him in the realm beyond the mind and senses. These two, mind and senses, as well as intellect, can tell you very little about Sri Gurudeva. To know him you must go to him through the sastra. In so doing, use your head to soften your heart. Do this with guidance, and the tender faith (komala sraddha) that you have at present will become strong. It will become sastriya sraddha, faith well informed by sastra. With this kind of faith, you will know that your spiritual master is always with you.


[Editor’s note: Swami Tripurari and the Sanga editorial staff would like to acknowledge Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s 35 years of sincere service to the worldwide Gaudiya Vaisnava community. We pray that Bhagavan Sri Krsna will continue to bless the Gaudiya community with Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s inspiring association.]


Q. Some Gaudiya sects teach that because the guru is a devotee he or she should be worshipped after Krsna is worshipped, not before. Neither should Krsna be offered the prasad of the guru, rather the guru should be given the prasad of Krsna. What is your opinion?


A. In Gaudiya Vaisnavism there are two systems of worship--one ascending, the other descending. Both systems are valid but in his institution Srila Prabhupada introduced the ascending method in order to stress that one must approach Krsna through the guru. However, he also told his disciples that they could learn more about procedures for arcana from Gaudiya Matha and the Radha-Ramana Mandira in Vrndavana.


In the ascending method one offers the article first to the guru with the idea that the guru will then offer it to his or her own guru and so on until the item is offered to Krsna. Externally the ritual appears inconsistent with this idea because the devotee offering arati physically offers the article to everyone on the altar. Therefore with regard to ritual it is important to understand that the spirit in which the ritual is performed is more important than the external formalities.


The offering of food also presents a bit of a dilemma. In his Harinama Cintamani, Thakura Bhaktivinoda describes the details of offering food to Krsna. There he says, “The spiritual master is to be worshipped first; only then may one worship Lord Krsna. The spiritual master should be offered different paraphernalia like a nice seat, shoes, foot bath, cloth, etc.; then with the spiritual master's permission one may worship the Deities of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. Food should be first offered to the Deities and then offered to the spiritual master, then to the demigods and other Vaisnavas. Without the spiritual master's sanction one cannot engage in Radha-Krsna worship. Before chanting the holy name, the disciple should remember the spiritual master and his instructions.”


The idea is that we cannot offer the guru's prasad to Krsna, and we cannot offer food to Krsna without first worshipping the guru. So in offering bhoga we first worship the guru, taking his or her permission to worship Krsna. Then we worship Krsna and offer his prasada to the guru. If we worship in this consciousness, the ascending and descending methods of worship are harmonized.


Q. In the early days of the movement Srila Prabhupada gave disciples what we call harinama initiation very liberally, asking them only to avoid the four pillars of sinful life (meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex) and to chant a minimum number of rounds of nama japa. His requirements for initiation gradually increased to the point that one had to vow to chant 16 rounds every day as well as to avoid the four pillars of sin without fail for the rest of one’s life. While I understand that there must be certain requirements for diksa, or what we call second initiation, the above-stated requirements seem somewhat severe for receiving first initiation. I know of many devotees who have given up on the idea of ever getting initiated due to these strict standards. What is your opinion on this, and what do you require of your prospective disciples in order to bestow harinama initiation?


A. Srila Prabhupada’s standards for initiation were stricter than those required by his spiritual master. Perhaps this is because the so-called normal behavior that Srila Prabhupada encountered in the West was so much more permissive than normal behavior in India. Srila Prabhupada confronted western permissiveness by setting very strict standards for initiation, and those who took initiation from him were required to vow to adhere to those standards for life. However, the truth be told, very few of his approximately 5,000 initiated disciples were always able to keep the vows that they took at initiation. Therefore it may be time to reconsider the idea of requiring people to take such strict vows for initiation, knowing that hardly anyone will be able to keep them. Especially considering that as far as the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition is concerned, sraddha (faith) is the only requirement for initiation.


The idea behind sraddha as the standard for initiation is that once one is initiated into chanting harinama, one will be encouraged toward spiritual practice, which will in turn cause bad habits to begin to disappear. Indeed, without chanting, one’s bad habits are unlikely to ever go away. The example cited is Nityananda Prabhu who gave harinama liberally to anyone who had faith in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Krsna. In Gaudiya Vaisnavism this is the only scriptural qualification for receiving harinama. Explaining the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita, Mahaprabhu instructed Srila Rupa Goswami, ei ajna-bale bhaktera 'sraddha' yadi haya sarva-karma tyaga kari' se krsna bhajaya, “If a devotee has faith in this order (become my devotee), he or she worships Krsna and gives up all other activities." In this way sraddha and saranagati are synonymous. Srimad-Bhagavatam states:


tavat karmani kurvita na nirvidyeta yavata

mat-katha-sravanadau va sraddha yavan na jayate


"As long as one is not satiated by fruitive activity and has not awakened faith in hearing and chanting about me, one has to act according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions (varnasrama dharma)."


Mahaprabhu also told Sri Rupa:


'sraddha'-sabde-visvasa kahe sudrdha niscaya

krsne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krta haya


"Sraddha is confident, firm faith that by rendering transcendental loving service to Krsna one automatically fulfills all subsidiary duties (varnasrama dharma)."


Through the association of sadhus, either accidentally or by choice, faith is acquired. Once faith is awakened in someone, that person then deliberately associates with sadhus with the intention of finding his or her guru. When one's guru is found, one takes shelter and receives the guru's blessing to chant Krsna nama. This in essence is harinama initiation. At that time the guru will instruct the disciple how to lead a life of spiritual practice (bhajana kriya). As the disciple advances in bhajana kriya, the guru may then introduce further restrictions and practices.


In my case I consider each student individually and advise him or her accordingly as to how to engage in spiritual practice--its spirit and details tailored to each individual.


Q. In our movement there are so many cases of re-initiation. Is it necessary to take re-initiation if one’s guru leaves the movement?


A. In some cases accepting a siksa guru is sufficient, but if the previous guru has become an aparadhi (offender), re-initiation is necessary. This is the general rule. However, there are often extenuating circumstances, and in my experience every case needs to be dealt with individually, placing oneself in the learned and affectionate hands of a qualified devotee.


Q. Hindu religious culture dictates that only persons born in brahmana families are allowed to perform yajnas and certain other socioreligious functions. Sri Jiva Goswami mentioned this in one of his Sandarbhas and seemed to accept this idea. Also in Jaiva-Dharma, Bhaktivinoda Thakura agrees saying that everyone, regardless of birth, has the right to practice bhakti but those who are not born in brahmana families are not eligible to perform yajnas until they acquire seminal birth in a brahmana family. He further explains that if one violates social customs, one is guilty of secular impropriety, and members of society who take pride in their social respectability do not condone such activities. Thus Sri Jiva Goswami and Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote that only hereditary brahmanas should perform Vedic rites, even if otherwise one is spiritually qualified. This conclusion, however, contradicts what Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati taught in this regard. How should we reconcile this?


A. In the Sanga titled “Women Diksa Gurus,” I cited how Gaudiya acarya Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura said the opposite of Jiva Goswami with regard to this issue. His answer is in keeping with the power of bhakti, while Sri Jiva's is in consideration of social concerns of the time. The same applies to the difference between what Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote on this point in Jaiva-Dharma and the position of his disciple Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. The socioreligious stance is that Vedic rituals are performed by hereditary brahmanas. However, Bhagavata-dharma, or Vaisnavism, teaches that the power of bhakti purifies one beyond the position of a hereditary brahmana, thus one is qualified to perform any Vedic ritual.


This is another case of absolute versus relative considerations. In preaching we might consider the relative position, which in this case are the socioreligious rules of varnasrama culture. However at heart we abide by the absolute vision of Bhagavata-dharma. This is what Srila Prabhupada did when he allowed women to perform seva puja for the temple Deity except in some places in India, where he felt that strong opposition from orthodox Hindu brahmanas might cause problems for his movement. Our position is that Vaisnavism is always above brahmanism, but it seems that over the centuries the details of preaching this point has been subject to certain time and place considerations.


Q. What does Krsna mean when he says in Bhagavad-gita to give up all dharma and surrender unto him, and how does this relate to having a guru?


A. The basic idea of surrender in the Gita--sarva dharman parityaja--is to give up socioreligious pursuits (dharma), including the worship of any demigod or demigoddess, and serve only Krsna. Krsna calls on us to serve him alone. Faith that by doing so one is relieved of any other duties both religious and secular amounts to eligibility for treading the path of bhakti. In this sense, bhakti proceeds from saranagati. As we engage in the practices of bhakti under the care of a guru--such as hearing, chanting, and remembering--we acquire both theoretical and practical knowledge of spirituality, saranagati intensifies, and our taste for hearing and chanting increases.


Thus our concern should be twofold: we should take exclusive shelter of Krsna, forgoing all other spiritual practices, and we should begin a guru-guided life of hearing and chanting, evaluating our progress by the extent to which our interest in hearing and chanting is increasing. Saranagatas will feel themselves making progress daily. If you do not feel like this, you have to do whatever it takes to focus your mind and give your heart to your nama japa, mantra, and kirtana. Nama and mantra are the real gifts of Sri Guru. Use them wisely; they are your real wealth.



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Hermitage of the Heart:


by Swami B.V. Tripurari


compiled and edited by C.J. Povey


(Excerpts from the book of the same name)


Part One: The Search for Love


Dear Swami, How do we overcome karma? - TJ


Audarya, 2 Oct. 99


Lila means going beyond karma (karma being the necessity born of material identification). We are working under the force of our karma. From the seeds we have sown in the past, we are reaping the fruits in the present and we are working accordingly. Karma means we are working out of necessity born of material identification.


When we identify with matterfor example, this body that gives birth to a necessity. What is that necessity? I have to struggle to live, because this body won't endure. When I identify with it, when I see it as myself, necessity is born and I have to labor. You have to eat to live, you have to work. And we are threatened with nonexistence, in terms of our bodily identification, at every moment. We are haunted by misidentification with matter and we have to struggle hard on account of that.


Furthermore, in the course of our labor, we are sowing seeds, and the fruits will come later, and we'll be bound up life after life under the influence of this karma.


So we will think, "Let me be free from karma and that forced movement. I will be peaceful. I will rest. If we stop the mind and get off, so to speak, like the Buddhists tell us, stop the mind and be peaceful, stop thinking that you are, then you won't have a problem. This is the Buddhist advocacy. They posit four noble truths. First noble truth is dukha: the world is about suffering. Second noble truth, trsna, means thirst in the form of desire born of material identification. That is a problem, that is keeping me in the experience of dukha, of misery. What is the third truth? Nirvana. Because Buddhism says, ultimately, that consciousness is empty, it doesn't exist. And the fourth noble truth of the Buddha is the eightfold path: right action, right living, and so forth.


What is the difference between bhakti and the Buddhist ideal? Bhakti says that ultimate reality is not merely the cessation of material suffering. It is not just stopping the wheel of samsara and going 'ahh', and calling that joy. The example given is this: if someone is chasing you down the street, and to get away from them you run into a room and close the door and you may say 'ahh, what a relief'. But after a while of sitting in that room, you will get bored. Can you sit in that room alone, forever? No, we all want to do something. So, how can we do something that is not born out of necessity from material identification, but born out of what we truly are? This is the idea of lila.


Rgds - Swami


Can spiritual knowledge change your karma? - TJ


Audarya, 10 Oct. 99


The knowledge that is pure devotion is supremely purifying. Purification involves the clearing of karma. Our karma exists not only in terms of that manifest karma which we are presently experiencing, it is also stored in seed in the form of desire and acquired tendencies. Whereas knowledge of the self has the power to destroy the karmic seeds before they bear fruit, it cannot change ones already manifest karma. Pure devotion, on the other hand, can clear even such manifest karma which is already bearing fruit in this life.


- Swami


Dear Swami, There are so many spiritual traditions. How can I possibly choose between them? - SD


San Francisco, 18 July 96

Dear SD

Love is the goal, and a love that is enduring. Find a tradition that actually advocates that. Take your yardstick of objectivity and go and measure and see, what is the goal, and what is the means of going there. The goal should be absolute love - which means, that from whatever side you look at it, it is love. Material love is not like that. It is typically the case that if I love one, then I cannot love another. If I love communism, I hate capitalism. But we should want Absolute love. This should be our goal. Find a tradition that advocates this. Then, investigate the means, and see how far you can take it. What has been given in the sacred writings is very, very deep.


Rgds - Swami


What is the point of so much philosophy; so many words; talk, talk, talk? - RK


San Francisco, 19 April 89


Philosophy is a most practical thing, although it is often not thought of in that way. Through philosophy one can deal with death, and dealing with the problem of death is quite practical. If we neglect this problem of death, then no other endeavor amounts to time well spent. This is not a morbid preoccupation, it is a realistic outlook on life in this mortal plane. Without it, we only perpetuate our misery by endearing ourselves to people, places and things that will be taken from us all too soon by Time.


What is Time? "Time I am, destroyer of all the worlds" says Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. There is, of course, more to His message than this; but this is the beginning. Once we have thoroughly grasped that this present life we are experiencing is one in which we are born to die, we can begin to know about eternity, where real life begins.


We must cross over the influence of time in order to live the carefree life we are seeking. We cannot find happiness by working against the clock to acquire something in this short life. We can find lasting happiness only by surrendering to the reality of our utter helplessness in the face of material nature, under whose jurisdiction we are controlled. From this recognition of our dire need comes the impetus to call for helpabsolute helpfor we who are absolutely helpless. Thus attracting the sympathy of Godhead, who is ever ready to heed the call of those who are meek and humble, our happy life beyond time is at hand.


It is not death that the philosophical devotees are absorbed in. That is the preoccupation of those who perpetuate death by clinging to those things that have no permanence. All material manifestation, even the sun itself, so-called giver of life, must one day cease to exist. Absorption in these affairs under times jurisdiction amounts to living on death row. Those who are philosophical in the fullest expression gain the courage to say, "I was mistaken". In doing so they find a new life, invisible though it may be to others.


It is at this point that philosophy has served its purpose and can be retired. The positive experience of tangible spiritual life requires no rational validation. It fulfils the need of the heart as nothing else can. It leaves no room for doubt. It is not unreasonable, but it picks up where reason leaves off. My heart pines for this. Everything else pales in comparison.


Rgds - Swami


Dear Swami, How is it possible to attain realisation of the Absolute by following a particular method? Isn't God realised in a more perfect and complete way if one is free from all limited ideas, when the mind is void of all knowledge from the past? - TF


Audarya, 22 October 99

Dear TF

While divine revelation must be free from sectarianism and thus represent the greatest generality, it must also possess the greatest wealth of positive content. Doing away with distinctive features of the Absolute we find ourselves not at the zenith of divine truth but at the lowest common denominator, the bare minimum of religious content, Brahman or the impersonal aspect of divinity at best, if not nihilism leading to atheism. Rather than making the indifferent foundation of religion found in all sects the highest conception of divinity, the perfect religion is the one that contains within it all other religious conceptionsa complete religious synthesis. This is the Krishna conception of Godhead.


Descriptions of the form of Krishna are intended to dismantle our mental constructs, freeing us from all limited ideas. Thus he is appropriately described as being possessed of contradictory qualities and engaged in unbelievable lilas. Careful study of the descriptions of Krishna reveal an Absolute that is inconceivable to the mind, one in which all contradictions are resolved in a plane where they can simultaneously exist. This plane is beyond the mind. When we meditate on this plane, on Krishna, we go beyond the mind and enter the land of all possibilities. All accumulated knowledge from the past is turned upside down.


Rgds - Swami


Swami, Some say the stories in the Mahabharata are just Indian literature, rather than holy scripture. What do you say? - RM


San Francicso, 9 October 98


The notion that the Ramayana, Mahabharata, including Bhagavad-gita and the Puranas, are not scripture, but Indian literature, is an interesting speculation that caters to the rational materialistic mindset of our times. It will, however, not help those who care to be transported beyond the world of the material mind and senses.


If we insist that the scripture must conform to our frame of sensual/rational reference, we do ourselves a great injustice. The Puranas are full of descriptions of things of which we on Earth have no experience: oceans of milk, flying people, men with animal heads, and much more. Are these accounts fantasticor are we the ones who are living in a fantasy by insisting that because we have no experience of these things they are but the poetic licence of the sages of ancient times? Must everything be validated by our sensual/rational experience in order for it to qualify as reality? I hope not! Moreover, is it not also wonderful beyond belief that the massive oak tree is contained within a small acorn?


We live in a world of wonder. The news of the Puranas is that it is more wonderful than we think.


Rgds - Swami


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Gambling & Cheaters: 'Bet On Krsna'







Q. How far does 'no gambling' go? Is the stock market gambling?


A. The word used in Srimad Bhagavatam is 'dyutam,' gambling. This is to be avoided. However, Krsna also says in Bhagavad Gita, 'Of cheaters I am gambling.' So gambling is a form of cheating through which one hopes to avoid an honest day's work. It is also representative of Krsna, the supreme cheater. If we are lucky he will cheat us out of hearth and home. Bet on Krsna.


Depending on how you approach the stock market, one can either be investing in it, or engaging in a form of gambling through it. Other than gambling, one should be careful about hoarding money. Better to invest it in the bank of Vaisnava seva.

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Volume V, No. 26


Jiva Tattva


"Acaryas offer these kinds of explanations as reasoning for the fallen condition of the jiva and to exonerate God from any fault for the suffering of souls in the material world."





If karma governs happiness and distress of humans, what governs this for animals? Why does one animal live a long life while another is eaten shortly after its birth?


If the soul's eternal position is to be a servant of Krsna, why don't all liberated souls from all paths promote this understanding?


Please explain the meaning of the word nirvana and its application in a doctrinal way?


Are some souls created weak and meant to fall down into material existence? Does Krsna put them into suffering then make them take blame for their own condition?


Why the contradiction between the Brahma sutras and the Bhagavad-gita regarding the birth/death cycle?


What does it mean when the scripture says that the living being (jiva) takes his first birth in the material world as Brahma?


What does the term sakti-tattva mean and what is the difference between sakti-tattvas and nitya mukta souls?


It is stated in Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book Jaiva-dharma that sandhini sakti transforms into many levels of sattva (existence). Does this mean that sandhini-sakti is composed of spirit souls and that the paramanus (atoms) of this material world are spirit souls?


Jaiva-dharma says souls emanating from Maha-Visnu can see both the maya and the spiritual worlds, from that vision they choose which of the two to enter. This and various statements in Prabhupada's books support the contention that the jiva does not fall from Vaikuntha (the spiritual world). Some statements in Prabhupada's books that seem to say that souls fell into the material world from an active relationship with Krsna in Vaikuntha because they somehow became envious of Krsna. Why the difference in these accounts?


Q. If karma determines the happiness and distress of a human being, what determines this for animals? Why does one animal live a long life while another is eaten shortly after its birth? What law is governing the life of an animal?


A. Karma is acquired in the human form of life and animal life is but one karmic reaction to the way in which humans act. Thus some souls in human dress later wear the dress of an animal and the degree of suffering or enjoyment they have in animal life is directly related to what they did in human life. [top]


Q. If the soul's position in eternity is to be a servant of Lord Krsna then why don't all liberated souls from all paths promote this understanding? By studying the lives of saints who have traversed other paths, one can see that they achieved symptoms of love of God similar to those mentioned in Vaisnava scriptures, so why did they not preach directly about love of Krsna?


A. Sri Krsna explains this in the Bhagavad-gita when he says that although all souls follow him, he reciprocates with them in accordance with how they approach him. All liberated souls experience some aspect of Krsna, such as merging into his effulgence, reverential love of god, etc. However, attaining love of Krsna (Krsna prema) and entering into his most intimate pastimes (madhurya lila) as discussed in Gaudiya Vaisnavism is a very specific path. Not everyone is intrinsically attracted to or eligible for this path. [top]


Q. Would you please explain the meaning of the word nirvana and its application in a doctrinal way?


A. In the Bhagavad-gita nirvana refers to extinguishing material suffering while attaining salvation. Bg 2.72 states, "O Partha, having attained this divine state one is not deluded; if one is fixed in this consciousness even at the moment of death, one attains Brahman and the cessation of all suffering (nirvana)."


This verse describes the enlightened condition as brahma-nirvana. The word nirvana is distinctly Buddhist, although it is also found in some of the later Upanisads. Here Krsna includes it within Brahman (his effulgence/beatific vision). Literally nirvana means to "blow out," as one does a candle to extinguish its light. The word has a negative connotation, and thus Buddhism has sometimes been considered a negative form of spirituality. It is negative, however, in a positive way. Its goal is to negate the suffering that it considers the world to consist of.


Cessation of suffering is also concomitant to the goal of the Gita, and thus all that is included in nirvana is within Krsna's general conception of enlightenment. Brahman is, as is apparent in later chapters of the Gita, an aspect of Krsna. It is not the complete expression of divinity, which Bhagavan Krsna himself is. In the second chapter of the Gita, where the above verse is found, Krsna has not entirely revealed everything that the fully enlightened state of God consciousness includes, although he has hinted at it (Bg. 2.59, 2.61, 2.64).


In chapter 5, Krsna uses the word nirvana three times (Bg. 5.24-26) in the course of elaborating on the enlightened condition of samadhi (divine absorption) that he explained in the concluding section of chapter two (Bg. 2.55-72). In each of these verses, Krsna calls the enlightened condition brahma-nirvana. However, he ends chapter 5 by placing realization of himself within the equation of enlightenment (Bg. 5.29) when he says that the peace of enlightenment (sati) is attained quickly by acknowledging himself as the ideal of the contemplatives (Brahman), the yogis (Paramatma/Oversoul), and his devotees (Bhagavan/ God himself).


In chapter six, which involves an extended discussion of the spiritual practices of yoga that lead to enlightenment, Krsna elaborates further on the enlightened condition by including realization of the Paramatma feature of the Absolute within it, paramatma samahita (Bg. 6.7). In the same section of chapter six (Bg. 6.15), he reveals that the enlightened state of yogic attainment includes the supremely peaceful cessation of material existence in Brahman (santim nirvana-paramam), which is contained within realization of his person (mat-samstham/Bhagavan). He concludes chapter six by calling the yoga of devotion (bhakti) the highest expression of yoga. This is the yoga that corresponds with the Gita's full sense of enlightenment--God-realization. Thus within this concluding section of chapter two, Krsna's description of the enlightened person refers ultimately to his devotee.



Editors note: This answer has been taken from Swami Tripurari's commentary to verse 2.72 in his book Bhagavad-gita Its Feeling and Philosophy. Information on that book can be found by clicking here.



Q. Are some souls created weak, and thus meant to fall down into material existence? Does Krsna put these weak souls into suffering and then make them take the blame for their own condition?


A. The baddha jiva (bound soul) who is implicated in anadi (beginingless) karma is part and parcel of Krsna, not a completely independent being. Can Krsna be blamed for doing something to himself when no one other than him exists in the first place? This is lila, which is not subject to reason. Play transcends reason, yet if you become a conscious member of his play you will understand. As I said in a previous Sanga: "We have nothing to say in the matter. Any objection is based on the illusion that we are independent from God."


Otherwise, it is Maha Visnu who desires to become many and thus manifests as the baddha jiva. It is said that the jiva is conditioned because of Visnu's proximity and relationship with maya. To remedy the problem resulting from his involvement with maya arising from his desire to become many, he enters the world of maya (as the avatara) and saves the baddha jiva. [top]


Q. In the Brahma sutras written by Bhagavan Veda Vyasa it says that whosoever worships saguna brahma attains Brahmaloka and will not return to the birth and death cycle, meaning that they are liberated. However, according to Bhagavad-gita 8.16 attainment of Brahmaloka is subject to return to the cycle of birth and death. Why the contradiction between the Brahma sutras and the Bhagavad-gita?


A. Depending on how it is used, the term Brahamloka has two meanings. One meaning of Brahmaloka is the abode of Lord Brahma, which is described in Bhagavad-gita as being within the material plane. This Brahmaloka is not eternal and one who takes birth there is subject to repeated birth and death, although for the most part souls who have attained this planet attain liberation along with Brahma at the time of his death. The second meaning of Brahmaloka is "Brahman," the Absolute. This refers to the land of no return, as discussed in the Brahma sutras. [top]


Q. What does it mean when the scripture says that the living being (jiva) takes his first birth in the material world as Brahma?


A. It is not that every jiva is born first as a Brahma and after a lifetime as Brahma falls into lower forms of life. The correct understanding is that Brahma represents what is referred to as samasti-jiva, the collective of jiva souls. This is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam SB 3.20.16, sarva-jivanikayauko yatra svayam abhut svarat. It is also explained in SB 11.3.12, where the samasti-jiva is referred to as the vairaja-purusa. According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the word vairajah in this verse indicates the totality of the individual conditioned souls who originally take birth from Brahma and are amalgamated back into him at the time of annihilation. Thus Brahma represents the collective of jivas and in this sense the jiva is born first as Brahma, who is also the first-born jiva. [top]


Q. What does the term sakti-tattva mean and what is the difference between sakti-tattvas and nitya mukta souls?


A. The term sakti-tattva refers to all aspects of Krsna constituted of his energy (sakti), as opposed to himself (saktiman). This includes maya sakti (illusory energy), svarupa sakti (internal energy), jiva sakti (individual souls), etc. Nitya-muktas are eternally liberated souls (jivas) and thus are also constituted of his sakti. [top]


Q. It is stated in Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book Jaiva-dharma that sandhini sakti transforms into many levels of sattva (existence). Does this mean that sandhini-sakti is composed of spirit souls and that the paramanus (atoms) of this material world are spirit souls?


A. The sandhini sakti is a division of the svarupa sakti, its existential aspect. Thus it is responsible for the manifestation of the spiritual realms. Maya sakti is a shadow of this svarupa sakti. That which within the maya sakti corresponds with the sandhini sakti makes up the atomic particles (paramanu) of the material world. This does not imply that each atom is a jiva soul, but rather that consciousness is at the foundation of matter. [top]


Q. Jaiva-dharma states that souls emanating from Maha-Visnu have some kind of vision of both the maya world and the spiritual world and from that vision they choose which of the two worlds to enter. This and various statements in Prabhupada's books support the contention that the jiva does not fall from Vaikuntha (the spiritual world). But there are other statements in Prabhupada's books that seem to say that souls fell into the material world from an active relationship with Krsna in Vaikuntha because somehow or other they became envious of Krsna. Why the difference in these accounts?


A. Acaryas offer different explanations in consideration of their audience. Such is the nature of preaching. What is common among all of these explanations is the attempt to exonerate God from any fault for the suffering of souls in the material world. In my experience, all answers to this question fall short of entirely satisfying the intellect, thus emphasis should be placed on the fact of our material conditioning and the means to remedy it, more than on explaining its origins to the satisfaction of the intellect.


Spiritual progress is based more on faith and spiritual practice than it is on intellect. Saints and scripture teach that through faith and spiritual practice one can transcend the limitations of mind and intellect and gain entrance into the world of spiritual experience, at which point this question can be put to rest once and for all. Once we know what it means to be a soul, we can fully understand the nature of its material conditioning.

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by Swami B.V. Tripurari


"Those who are grounded in ritualistic bhakti with their ideal being raganuga-bhakti can cross over ritualistic bhakti and tread the path of sacred passionate love in due course."


Q. You wrote that devotees in the line of Bhaktivinoda Thakura teach that our svarupa, or spiritual identity, is already within us but lies dormant. (Sanga Volume VI number 23)


In his book Sri Guru and His Grace, Srila Sridhara Maharaja said, "We may have an attraction for Vrndavana and an inner awakening for service to Krsna in Goloka, but if we associate with so many Vaikuntha sadhus, then we will be hurled down to Vaikuntha." Does this mean that one can have an inner awakening of desire for service to Krsna in Vrndavana when one's svarupa is that of a Vaikuntha bhakta? I would also like to ask what Bhaktivinoda Thakura meant when he said one should practice vaidhi-bhakti to become eligible for raganuga-bhakti.


A. In Sri Guru and His Grace "hurled down" is being used as a figure of speech and should not be taken literally. Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja is saying that although one may be destined for Vrndavana, if one associates with Vaikuntha bhaktas one may be detoured to Vaikuntha, as was Gopa Kumara in Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. Whatever one's spiritual destiny is, it will not awaken without the right kind of association. Association does not produce our svarupa, but it is the catalyst needed for it to manifest, thus we should be careful as to the association we keep. Along with association comes our sadhana, or spiritual practice. Practice makes perfect. The spiritual goal that one idealizes and aspires for will manifest only if one engages in sadhana that corresponds with one's ideal.


Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati were among the first to use the term vaidhi-bhakti in place of the term ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti. However, when Bhaktivinoda Thakura used the term vaidhi-bhakti in place of ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti, he was speaking of vaidhi in a general sense.


He did not mean to advocate that one should engage in vaidhi-bhakti and thereby attain Vaikuntha, and then from there gain eligibility for the raganuga sadhana that begets Vraja bhakti. He meant that one should engage in the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti such as hearing and chanting to give support to one's immature, budding eagerness for raganuga-bhakti, which in the beginning is often more intellectually based than heartfelt. Mature raganuga-bhakti is an affair of the heart, not the head, whereas vaidhi-bhakti has much to do with one's head and the sense that bhakti to Bhagavan should be done because it is the right thing to do. Its motivation is duty, and its expression of love is appropriately reverential. Raga-bhakti, on the other hand, is motivated by love, and its expression of love is inappropriate in appearance, being comparatively irreverent. The Vraja gopis are, of course, the prime example.


Note that Srila Rupa Goswami has also written that the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti such as hearing and chanting should not be neglected by raganuga sadhakas in Brs. 1.2.296.


Q. In discussing the svarupa aren't we talking more of a mood of service than a particular place like Vaikuntha or Goloka?


A. The mood has a corresponding place. Indeed, the place is the mood and the mood is the place. To love God as an equal, as in the case of devotees who are in sakhya rasa in Vraja, would be out of place in Vaikuntha where Visnu is worshiped in awe and reverence. Indeed, the idea of loving Visnu in equality would be intolerable there.


Q. What exactly does "ajata" and "jata" mean when one speaks of ajata-ruci and jata-ruci bhakti?


A. Jata means "born." Jata-ruci is the condition in which ruci (spiritual taste) is born or has appeared within the devotee. Ajata-ruci is the condition in which ruci has not yet fully appeared within the devotee. Thus the ajata-ruci devotee is one who practices the principles of bhakti with a desire to attain spiritual taste. In some places you will also find the terms ajata-rati and jata-rati used. Rati means love or bhava. In either case ajata refers to the condition where deep spontaneous feelings for Krsna have not yet manifested in the heart of the devotee. To attain these feelings, a devotee must first purify his or her heart under the guidance of an elevated devotee of Krsna.


Jiva Goswami calls this stage ajata-ruci-raganuga. It is a mixed form of raganuga and vaidhi-bhakti, in which one's motivation to engage in raganuga-bhakti is somewhat dependent on the logic and scriptural references in support of its value. In this regard, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami says, satra-yukti nahi mane--raganugara prakrti: "The nature of raganuga sadhakas is that they do not care for sastra-yukti, or introspection on the nature of the scriptural conclusions." (Cc 2.22.153) Sriman Mahaprabhu also told Sanatana Goswami, sastra-yukti nahi ihan siddhanta-vicara ei svabhava-gune: "One whose attraction for Krsna is spontaneous has no use for sastra-yukti." (Cc 2.24.40) Of course, a raganuga sadhaka is dependent on the scripture for instructions as to how to execute his or her sadhana.


Q. I read in your booklet Sri Guru Paramapara that a siddha pranali should consist of siddhas. Actually the term siddha pranali refers to the siddha-dehas of the preceptors in one's guru parampara. We receive this esoteric information when we get initiated in one of the traditional Gaudiya Vaisnava parivaras. It is not that every guru in the line must be a siddha. Some of them may be ajata ruci or ajata rati raganugiyas.


A. I agree that every guru in one's parampara does not necessarily have to be a siddha. Something is often better than nothing. However, in the type of Gaudiya lineages you are referring to the guru is said to give the disciple information about the disciple's siddha-deha as well as that of all of the previous gurus in the line. The way in which he determines who the previous gurus are in Krsna lila is by hearing from his own guru, who received this information from his guru, who received from his guru, and so on. The way in which he determines the siddha-deha of the disciple is said to be through meditation, in which Sri Krsna gives him the information. This is the theory.


However, I object to the idea that one who is not a siddha can determine the details of one's siddha-deha in meditation. I have spoken with gurus in such parivaras who admitted to me that the so-called siddha-deha they give out is less than something they received in mediation from Krsna himself. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta also took exception to what he considered the passing out of imaginary siddha-dehas. If anyone wants to call these lines traditional and a siddha pranali, they are free to do so, but in my opinion it has little to do with actual spiritual life. Better to take shelter of Harinama in Sri Krsna sankirtana and Krsna mantra dhyana received through guru parampara. As one's heart becomes purified, the pure name of Krsna manifests along with his svarupa sakti in one's heart. Thus one comes to know of one's siddha deha on no uncertain terms.


Q. Isn't raganuga-bhakti understood to be a sadhana or spiritual practice unto itself?


A. Raganuga is sadhana and thus practice, but this practice is mature when our svarupa (spiritual identity) is revealed. Even though bhava-bhakti is distinct from sadhana-bhakti, bhava bhaktas still engage in sadhana. Bhaktivinoda Thakura's opinion is that raganuga sadhana can be practiced before attaining bhava, but it will be mixed with and supported by vaidhi-bhakti.


Jiva Goswami calls this mixture ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti, or raganuga-bhakti practiced in the stage before one develops spiritual taste for a particular bhava of Vraja. He discusses two divisions of raganuga-bhakti in his Bhakti-sandarbha. These he calls jata-ruci and ajata-ruci-raganuga. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami refers to them as jata-rati and ajata-rati-raganuga-bhakti. These terms imply that raganuga-bhakti is cultivated by those without ruci (ajata-ruci) or with ruci (jata-ruci) or in the language of Krsnadasa Kaviraja, with bhava (jata-rati) or without bhava (ajata-rati).


Kaviraja Goswami says, jata-ajata-rati-bhede sadhaka dui bheda vidhi-raga-marge cari cari-asta bheda. The context of this verse is Mahaprabhu's explanation of the atmarama verse to Sanatana Goswami in which he explains four types of atmaramas: the eternal associates of God (parisads), those who have attained perfection by sadhana (sadhana-siddhas), and and two types of sadhakas, those cultivating vaidhi-bhakti and those cultivating raganuga-bhakti.


Thus we have the parisads, sadhana-siddhas, and two types of sadhakas, totaling four atmaramas. Then he explains that there are two types of sadhakas within both vaidhi- and raga-bhakti sadhana, those with rati (jata-rati), and those without (ajata-rati). This brings the total of atmaramas to eight. He goes on from here to delineate 32 types of atmaramas by discussing the four types (parisads, sadhana-siddhas, and two types of sadhakas) in terms of four rasas both in vaidhi-bhakti and raganuga-bhakti.


Out of all of this, we learn that there are devotees who are raganuga-sadhakas who are either mature in their practice or immature. They have attained ruci/rati or have yet to attain them. The terms ruci and rati are not however, interchangeable. Ruci refers to advanced sadhana-bhakti, and rati to bhava-bhakti. In either case we have two types of raganuga bhaktas. In the language of Kaviraja Goswami we find a blurring of sadhana-bhakti and bhava-bhakti.


This is not inappropriate because although bhava-bhakti is distinct from sadhana-bhakti, sadhana continues in bhava-bhakti nonetheless. Ruci is also the basis of rati. Thus the two, Jiva Goswami and Krsnadasa Kaviraja, are saying the same thing--that there are two types of raganuga-bhaktas, the mature and immature. The conclusion is that those who are grounded in ritualistic bhakti with their ideal being raganuga-bhakti can cross over ritualistic bhakti and tread the path of sacred passionate love in due course.



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by Swami B.V. Tripurari

"Those involved in Gaudiya Vaisnavism, regardless of sect, should understand that they are indebted to Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who saw the need to interface our tradition with modernity to keep it alive in the world."



Q. What is varnasrama dharma and what is its relevance to Gaudiya Vaisnavism and the times in which we live?


A. Varnasrama dharma refers to India's scripturally based socioreligious system consisting of four varnas, or social orders (brahmana-kstriya-vasya-sudra), which vaguely correspond to priest, warrior, merchant, and laborer, and four ashrams, or spiritual orders (brahmacari-grihasta-varnaprastha-sannyasa), which correspond to celibate student, householder, renounced householder, and monk. The essence of varnasrama dharma is to attain balance in life between material and spiritual pursuit. The idea behind it is that one who understands one's psychosomatic reality is better equipped to lead a well-balanced life and pursue the spiritual ideal. To this extent, varnasrama dharma has value in relation to the goal of life.


The Srimad Bhagavatam says, dharmah svanusthitah pumsam visvaksena-kathasu yah notpadayed yadi ratim srama eva hi kevalam: "Execution of one's duty in varnasrama is only so much labor if it does not give rise to love for Hari katha." (SB 1.2.8) It also says, atah pumbhir dvija-srestha varnasrama-vibhagasah svanusthitasya dharmasya samsiddhir hari-tosanam: "O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties of varnasrama is to please the Personality of Godhead." (SB 1.2.13) These verses fall in the section of Srimad Bhagavatam where Suta Goswami answers questions from the sages concerning the highest dharma. In this very important section, it is explained that varnasrama dharma is only as valuable as its execution pleases Hari, and we know from the Bhagavatam itself that varnasrama dharma does not do this very well compared to how well Bhagavata dharma pleases Hari. Bhagavata dharma essentially means a life centered on devotion to Bhagavan Sri Krsna.


Q. It seems to me that much of the varnasrama discussion going on in Gaudiya Vaisnavism today is coming from men trying to maintain the patriarchate in order to keep women in their proverbial place. There are legitimate issues of family values behind it as well, as the family is not faring very well today, but don't you feel that such issues could be dealt with more easily without mixing in all the extra stuff the varnasrama debate brings with it?


A. I agree that many of those advocating the implementation of varnasrama have a very superficial idea of what varnasrama dharma actually consists of. Varnasrama is very detailed and complex. The idea of four divisions of labor and four ashrams is the basic framework, but one would have to study the dharma sastra to fill in all the details. Such a study might disenchant many of its modern-day advocates because most are simply picking and choosing what appeals to them about varnasrama while leaving the rest out. A cursory look into the "no sannyasa for women" issue in the name of upholding varnasrama would be revealing. Such research would mandate no sannyasa for the vast majority of men as well, unless they are ready to sleep in the forest and wear tree bark for underwear. Otherwise, clearly, Bhagavata or Vaisnava dharma is above varnasrama dharma. Bhakti sastra transcends the dharma sastra.


For information about "the no sannyasa for women" issue refer to the following Sangas:


Women and Sannyasa


More on Women and Sannyasa


Sannyasa in Modern Times


Q. What do you mean when you say that bhakti sastra transcends dharma sastra?


A. Dharma sastra is meant for regulated religious life, which ideally should lead to bhakti. Bhakti sastra describes the goal and the means to attain that goal, which in both cases is of course Visnu bhakti. Bhakti is hearing, chanting, and so on, about Krsna. If one has faith that all dharmic obligations are fulfilled by bhakti alone, one treads the path of suddha (pure) bhakti. Performing one's duties in varnasrama only indirectly pleases Bhagavan, in a similar way that being a good citizen pleases the president. Varnasrama is not the same as bhakti because bhakti is about cultivating a personal relationship with Bhagavan.


Ultimately only bhakti can give bhakti, but it is good to be religious also, which is what the dharma sastras are about. Indeed, advanced devotees are inclined to preach to the religious sector, giving them the opportunity to develop faith in bhakti. However, addiction to so-called dharma--religious duties--can also be a problem. People too addicted to religious duties may have difficulty developing faith in bhakti. Such persons tend to be concerned that if they do not follow the dharma sastra they will be culpable even while engaged in bhakti. Krsna addresses this in Bhagavad-gita when he says, sarva-dharman paratyajya: "Forgoing all religious injunctions (dharma), take exclusive refuge in me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." (Bg 18.66)


Q. If Vaisnava dharma is superior to varnasrama dharma ,why did Thakura Bhaktivinoda tell his foremost disciple, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, to preach "daiva varnasrama," and what does this term mean?


A. Daiva varnasrama has two meanings. One meaning is a varnasrama system in which one's varna is not determined exclusively by birth, but rather in consideration of guna (quality) and karma (vocation). The second meaning of daiva varnasrama refers to a form of varnasrama for devotees. This second meaning was conceived of by Bhaktivinode Thakura to give support to newcomers trying to take up the practice of bhakti. Vaisnava dharma is superior to varnasrama dharma, but this does not mean that neophyte practitioners on the path are automatically transcendental to the influence of the modes of material nature. Devotees still need to be engaged according to their propensities, at least until they are pure enough to no longer be driven by those propensities.


Q. What did Bhaktivinoda Thakura mean by the term "daiva varnasrama?"


A. Srimad Bhagavatam (12.2.12-14) says, "By the time the age of Kali ends, the bodies of all creatures will be greatly reduced in size, and the religious principles of followers of varnasrama will be ruined. The path of the Vedas will be completely forgotten in human society, and so-called religion will be mostly atheistic. The kings will mostly be thieves, the occupations of men will be stealing, and lying and needless violence will reduce all the social classes to the lowest level of sudras. Cows will be like goats, spiritual hermitages will be no different from mundane houses, and family ties will extend no further than the immediate bonds of marriage."


More important than this is what the Bhagavatam has to say about the beginning of Kali-yuga, which has to do with the speaking of the Bhagavatam itself. Srimad Bhagavatam 1.18 details how the degradation of the brahminical class marked the beginning of the age of Kali-yuga. This chapter describes how after the disappearance of Sri Krsna, a brahmana boy cursed the great devotee Maharaja Pariksit because the king had ostensibly disrespected his father. This incident set Kali-yuga in motion, showing that when brahmanas, who are supposed to be the leaders of varnasrama society, become proud and corrupt, the whole varnasrama system becomes corrupt. This also prompted the speaking of the Bhagavatam, in which it is established that the best means of deliverance in Kali-yuga is taking shelter of the holy name of Krsna.


Study of essential scriptures, such as Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Mahabharata, reveals that one's social position (varna) is actually determined by one's qualities and activities and is not simply a matter of birthright. When birth alone is the determining factor, the result is asura varnasrama, or what's commonly known today as the caste system. This corruption of varnasrama was prominent during the time of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, so he ordered his disciple Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to establish the correct conception of varnasrama, in which guna and karma determine one's social position (varna). Furthermore, he wanted to establish a type of varnasrama that would aid those on the path of Vaisnava dharma, which is superior to ordinary varnasrama dharma. Of course, at the time, many people thought differently, thinking that varnasrama brahmanas were superior to Vaisnavas. Moreover, the same misconception in which birth dismissed one's actual qualifications had overflowed into Vaisnava dharma, and thus in some Gaudiya Vaisnava lineages gurus were determined by birth alone regardless of their qualities or realization. Seeing such confusion infiltrating Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta sought to establish daiva varnasrama for devotees who still had material desires, even though the path of bhakti transcends varnasrama.


Thus Thakura Bhaktivinode taught that basically there were three types of varnasrama: a-daiva varnasrama (ordinary varnasrama), asura varnasrama (the caste system), and daiva varnasrama (varnasrama for Vaisnavas). His idea of daiva varnasrama for devotees comes from the following verses of Srimad Bhagavatam: "Having awakened faith in the narrations of my glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, my devotee should remain happy and worship me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, my devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities." (SB 11.20.27-28)


Faith alone makes one eligible to tread the bhakti marg , but on entering this path one is not immediately freed from material desire. Ordinarily, those with material desire are eligible to follow the karma marg, or varnasrama dharma. However, faith in bhakti relieves them of this burden, even while material desires remain. At the same time, devotees should not artificially act as if they were fully realized paramahamsas, because in most cases they will be drawn down by their material propensities in spite of their faith. Therefore, let there be an arrangement to engage them accordingly in consideration of bhakti. This is the idea of daiva varnasrama for devotees. It was meant to serve as a support for bhakti that would provide a sense of material balance in a society of devotees.


Given the socioreligious culture in which this idea arose, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura organized his disciples into four service groups and four ashrams roughly analogous to the divisions of occupation and spiritual status described in varnansrama dharma. For example, in his daiva varnasrama those inclined to study, preach, and worship the Deity were considered brahmanas, and only they could take sannyasa. Those inclined toward management were considered ksatriyas. Householders who funded the preaching and temples were considered vaisyas, and those with faith who performed seva but had little spiritual discipline were considered sudras. He grouped his disciples like this while making it clear that Vaisnava dharma was transcendental to varnasrama dharma.


The vision of Bhaktivinoda in this regard and the dynamic attempt to implement it by Bhaktisiddhanta are noteworthy. Through their vision and efforts, they provide us with a precedent for emphasizing the need for horizontal support to bring material balance to those involved in the vertical growth that Gaudiya Vaisnavism is ultimately about. Interestingly enough, contemporary spirituality could not agree more. It stresses that vertical spiritual progress, although not dependent on horizontal development, is nonetheless facilitated by bringing psychological and social balance, as well as ethical principles, into the life of the practitioner.


We should be proud to be members of the Bhaktivinoda parivara, and those involved in Gaudiya Vaisnavism, regardless of sect, should understand that they are indebted to Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who saw the need to interface our tradition with modernity to keep it alive in the world. We would not know of the vision of Bhaktivinoda were it not for Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and his disciples.


It should be clear that the corruption of varnasrama dharma, which inordinately stressed birth over one's qualities and activities, overflowed into Gaudiya Vaisnavism as well. Thus in preaching the proper conception of varnasrama, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura also preached against the idea that birth in a particular parivara alone qualified one for the position of guru or acarya. This of course led to his conception of the bhagavata guru parampara, as discussed in my book Sri Guru Parampara: Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Heir to the Esoteric Life of Kedarnatha Bhaktivinoda.


Questions or comments may be submitted at the Q&A Forum http://www.swami.org/sanga/ or email sangaeditor@swami.org.

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by Swami B.V. Tripurari



"Physical omniscience pertains to God alone. What could be called metaphysical omniscience, or knowing the self and God, is what is meant when it is said that the liberated soul is all-knowing (sarvajna)."


Q. I heard that service to one's guru is not considered devotional service (bhakti) but is rather a means to gather spiritual merit (sukrti). Is this statement acceptable in light of what Srila Prabhupada taught us about devotional service?


A. You have either been misinformed or have misunderstood what has been said. One cannot serve Sri Krsna without serving Sri Guru. All service to Bhagavan is prefaced by glorification of Sri Guru. If service to Krsna is the body of bhakti, then service to Sri Guru is the limb. Or it is possible to conceive of service to Sri Guru as service to the body of bhakti and service to Sri Krsna as its limb. This is guru bhakti. Of the two, the latter, guru bhakti, is arguably more pleasing to Sri Krsna.


Q. What do you think about the idea that scripture cannot be understood by the reader unless it is heard directly from a "rasika" guru and explained by him?


A. It is best to study scripture under the guidance of an advanced Vaisnava. This is the principle, but this does not mean that your personal time spent studying the sastra is wasted unless you are doing so in the company of a rasika guru. Actually most devotees spend little time in the direct physical proximity of their guru. Studying the guru's writings and the commentaries of the previous acaryas is how the vast majority of devotees gain scriptural knowledge. How well you will be able to understand those writings depends on the extent to which you apply your intelligence to this study, as well as on your level of spiritual advancement. Studying sastra will help you advance, but sincere service to Sri Guru will help you even more, even if you are not in the physical presence of your guru.


Q. I have been a devotee for some time but am not very detached. How can I understand that the scripture says knowledge and detachment quickly follow bhakti?


A. It is important to understand that even though the Bhagavatam says that knowledge and detachment quickly follow bhakti, it will usually take some time for this to manifest. It will take even more time for taste to appear, at least in a lasting sense. Knowledge and detachment correspond with one another. One in knowledge does not try to pursue enduring happiness in relation to things that do not endure. One in knowledge is thus detached as well. Thus knowledge and detachment in turn correspond with liberation, which is subordinate to or follows bhakti. So the full sense of this verse is that when one gets suddha bhakti, knowledge and detachment immediately follow. Therefore, there is no need to pursue the difficult path of knowledge or detachment (jnana and vairagya) because by pursuing bhakti, which is comparatively easy, jnana and vairagya follow automatically.


Q. Must the guru be omniscient to hear the prayers of the disciple?


A. The guru does not need to be omniscient to hear the prayers of those who love him. Webster's dictionary defines omniscient as having infinite awareness or being possessed of universal or complete knowledge. Infinite awareness and universal knowledge in respect to knowing every detail of material existence is physical omniscience. Physical omniscience pertains to God alone. What could be called metaphysical omniscience, or knowing the self and God, is what is meant when it is said that the liberated soul is all-knowing (sarvajna).


Metaphysically speaking, one who knows God knows everything, but he or she does not necessarily know what you ate for dinner last night. Then again, in Gaudiya Vaisnavism we say, as Kant does, that God is ultimately unknown and unknowable. One can never know him completely. Even Krsna's eternal associates admit to being unable to fully understand him. Is Krsna's mother Yasodamayi omniscient, and if so, in what sense? She certainly does not know what Krsna did with the gopis last night under the stars!


Vaisnavism teaches that a devotee must establish a contention by citing supporting verses from sastra, so where does it say in sastra that the guru must be omniscient? Vedanta-sutra does say that fully liberated souls (videha muktas) can have pervasive knowledge by way of their aura, which extends like the light of a lamp into other things, presumably things that they choose to extend themselves into, pradipavat avesah tatha hi darsayati (Vs 4.4.15). But this does not mean that they automatically know everything that is happening in the world or even in the lives of their disciples. Only God knows the intricate details of everything and everyone.


Q. What's the difference between a videha mukta and a jivan mukta? Are all gurus jivan muktas?


A. Not all gurus are jivan muktas. Jivan mukti refers to liberation within this body and videha mukti refers to final liberation after the body ceases. For the jnani who is liberated while still in the body, prarabdha karma, or the karma that is already bearing fruit in the form of the physical body, is still winding down. When he or she attains videha mukti, the prarabdha has ended as he or she enters Brahman.


For the bhakta, jivan mukti is attained at the mature stage of asakti, as his or her karma is exhausted. After this stage and while still in the world the devotee attains bhava bhakti, at which time Bhagavan takes over the devotee's body through his svarupa-sakti, giving the devotee full facility to develop an internal spiritual body. However, even realizing one's internal spiritual body is not synonymous with videha mukti. In Gaudiya Vaisnavism a videha mukta is one who has left this mortal world altogether and joined Sri Krsna in his nitya-lila.


Q. What is your opinion about citing the following quotations as evidence from sastra (sastra pramana) supporting the idea of the omniscience of the guru?


"Yasmin vijnate sarvam evam vijnatam bhavati. Anyone who is a devotee of the Lord knows about the Lord to some extent, and devotional service to the Lord makes him able to know everything by the grace of the Lord. Although a devotee may apparently express himself to be ignorant, he is full of knowledge in every intricate matter." (SB 3.7.8, Bhaktivedanta purport)


"The Vedic mantras say, yasmin vijnate sarvam evam vijnatam bhavati. When the devotee sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead by his meditation, or when he sees the Lord personally, face to face, he becomes aware of everything within this universe. Indeed, nothing is unknown to him. Everything within this material world is fully manifested to a devotee who has seen the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (SB. 8.6.9, Bhaktivedanta purport)


"When Dhruva Maharaja was talking with his mother, Suniti, of all the incidents that had taken place in the palace, Narada was not present. Thus the question may be raised how Narada overheard all these topics. The answer is that Narada is trikala jna; he is so powerful that he can understand the past, future and present of everyone's heart, just like the Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (SB 4.8.25, Bhaktivedanta purport)


A. What you have cited here are the words of the guru, in this case Srila Prabhupada's purports. Sastra pramana refers to verses from scripture such as the Vedas, Upanisads, Bhagavad-gita, and so forth, or in the case of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, the writings of our sastra-acaryas such as Baladeva Vidyabhusana or the Six Goswamis. Even the guru must cite sastra pramana to support his words.


This is not to say that Srila Prabhupada's purports are not evidence, but what he means in these instances must be balanced with what sastra says when addressing this point directly. This is not what Srila Prabhupada is doing in the purports cited. For example, intricate knowledge and knowledge of everything in the universe could easily be construed to mean that one who has such knowledge knows that the world is but the modes of nature. This conforms to the metaphysical notion of omniscience. Furthermore, when directly addressing this issue, Srila Prabhupada said that he was not omniscient. It has also been pointed out that knowing something about a disciple's past or hearing his or her prayers does not indicate omniscience in the full sense of the term by any means.


In this regard, a disciple once said to Srila Prabhupada, "We see, for instance, sometimes the acarya may seem to forget something or not to know something, so from our point of view, if someone has forgotten, that is an imperfection."


Srila Prabhupada replied, "Then you do not understand. Acarya is not God, omniscient. He is servant of God. His business is to preach bhakti cult. That is acarya."


At that point, another disciple said to Srila Prabhupada, "In one purport in the Bhagavad-gita, you write that a disciple of a bona fide spiritual master is supposed to know everything."


To this Srila Prabhupada replied, "Everything means whatever his guru knows, he should know, that much. Not like God, everything. Within his limit, that's all. If he tries to understand whatever his guru has said, that much is 'everything.' Otherwise, 'everything' does not mean that we know everything, like God, like Krsna. That is not possible. If he regularly chants and follows the regulative principles, follows the orders of guru, then he knows everything. Because if he knows that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then he knows everything. That's all. Not that he should know as Krsna. Yasmin vijnate sarvam eva vijnata: if he accepts Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, then he knows everything. That is finish."


Also Srila Rupa Goswami, whose words for all Gaudiya Vaisnavas are considered sastra, has directly addressed this issue. In his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, southern division, first wave, Krsna's qualities are listed and it is said that only the first fifty qualities can appear in pure devotees to a minute extent. Sri Rupa says that omniscience, the 52nd, is only partially present in Lord Siva, while it is fully exhibited in Krsna.


This statement of Sri Rupa confirms that great personalities who have received the mercy of Bhagavan partially possess only the first fifty qualities of Krsna, which do not include omniscience. Omniscient (sarvajna) is defined later in this way: "One who knows everything in the minds of others, even when separated by time and space, is called omniscient." (Brs. 2.1.182) The example given is Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.11, where Kunti mentions how Krsna, even though far away, knew the danger the Pandavas were placed in when Durvasa and his disciples came to see them just after they had eaten, and how Krsna suddenly appeared and saved them.


It is not uncommon for a guru to have heightened psychic abilities, but omniscience is another thing. Although Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana does attribute "pervasive knowledge" to the mukta in the sutra that I cited earlier, this does not mean that a mukta possesses omniscience like God. Furthermore, Sri Baladeva is referring to the videha mukta, not the jivan mukta. In any case, according to scripture only Krsna is omniscient, but of course one who knows Krsna knows everything--meaning that he knows everything that he needs to know.



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by Swami B.V. Tripurari


"Vaisnavas believe that every unit of consciousness has the potential to enter into an eternal relationship with Krsna, whose affairs are governed by his personal energy or nature (svarupa sakti)."


Q. The late Joseph Campbell was the first person I heard tell of Krsna, but he taught that the images used in myths are metaphorical and should not be taken literally. He used the word myth in referring to the world's spiritual, religious, and scientific explanations of reality and did not imply a negative connotation with the word. Rather he emphasized the need to understand the essential truth within religious myth, whether it was from Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, or other traditions, and apply it in our heart. How does your understanding of Krsna differ from his?


A. Joseph Cambell's perspective has helped many people bridge the gap between Eastern and Western religion by encouraging them to appreciate the universal truth found within all spiritual traditions. However, we differ from Campbell in that we do not equate Krsna-lila with the myths of other traditions. We do not think that Krsna-lila is simply a metaphor from which to draw universal truth. Krsna-lila is full of metaphorical truth, but this is not all that it consists of. The lilas are an ontological reality, the highest reality. For that matter, I do not think that other traditions think of their myths in the way we think of Krsna-lila (with a view to live in them eternally), nor are any other cultural or religious myths as charming, detailed, or profound as Krsna-lila. Krsna-lila is in a class of its own, as it should be. Campbell has not entirely missed this, for Indian mythology was his personal favorite. However, he was not familiar with Vaisnava theology and had a distinct leaning toward the so-called perennial philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.


The idea that Krsna is God is considerably more well thought out than what we find in Greek and other mythology. The theological and philosophical underpinning of the lila is considerable to say the least. I do not believe that there is any comparison that can be made with other religious mythology. If one insists that an advaitic approach to Krsna lila is more rational, this is a subject for a lively debate that would no doubt embarrass most Advaitins and also shed light on many of Advaita Vedanta's own logical inconsistencies.


Q. I am attracted to Vaisnavism but question the need to incorporate into my life certain aspects of Hindu culture, as that culture has many practices that don't seem quite right to me. How can I ascertain what aspects of Hindu culture will be helpful to me spiritually?


A. As a general principle one should try to take the best from Eastern and Western culture and apply it to one's life. It is natural that one influenced by an Indian-based spiritual tradition will develop affinity for certain aspects of Hindu socio-religious culture. However, not every aspect of Hindu culture is spiritual. Many Hindu social customs are simply ethnic traditions, some are the result of outside influences, and some are even based on superstition. None of these have much to do with essential spirituality. Therefore, if a particular aspect of Indian culture makes you feel uncomfortable, then by all means inquire from an advanced devotee as to whether it has any actual bearing on Vaisnava spiritual practice.


Essential spiritual practices such as chanting Krsna nama are not based on one becoming a member of any particular culture. In fact the culture of Krsna bhakti (Krsnanusilanam), centered on the chanting of Krsna nama, is a spiritual culture unto itself. Krsnanusilanam can be incorporated into any ethnic culture or lifestyle.


Q. Do souls have any personal characteristics that can be realized by practicing intellectual self-examination?


A. By self-examination alone one cannot realize one's full spiritual potential. Self-examination is no doubt part of the culture of Krsna-bhakti, but unto itself it cannot enable one to realize one's spiritual personality. Through self-examination one can understand that the mental sense of self, which is nothing more than a product of the mind's reaction to sensual input, is not enduring and by that gain negative impetus to pursue Krsna-bhakti. However, realizing one's spiritual personality is only possible through grace, which in Vaisnavism is derived from hearing, chanting, and remembering the pastimes of Sri Krsna, under the guidance of an advanced devotee.


Q. What is the relationship between soul and the mind? A. The mind is a manifestation of subtle matter and in this sense is different from the brain. However, being matter it is also different from the soul. The "soul" (a Christian term) is consciousness, as opposed to matter. Consciousness is the experiencer and matter is that which is experienced. In this context consciousness is not the mind's conscious awareness, rather it is life, sometimes referred to as cit, or knowledge, being a unit of will. Vaisnavas believe that every unit of consciousness has the potential to enter into an eternal relationship with Krsna, whose affairs (Krsna-lila) are governed by his personal energy or nature (svarupa sakti). In the culture of Krsna-bhakti, the individual soul gradually comes under the influence of this svarupa sakti, and as it does the influence of Krsna's illusory energy (maya sakti) is diminished proportionately. This takes some time, but when one comes completely under the influence of Krsna's svarupa sakti, one's spiritual personality is awakened and one enters the eternal lila of Sri Krsna. Q. I heard that Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to distribute love of Krsna like that possessed by the handmaids of Radha (manjari bhava). Do all Gaudiya Vaisnavas ultimately develop this type of love for Krsna?


A. Sriman Mahaprabhu said:


dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, srngara-cari rasa cari bhavera bhakta yata krsna tara vasa


"Servitude, friendship, parental affection, and conjugal love are the four transcendental mellows. By the devotees who cherish these four mellows, Lord Krsna is subdued."


yuga-dharma pravartaimu nama-sankirtana cari bhava-bhakti diya nacamu bhuvana


"I shall personally inaugurate the religion of the age--nama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy name. I shall make the world dance in ecstasy, realizing the four mellows of loving devotional service."


Mahaprabhu opened the doors to Vrndavana, which is all about the sentiments by which Krsna is conquered. The chief of these sentiments is Radha's love for Krsna, which is what Vrndavana is all about. Still, the Vrndavana lila requires the other three sentiments (servitude, friendship, and parental affection) in order for it to take place. So all four are important and one may be spiritually attracted to any of them. At the same time, Radha's love for Krsna is the most transcendentally comprehensive, meaning that it pleases Krsna the most and thus affords her the extraordinary experience of madana mahabhava, the highest ecstasy of spiritual love. It is this bhava that Krsna appearing as Sri Caitanya wants to taste.


Because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is our ideal, it is natural that most devotees will desire to taste the particular sentiment of love that he experienced. However, this is not always the case, and as I mentioned, the other three bhavas of Vraja are also important supports for this mahabhava. So while most Gaudiya acaryas relish Radha's love in the culture of manjari-bhava as handmaids of Radha, there are some exceptions.




Q. What is dharma in the context of Gaudiya Vaisnavism?


A. In general dharma refers to living a live of virtue above all else. All human activities are rooted in desire, which basically is the attempt to attain pleasure and to avoid pain. The scripture divides human desire into three categories: first, the desire for sense pleasure (kama), which while never fully satisfying nonetheless drives one to pursue the same sensual experience again and again. Second, the desire for material acquisition, wealth, honor, power, security, and so on (artha), which is progressive in that it does not mandate meaningless repetition, but rather the drive to realize consistently greater goals that afford one some sense of accomplishment. Third, the desire for virtue, good character, righteousness, and so on (dharma), which is more progressive still and brings a sense of contentment and clear insight as to the nature of the world. According to Bhagavad-gita, these three kinds of desires are products of the influence of the three gunas, or modes of material nature, manifesting in the human psyche. These modes, known as tamas (ignorance), rajas (passion), and sattva (goodness), correspond respectively to kama (pleasure), artha (power), and dharma (virtue). All three involve the perceived necessity to become something: to be gratified, to be powerful, or to be virtuous.


Bhagavad-gita says that being virtuous is higher than the other goals because it allows one to glimpse the fact that a life based on the perceived need to become something obscures that which we already are. This aspect of a virtuous life alone makes it valuable and superior to aspirations for pleasure and power, which under the influence of virtue are seen to have limited value. Thus the truly virtuous, dharmic ego is the potential bridge to transcendence of the material false ego, which is based on the perceived need to be something. Crossing that bridge with the energy of spiritual practice leads to moksa (liberation)--freedom from necessity. Arriving here we have no need to become something because we realize that we already are something far greater than anything the limited human experience can afford. From the realm of the experienced (matter), we enter the realm of the experiencer (consciousness) and there find our true self.


However, in the view of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, dharma also appears within transcendence. He calls this prema-dharma, or the fifth goal of life, and says that this goal is beyond dharma, artha, kama, and moksa. Prema means love. Sri Caitanya advocated the transcendental virtue of love of Krsna. In prema-dharma the pleasure sought through sense enjoyment (kama), the pursuit of security and power that was previously sought through material gain (artha), and the knowledge derived from a life of virtue (dharma), are overwhelmed by the realization of eternal existence in Krsna-lila (sandhini), transcendental knowledge of one's relationship with him (samvit), and the bliss of that relationship (hladhini), the byproduct of which is moksa. While moksa contains eternal life (sat), transcendental knowledge (cit), and bliss (ananda), Caitanya Mahaprabhu's conception of sandhini, samvit, and hladhini in prema-dharma contain these and much more. Prema-dharma overpowers the Absolute, the giver of moksa, who by the force of the devotees' prema, appears to the devotees as their friend or lover--Madana Gopala Krsna.


Questions or comments may be submitted at the Q&A Forum http://www.swami.org/sanga/ or email sangaeditor@swami.org.

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Monday, November, 28, 2005, Vol. VII, No. 16


Diksa Mantras


Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari


"Diksa mantras in general retire at the stage of svarupa siddhi, whereas Krsna nama does not. At this stage mantra-mayi upasana, meditation on a still picture of the lila, turns to svarasika, absorption in the continuous flow of the lila."


Q. What is the spiritual significance of giving disciples initiated names that corresponded to the first letters of their legal names?


Q. I took diksa from a guru who later rejected his position as guru. Should I continue the process of bhakti yoga depending on the sastras and the diksa I already have or should I accept another guru?


Q. Must the disciple have the same spiritual sentiment (rasa) as the Guru?


Q. How should I go about trying to be reunited with my Guru and render service to him in the nitya lila (spiritual world)


Q. How important is the instruction of chanting gayatri at tri-sandhyam?


Q. Why do some Gaudiya sects teach that there is no need to chant Guru and Gaura mantras?


Q. Is there a time when one should give up chanting Brahma Gayatri?


Q. During Harinama initiation, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Prabhupada often gave their disciples initiated names that corresponded to the first letters of their legal names. What is the spiritual significance of this practice?


A. For Hindus, the date and time of day that a child is born suggests a suitable syllable with which a child's name should begin. This is an astrological consideration. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta generally chose a name for spiritual initiation that began with the same syllable as one's birth name. He himself was an astrologer, and he seems to have felt that the astrologically appropriate first syllable for a child's name had some religious value. Most of his followers have followed his system of choosing a name for initiation that begins with the same syllable as one's birth name, even when the birth name was not chosen in consideration of astrological insight. However, this system for choosing an initiated name is not one that must be followed in all circumstances. Indeed, we can find many exceptions even within the mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Another system involves choosing a name that will be appropriate for Gaura-lila. Of course both of these systems can be combined as well.


Q. I took diksa from a guru who later rejected his position as guru. Should I continue the process of bhakti yoga depending on the sastras and the diksa I already have or should I accept another guru?


A. If your guru has given up serving you in the capacity of guru, then for all intents and purposes you do not have a guru. Furthermore, it is questionable as to how well situated your guru was in the past to provide much in the way of comprehensive spiritual guidance to you. Therefore, I highly recommend that you seek out a qualified guru and accept initiation.


Q. Must the disciple have the same spiritual sentiment (rasa) as the Guru?


A. It is best if one's own ideal is the same as that of one's guru. Indeed, on a deeper level, this is often why one is attracted to a particular guru in the first place--because the guru embodies the spiritual sentiment the disciple is destined to realize. Sri Guru is saksad 'hari, directly representing Krsna, but more importantly he or she embodies a particular loving transcendental sentiment for Sri Krsna, kintu prabhor ya priya eva tasya. However, sometimes we find that a disciple realizes a different spiritual sentiment than that of his or her guru, as in the famous case of Syamananda Prabhu. No harm. Such is God's will.


Q. When I die I would like to be reunited with my Guru and render service to him in the nitya lila (spiritual world). How should I go about trying to attain this goal? Will I have to cultivate this mood through bhajan?


A. Your attitude should not be to resume your services to your guru in the nitya lila as much as it should be to continue to serve your guru here and now. Follow your guru by becoming a saranagata. The drama of Krsna lila is enacted on the stage of saranagati. Surrender manifests in sadhana bhakti, and then appropriate longing follows with ruci and carries one into bhava bhakti. Bhajana is most appropriate in the higher stages of sadhana bhakti and bhava bhakti.


Q. Visvanatha Chakravarti says that one should chant the gayatri mantra at tri-sandhyam, or the three junctions of the day. However, at work or school I often can’t find a suitable place to meditate and end up chanting my mantras inattentively in order to fulfill this obligation. Other Gaudiya sects chant gayatri without holding a sacred thread or chant their mantras on a mala because they don't wear a thread, regardless of time of day. So my question is how important is the instruction of chanting gayatri at tri-sandhyam?


A. Visvanatha Cakravarti appeared in a brahmana family, and it seems from his Gurvastakam that he combined his sandhya-vandanam with his guru mantra and guru gayatri, etc., as we do. Otherwise, observing sandhya-vandanam is a brahminical duty and thus pertains to the Brahma gayatri and not necessarily the other diksa mantras and gayatris. However, the practice of mantra dhyana at the three sandhyams is an excellent practice. It requires that three times daily one stop to meditate, observing the sun's movements and thinking of the sun as a symbolic representation of God. This mandates a change of lifestyle for most. The idea is that the sun represents God because without it we could not survive. The sun speaks loudly to us every day, but we do not hear its message. Those with very deep experience of life tell us, ayur harati vai pumsam udyann astam ca yan asau: "With the rising and setting of the sun, everyone's life is being taken away, except, that is, for one who is engaged in glorifying Krsna."


At any rate, it is hard to change one's lifestyle in a society that does not lend to it, but still we should try. One does not necessarily need to chant the diksa mantras on a thread if it is inconvenient, but one should not chant in a way that is less than meditative if one expects to derive any benefit from chanting. Therefore, a practical adjustment of tri-sandhyam could be to chant one's first mantra session after rising and bathing, and then chant a second time before leaving for work. Leaving for work, although in the forenoon, takes the sadhaka into the day, so to speak, following Krsna into the forest. That is the beginning of what could be construed as one of three major blocks of time in one's daily routine, the first being early morning, followed by leaving the house for work, followed by one's return home for the balance of the day. Using this method one could fulfill the obligation to chant gayatri at three junctions of the day and not have to do so in a situation that is not conducive to meditation.


Q. Why do some Gaudiya sects teach that there is no need to chant Guru and Gaura mantras?


A. In Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Guru mantra and gayatri, Gaura mantra and gayatri, Nityananda mantra and gayatri, etc., are not always given by the guru, but the Gopala mantra and kama gayatri are. These are the main diksa mantras for Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Other mantras and gayatris are primarily for seva puja, but we should chant them as instructed by our Gurudeva, knowing that there are others who may have been instructed differently. This leads to another discussion concerning the liberty of the acarya. For example, the guru mantra and gayatri given by our acarya, Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, are different from those found in the writings of Gopala Guru Goswami and Dhynacandra Goswami, who collected them from various scriptures. The bija given by Srila Saraswati Thakura is different in that it lends to conceiving of Sri Guru in any of the four primary sentiments of Vraja, as opposed to only madhurya rasa. It is also a meditation on Sri Guru's absorption in the Vraja lila (krsnanandaya), as opposed to gaura lila (gaurapriyaya). Not all Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept Gaura mantra and gayatri as eternal, nor do all Gaudiyas acknowledge an aprakata nitya lila of Gaura. There is a lot of disagreement out there. We respectfully disagree--as do the majority of Gaudiya lineages--with those who say that one should not chant Guru and Gaura mantras.


Q. Is there a time when one should give up chanting Brahma Gayatri?


A. Many meanings can be derived from Brahma gayatri. If the mantra is guru-given, there is no need to discontinuing chanting it unless its efficacy is reached or the disciple cannot chant it for some particular reason. Otherwise, diksa mantras in general retire at the stage of svarupa siddhi, whereas Krsna nama does not. The mantra is a petition in which the name is couched. At this stage mantra-mayi upasana, meditation on a still picture of the lila, turns to svarasika, absorption in the continuous flow of the lila. The realization of the mantra's import retires the necessity to chant it. However, diksa mantras are often still chanted even at this advanced stage. This is discussed in Brihat-bhagavatamrita.


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