Sakhyam’s Razor: A reply to Dhanurdhara Swami

gopakumarby Vrindaranya dasi

Ockham’s razor: “The simplest explanation for a phenomenon is most likely the correct explanation.”

As one of the editors of the booklet O My Friend! I was asked by my Gurudeva, Swami Tripurari, to respond to the points raised by Dhanurdhara Swami in his recent book review. I was happy to have the opportunity to take part in what has been an all-too-rare instance of friendly brahminical philosophical discussion. Entered into with the proper mood, such discussion is enlivening, thought-provoking, and edifying. I pray that I may live up to the standards already set by Babhru Prabhu and Dhanurdhara Swami. As Krsnadasa Kaviraja said in relation to the then-controversial topic of Mahaprabhu’s svarupa, siddhanta baliya citte na kara alasa iha ha-ite krsne lage sudrdha manasa: “A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one’s mind becomes attached to Sri Krsna. By such conclusive studies I know the glories of Sri Caitanya. Only by knowing these glories can one become strong and fixed in attachment to him.”1

The Origin of Manjari-Bhava in Iskcon

The first objection Maharaja raises is how Babhru could argue that “interest in the core sentiment of Gaudiya Vaisnavism—following in the footsteps of the gopis in madhurya-rasa—comes from outside Srila Prabhupada’s line and then strongly imply, in contrast, that only those who aspire for sakhya-bhava have gleaned their mood directly from Srila Prabhupada.” Babhru did not say that interest in madhurya-rasa came from outside of Srila Prabhupada’s line. He said, “We have seen that after Srila Prabhupada’s passing some of his disciples have developed a keen interest in manjari-bhava. However, in each instance that I’m aware of this interest has been facilitated by a siksa-guru from outside of Srila Prabhupada’s International Society for Krsna Consciousness (which is not to say that I am implying that this is the necessary course that all disciples of Srila Prabhupada with interest in manjari-bhava must take.)” In a footnote he also says, “I do not mean to say that interest in madhurya-rasa is foreign to Iskcon devotees. Far from it, Prabhupada has made it abundantly clear that objectively speaking this is the highest reach of Sri Caitanya’s mission. Thus there may be any number of devotees in Iskcon who in a general sense are interested in this ideal, aside from any outside influence. However, specific interest in manjari-bhava and detailed information concerning this ideal has been generated from outside sources.” As these quotes substantiate, Babhru has merely chronicled the development of interest in manjari-bhava in Iskcon, pointing out that the interest began as a result of devotees taking siksa outside of Iskcon. Of course, twenty years later this influence has trickled down throughout the society, often without people realizing where it originated. In some cases this influence has had a dramatic effect on the disciple’s vision of Srila Prabhupada. For example, Syamarani (Jadurani) relates, “For many years, I also used to tell devotees that Srila Prabhupada is a sakha. I was confused about his identity before I met Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, who brought light on Srila Prabhupada’s glory.”2 As for the devotees attracted to sakhya-rasa gleaning their interest from Srila Prabhupada himself, how else can we explain the unusually wide-spread interest in sakhya-rasa in his mission?

“I Will Kick on His Face with Boots”

Maharaja next objects to the booklet’s assertion that Srila Prabhupada’s aggressive mood in preaching is a sign of sakhya-rasa, calling it a “non-starter.” However, again this is not exactly what Babhru wrote, and a subtle distinction is important here, as the obvious objection (one that I also put forth) is that Srila Prabhupada merely followed the bold, if not aggressive, preaching style of his Gurudeva, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Why read more into it?  Babhru’s actual words are important to note. He wrote that “some of Srila Prabhupada’s more spirited, aggressive expressions may be attributed to, or at least perhaps better understood in the context of, an affinity for sakhya-rasa.” He then gives two examples: Srila Prabhupada’s well-known retort, “I will kick on his face with boots,” and his remarks about dropping bombs on the heads of atheists. Although both gopis and gopas can exhibit harshness, this particular manifestation of harshness, which contains chivalry and a suggestion of violence, is characteristic of sakhya-bhava, fascinated with these qualities as young boys often are. Psychologists have noted that this particular combination mellows when boys mature. Beyond mere harshness, the suggestion of violence in the example of dropping bombs on people is especially difficult for many to understand coming from a spiritual person. Babhru’s quotation of Swami Tripurari‘s explanation, though clearly not strong evidence for sakhya-rasa on its own, is nonetheless a charming explanation of these particular statements. Furthermore, it is reasonable to suggest that while Prabhupada certainly followed the mood of bold preaching of his guru in many respects, peculiar expressions such as these may best be explained with reference to the bhava fueling Prabhupada’s preaching, and all the more so when there is considerable evidence of sakhya-bhava woven throughout Prabhupada’s life. Let us also remember that the expression “I will kick on his face with boots” originates with Vrindavana dasa Thakura, a sakha. Few will doubt that Vrindavana dasa’s words are tied to his sakhya-bhava.

Priya-Narma-Sakhas

Dhanurdhara Swami subsequently explains that he doesn’t see the merit of extending Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s argument about Srila Prabhupada’s family connection to Uddharana Thakura. Since the argument isn’t extended in the sense of drawing a further conclusion than that made by Srila Sridhara Maharaja, it appears that “extended” is to be taken in the sense that Babhru shouldn’t have put forth the argument. Maharaja’s logic is that the argument’s significance is basically annulled by the fact that Srila Prabhupada’s father desired that his son become a servant of Srimati Radharani and that Srila Prabhupada was interested in Jagannatha Ratha-yatra from a young age. This logic suggests that Maharaja has not fully appreciated the prominence of Radharani for those priya-narma-sakhas who have Radharani as their yuthesvari (gopi group leader). The priya-narma-sakhas have both gopa group leaders in relation to their sakhya-bhava and gopi group leaders in relation to the madhurya aspect of their sakhya-bhava. Thus they are divided into groups according to their yuthesvaris in a similar manner to the way in which the gopis are divided (some being in Radha’s group, some friendly to Radha’s group, some neutral, and so on). The following verse from Bhakti-rasamtra-sindhu demonstrates this:

“My dear Krsangi [delicate one], just see how Subala is whispering your message into Krsna’s ear, how Ujjvala is delivering the confidential letter of Syama-dasi silently into Krsna’s hand, how Catura is delivering the betel nuts prepared by Palika into Krsna’s mouth, and how Kokila is decorating Krsna with the garland prepared by Taraka. Did you know, my dear friend, that all these most intimate friends of Krsna are always engaged in his service in this way?”3

Subala’s whispering the message of Radha into Krsna’s ear indicates that Radharani is his yuthesvari, his group leader. He is thus in Radha’s group. Two of the 108 names of Radharani given in Raghunatha dasa Goswami’s Sri Sri Radhika astottara-sata-nama-stotram are in relation to Subala: 34) who has bestowed a form equal to hers to Subala, and 35) who is very fond of Subala. In Shyamananda Prakasa, Subala says that he always desires to be Radharani’s maidservant. Govinda-lilamrta explains that Krsna’s priya-narma-sakhas divided the groves around Radha-kunda and gave each one to a particular gopi. In the northeast is the cottage Subalanandada, which Srimati Radharani accepted. In Sri Vraja-vilasa-stava, text 22, Raghunatha dasa Goswami says, “Filled with deep love for him, and anxious that they may be separated, Subala never, even in dreams, lets go of the hand of Sri Krsna, the moon of Gokula.  His heart is showered by the waterfall of devotion for Sri Radhika. I offer my respectful obeisances to Subala, whose body trembles with love for Sri Sri Radha-Krsna.” And Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Maharaja translated Raghunatha dasa Goswami’s Manah-siksa (11) thus, adding his own insight: “Oh mind!  You should be in obedience to Sri Rupa Goswami in the association of Sri Lalita Devi and Subala. The transcendental servitors strive for the divine service of the transcendental couple Sri Radha-Krsna, who are always merged in the conjugal devotional mellows.”4 Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura attributes the following verse to Rupa-manjari: “When this gopi [Radha] quarreled with Krsna and left him, Subala met her, satisfied her with his words, and convinced her to return and enjoy amorous pastimes with Krsna in the forest cottage. After their pastimes were concluded, and Sri Krsna rested his perspiring body on his beloved’s breast, Subala fanned him. What service is Subala not qualified to perform?”5 This is not to say that there is no difference between a priya-narma-sakha and a manjari; nevertheless, as these quotes establish, it is not incongruous to be a priya-narma-sakha and a servant of Radharani. Furthermore, all of Mahaprabhu’s devotees want to participate in Ratha-yatra with Mahaprabhu regardless of their Vraja sentiment.

Virtually Impossible or Excessive and Assailable?

Maharaja takes exception to what he finds to be “excessive and assailable claims” in Babhru’s booklet. He quotes the following sentence as an example: “It is virtually impossible to construe Prabhupada’s responses and statements above in any other way than as an affirmation for his affinity for sakhya-rasa.” Maharaja says that Srila Prabhupada’s statements can be construed differently according to Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s suggestion that Srila Prabhupada may have held a madhurya sentiment within, owing to his empowerment by Nityananda Prabhu, and showed an affinity for sakhya-rasa. However, Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s explanation only confirms Babhru’s point! In other words, it says that what was shown was sakhya-rasa. This was what Babhru was saying, that the statements of Srila Prabhupada in question unambiguously show a sakhya sentiment. One can say that a madhurya-rasa sentiment was hidden in the background, but nonetheless what was shown was sakhyabhava.

Although Babhru said it was “virtually impossible” to construe Prabhupada’s statements as anything but an affinity for sakhya-rasa, Maharaja has shown that “virtually” does not mean “entirely” with a surprising interpretation of the following statement of Srila Prabhupada:  “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.” Maharaja says, “A careful reading of Subala’s remembrance, however, reveals that Srila Prabhupada is not speaking about himself but making a third-person comment on how one would feel when one’s relationship with Krsna is finally revealed within the heart.”

Although it is possible that Srila Prabhupada is only giving an example, it is taking it too far to say that a careful reading “reveals” that it is so. How can we say we know definitely whether the statement was merely an example? The preponderance of evidence indicates that it is exactly what it appears to be: a statement of Srila Prabhupada’s own sentiment. Recently, Subala dasa was contacted for his sense of what Srila Prabhupada said to him, whether he took it that Srila Prabhupada was saying that he himself was a sakha or not. Subala replied, “He [Srila Prabhupada] was saying, ‘I didn’t do siddha pranali, and I know I’m a cowherd boy.’ I believe that was his rasa, and explains why he made a Krishna Balaram temple in Vrindaban.”6

Nonetheless, even if one insists that Srila Prabhupada was only giving an example, there are still two other direct statements to contend with: “My Guru Maharaja’s rasa is that of gopi, manjari, but I am in relationship with Krsna as cowherd boy” and his conversation with Hrsikesananda:

HD: So that means that my relationship with you is eternal, that it will continue in nitya-lila?
ACBSP: Yes.
HD: As manjaris?
ACBSP: Down to sakhya.
HD: But for rupanugas isn’t it always manjari-rasa?
ACBSP: That is the highest; but in the spiritual world there is no such distinction.

[Note that here Srila Prabhupada indicates that a rupanuga does not have to be in manjari-bhava.]

In addition to downplaying the significance of the direct statements of Srila Prabhupada, Maharaja also, in my opinion, greatly downplayed the significance of some of the poems written by disciples in the early years of Srila Prabhupada’s mission. He writes, “Why should he [Prabhupada] correct the innocent expression of a disciple’s love, which may have reflected a budding depth in realization, even if that realization wasn’t based on fact?” I find it highly improbable that Srila Prabhupada would hear a poem in which he is described as a cowherd boy and reply, “Yes, she has become advanced. Print this poem in our BTG,” simply as encouragement, even though he knew it was incorrect. It was, after all, most likely written in awareness of Srila Prabhupada’s own statement to Govinda dasi that he was a cowherd boy. The implication that Srila Prabhupada might have said and allowed his disciples to say that he was in sakhya-rasa because the madhurya conception is historically misunderstood is implausible as well. After all, Srila Prabhupada never tired of explaining the glory of the gopis‘ love and differentiating it from mundane lust, and the idea that he would pretend that he was in sakhya-rasa so that his disciples might not misunderstand madhurya-rasa seems convoluted and forced at best. The simple and obvious reason why there is such a large amount of evidence and testimony that points to Srila Prabhupada being in sakhya-rasa is that Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya-rasa.

Jaiva Dharma

Yes, there are other possibilities. Let us examine the possibilities that Maharaja suggests. The first is that Srila Prabhupada manifested different moods to his disciples, as Vrajanatha and Vijaya Kumara saw their guru differently in Jaiva Dharma. Maharaja says, “How many of us can make sense of the incident in Jaiva Dharma where the guru informs two disciples of their spiritual identities, telling one he is a follower of Subala and the other he is a follower of Lalita, and then manifesting to both of them accordingly? I suppose that the guru in that instance did not bother to resolve for his disciples the dichotomy of who he actually was – at least Bhaktivinoda Thakura doesn’t indicate that he did.”

I think it is inaccurate to say that Babaji Maharaja manifested to Vrajanatha and Vijaya Kumara differently, at least if Maharaja means it in any active sense, for example, telling one disciple, “I am a sakha,” and another disciple, “I am a manjari.” The Jaiva Dharma says that Vijaya Kumara began to look upon Babaji Maharaja as the personification of Sri Lalita Devi. Babaji Maharaja didn’t manifest differently, Vijaya Kumara’s vision of him changed. Furthermore, Vijaya Kumara is not seeing Babaji’s Maharaja’s actual svarupa, as it is impossible that Babaji Maharaja is Lalita Devi. So Vijaya Kumara and Vrajanatha have a general vision in which, because the guru represents Krsna and all rasas are found in Rasaraja Krsna, the disciple sees his or her guru as representing a particular sentiment that corresponds with the disciple’s developing taste. It does not speak about the personal inner reality of the guru. Vijaya Kumara and Vrajanatha’s sense of Babaji Maharaja being either Lalita or Subala is a vision prior to attaining bhava.

Therefore, we must examine the following statement of Maharaja in light of this. He says, “If one accepts the tattva that the guru can exhibit a variety of moods for the instruction and inspiration of disciples whose own mood may be different from their guru’s proclivity, as Srila Sridhara Maharaja indicates and as was noted in Babhru Prabhu’s use of the Jaiva Dharma reference, then stringing together indications of Srila Prabhupada’s inner mood is not conclusive in itself.” Maharaja is saying that the indications in the booklet, such as Srila Prabhupada’s statements about being in sakhya-rasa, are inconclusive because the Jaiva Dharma and Srila Sridhara Maharaja establish that the guru can exhibit a variety of moods for the instruction and inspiration of the disciples. However, as we have seen, the Jaiva Dharma only gives support for the subjective vision of the disciple. It does not give a precedent for “the guru exhibiting a variety of moods for the instruction and inspiration of disciples.”  Maharaja is taking the example from Jaiva Dharma too far.

Although we can agree that the Jaiva Dharma illustrates that disciples can have a subjective vision of their Gurudeva and that this could account for some disciples seeing Srila Prabhupada as a sakha and some as a manjari, this subjective vision would not, of course, extend to those who are not his disciples. Thus their are two limitations we must place on the subjective vision explanation: 1) there is no precedent to use this explanation to interpret outward evidence (everything other than the personal realization of a devotee), and 2) the vision of Godbrothers like Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Puri Maharaja would not fall into the subjective category (as that of siksa and diksa disciples might). These limitations need to be considered when determining how much evidence can be explained as subjective.

Another way Maharaja gives of harmonizing indications of madhurya and sakhya bhavas is to caution devotees about the personal testimonies given by disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Maharaja writes, “caution can also apply to young disciples trying to understand or analyze the inner life of their spiritual master. We should be careful in how we gauge these recollections and analyses.” This explanation is unsatisfying in this case because so many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples came to the same conclusion. If we think that the disciples, being young, came up with unreliable recollections, why don’t we find examples of devotees saying that Srila Prabhupada told them that he was in dasya, vatsalya, or madhurya-bhava? Why always sakhya-bhava? Why don’t we find Vyasa-puja offerings expressing that Srila Prabhupada is anything but a cowherd boy? The fact that different sources confirm the same stories also casts doubt on Maharaja’s explanation, as does the fact that Srila Prabhupada asked that one poem describing him as a cowherd boy be published in the BTG (not to mention the significance of his own poem).

Empowerment by Nityananda Prabhu

The final explanation that Maharaja gives is as follows: “Even Srila Sridhara Maharaja graciously offers a possible way to read these statements otherwise: ‘That Srila Prabhupada may have held an affinity within [for madhurya-rasa], and owing to his empowerment by Lord Nityananda Prabhu, he showed an affinity for sakhya-rasa.’ ” When Srila Sridhara Maharaja gave the explanation of suppressing madhurya-rasa due to the empowerment by Nityananda Prabhu, he had much less evidence to consider than that which has been collected in O My Friend! In particular, he wasn’t aware of the direct statements by Srila Prabhupada that he was in sakhya-rasa or Srila Prabhupada’s unique interpretations of pertinent verses in Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s Gurvastakam. Thus it is unclear whether Srila Sridhara Maharaja would extend the possibility if he had been aware of this additional evidence. After all, with comparatively scanty evidence he said that the possible veiling of madhurya-rasa by Srila Prabhupada “cannot be denied, maybe.”7 Nor was it Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s personal opinion. He made his own opinion clear as cited by Babhru: “He [Prabhupada] is in sakhya-rasa, and he has entered into those pastimes. This is my understanding about his present position.”

Furthermore, my Gurudeva, Swami Tripurari, has raised an important point for consideration. I think that Srila Sridhara Maharaja would have greatly appreciated the fine spiritual logic, which although contradicting the concession that Srila Sridhara Maharaja gave, strongly points to the conclusion that he personally favored. The point to consider is this: it is unlikely that Srila Prabhupada veiled madhurya-rasa due to being empowered by Nityananda Prabhu because in the very prayer aboard the Jaladuta referred to by Srila Sridhara Maharaja as the appeal that resulted in Prabhupada’s empowerment of Nityanandavesa, Srila Prabhupada is already expressing sakhya-bhava! In other words, the sakhya-bhava is present before the empowerment; therefore, it was not caused by the empowerment.

Srila Prabhupada’s Poem

Of course, Dhanurdhara Maharaja has questioned whether the poem actually shows the sentiments of a priya-narma-sakha. If the poem can be shown to express the sentiments of manjari-bhava, then the suppression of madhurya-bhava explanation still holds. Thus I will now turn to Maharaja’s arguments in relation to Srila Prabhupada’s poem. The first stanza of the poem reads, “O my dear friend Krsna, it is certain that you will attain piety if Radha is pleased with you.” Maharaja comments, “This certainly doesn’t sound like sakhya-rasa. This stanza is especially significant in determining the sentiment of the poem as the above verse is repeated as the refrain and thus emphasized as the heart of what the author wants to say…Why is Srila Prabhupada telling Krsna to seek Radha’s blessings and placing Her in such a prominent position? Is that the mood of a cowherd boy, even a priyanarma-sakha?”

Placing Radharani in such a prominent position is hardly contradictory to the mood of a priya-narma-sakha. The Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu explains that when the gopis are absent, the priya-narma-sakhas are expert in supporting the side of the yuthesvari of whom they have taken shelter.8 For example, Subala’s yuthesvari is Radha and he regularly extols the virtues of Radha for the pleasure of Krsna.  Srila Prabhupada in the mood of a priya-narma-sakha is also giving Krsna moral instruction in his poem, just as Subala sakha is said to be expert in doing in Rupa Goswami’s Radha-Krsna-ganoddesa-dipika. Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (3.3.46) says that Subala is so intelligent that by his talking and his moral instructions all the other friends take the highest pleasure. By contrast, the manjaris are not known for giving Krsna moral advise, but rather for avoiding his advances in chastity to their maiden, Sri Radha. Furthermore, in analyzing whether Srila Prabhupada’s poem shows the sentiments of a manjari or a priya-narma-sakha, how can we overlook the following stanza:

“When I shall be united with you again, I shall wander along with you the whole day keeping the cows, running this side and that side in the forest and falling on the ground in different shows of play. I aspire after that day.”

Some devotees have suggested that this stanza can be understood in terms of madhurya-rasa because sakhya-rasa is contained within madhurya-rasa. My Gurudeva recently showed the defect in this idea: “Although it could be said that Sri Radha may at times desire fraternal love with Sri Krsna and that her manjaris may also taste this through their complete identification with her bhava, no manjari or devotee engaged in bhajana to attain manjari-bhava would pray fervently, as my Gurudeva has, for the day when she could spend the entire day wandering with Krsna, herding the cows, and frolicking with him in the forest. The mood expressed in this poem is simply inconsistent with the nature of a manjari, despite the fact that sakhya-bhava is contained within madhurya. Any sakhya-bhava arising in a manjari’s heart would never manifest in a desire to play directly with Krsna, rather it would manifest in a desire to facilitate Radha playing in fraternal love with Krsna because the visayalambana of the manjari is Radha and Krsna. Furthermore, it is said that when Radha desires to taste sakhya-rasa she manifests herself as Subala!”9

The above points clearly establish that Srila Prabhupada’s poem expresses the mood of a priya-narma-sakha. This being the case, he was already expressing sakhya-bhava before receiving the empowerment of Nityananda Prabhu. This severely weakens the possibility that he suppressed madhurya-bhava due to the empowerment of Nityananda Prabhu.

Evidence for Manjari-Bhava

Maharaja lists a number of points that he considers substantial evidence for Srila Prabhupada being in madhurya-rasa: 1) Srila Prabhupada’s lineage shares a madhurya-rasa sentiment, 2) Prabhupada’s father prayed for his son to become a maidservant of Radharani, 3) Prabhupada worshipped Radha-Govinda in his childhood, 4) Prabhupada received the gopi-bhava sannyasa mantra, 5) Prabhupada had a special relationship with Caitanya-caritamrta, and 6) Prabhupada said “somehow or other” he is now engaged in Radharani’s service. I will now address the six points in turn.

1) Srila Prabhupada’s lineage shares a madhurya-rasa sentiment: Although Srila Prabhupada’s lineage is primarily madhurya-rasa, neither the parampara that Srila Prabhupada lists in Bhagavad-gita: As It Is nor the disciplic succession listed in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura’s Sri Guru-parampara is exclusively madhurya. In Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa says that Mahaprabhu came to give the four rasas of Vraja. Thus the Gaudiya sampradaya is a Vraja bhava sampradaya, with madhurya and sakhya being most prominent. As mentioned in O My Friend, in our line there are examples of sakhya-rasa gurus having disciples in madhurya-rasa, as well as the other way around. It is also significant in this regard that Bhaktivinode Thakura clearly opines that it is possible for a disciple in a primarily madhurya-rasa lineage to be in sakhya-rasa, as Jaiva Dharma illustrates. It is likely that a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura would be in madhurya-rasa, but this is only a general tendency, not an immutable fact. This tendency bows to more specific evidence: for example, although most of Saraswati’s Thakura’s disciples are in madhurya-rasa, Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja wrote to Sridhara Maharaja that he had realized his ideal in sakhya-rasa. Babaji Maharaja’s affinity for sakhya-rasa is common knowledge throughout the Saraswat lineage.

2) Prabhupada’s father prayed for his son to become a maidservant of Radharani: This has already been addressed in the explanation of the relationship between Srimati Radharani and the priya-narma-sakhas.

3) Prabhupada worshipped Radha-Govinda in his childhood: Worshipping Radha-Krsna is of course natural for the priya-narma-sakha as well. Therefore this is not substantial evidence for madhurya-rasa over sakhya-rasa. Furthermore, there are many examples of childhood Deities not corresponding with the devotee’s eternal sentiment; for example, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarawati Thakura had a Kurma Deity.

4) Prabhupada received the gopi-bhava sannyasa mantra:  Both Prabhupada and Sridhara Maharja gave the sannyasa mantra in two forms, one employing the word gopi and the other the word gopijana.  Thus it speaks of  taking shelter of the bhava of the gopis or gopijana. The word gopijana generally refers to the gopis, but it can also refer to the cowherd men and women, all of whom are gopi people (jana). Admittedly, some may object to this rendering, but some renunciates do understand it in this broader sense. Furthermore, the priya-narma-sakha‘s bhava has been referred to by Sri Rupa Goswami as sakhi-bhava. In Ujjvala-nilamani (2.13), the term priya-narma-sakha is used to describe Subala, Arjuna, and other of Krsna’s friends. Sri Jiva comments on what Rupa Goswami has termed the gopi or sakhi-bhava aspect of their particular form of fraternal love thus: “Out of affection for both Krsna and his beloved gopis, they desire to unite them both, and in such instances their masculine nature is then subdued.” Thus although the mantra speaks of taking shelter of gopi-bhava, priya-narma-sakhas also do this within the context of their sakhya-bhava.

5) Prabhupada had a special relationship with Caitanya-caritamrta: This is a general truth of all Gaudiya Vaisnavas, hardly specific for those in madhurya-rasa. Furthermore, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura stressed the Caitanya Bhagavata and didn’t allow his disciples to read certain sections of Caitanya-caritamrta. Therefore, whether a guru stresses Caitanya-caritamrta or Caitanya Bhagavata does not appear to be an indicator of either sakhya or madhurya-bhava.

6) Prabhupada said “somehow or other” he is now engaged in Radharani’s service: This point is virtually the same as the second one. The “somehow or other” is interesting though. It reminds me of another curious comment of Srila Prabhupada, which he made to Srila Sridhara Maharaja about his going to the West to preach: “And Guru Maharaja wanted that, yet those Gaudiya Math people did not do anything. So: “Let me try in this old age in a special camp,” and I went [to the West] by his grace and it has become a big success.”10 In light of all the evidence compiled by Babhru, it is not impossible that this “special camp” is that of the priya-narma-sakhas, a camp that is “somehow or other” engaged in Radharani’s service.

It is worth noting that the caliber of the above six points is not equal to the evidence that Babhru put forth, such as the mood expressed in Srila Prabhupada’s prayer and the direct statements in which Srila Prabhupada says he is a cowherd boy. As mentioned above, Maharaja’s evidence is of a more general nature. General truths must bow to specific evidence. Furthermore, Maharaja has minimized or dismissed significant evidence in Babhru’s booklet, such as Srila Prabhupada’s publishing a prayer in which he is described as a cowherd boy, his unique purports on verses of Sri Gurvastakam that stress madhurya-rasa, and the significance of his putting Krsna-Balarama on the main altar in Vrindavana.

The Opinion of an Advanced Vaisnava

On the topic of the significance of various evidence, Maharaja considers the opinion of Srila Sridhara Maharaja to be one of Babhru’s two main arguments. He points out, however, that other Vaisnavas have different opinions and suggests that appealing to recognized Vaisnavas does not settle the issue because one’s acceptance of a particular conclusion will be biased by one’s allegiance and faith. It is important to note in this regard that Babhru did not present Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s opinion as something to be accepted only on the basis of his being an advanced Vaisnava. Neither did Srila Sridhara Maharaja offer his opinion as such. What Babhru pointed to was the strength of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s spiritual reasoning about Srila Prabhupada’s rasa. Srila Sridhara Maharaja, following in the footsteps of his Gurudeva, took a conservative posture in regard to discussing his own realization, never claiming to know Srila Prabhupada’s svarupa because he was seeing him in the kunja. This is in marked contrast to the standard of his day in which devotees readily pronounced their entrance into the lila. It is for this reason that what Srila Sridhara Maharaja offered was spiritual reasoning, not mere opinion without spiritual reasoning (“He is a priya-narma-sakha“). Giving scriptural reasoning to establish Mahaprabhu’s identify is exactly what Krsnadasa Kaviraja has done in Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, chapter 2.  Although some may misunderstand this method to be a mere intellectual exercise, the advantage is that issues can be discussed according to sastra-yukti (scriptural reasoning). Thus the spiritual standing of different Vaisnavas is not pitted against each other, thereby tempering the problem Maharaja brought up of the sentiments of sincere devotees being disturbed. As for scriptural discussions getting heated, this is apt to occur even on issues like the origin of the jiva and the ritvik debate. Nonetheless, such discussions cannot be entirely abandoned, because they allow devotees to attempt to establish the actual philosophy for the benefit of all and especially for those not already aligned with one viewpoint or another. A book has already been around for years arguing that Srila Prabhupada is a manjari. Babhru’s booklet presents another way of looking at the issue. Let devotees examine the strength of the evidence on both sides and decide for themselves which they find most compelling.

This is not to say that I disagree that the most reliable way of knowing is to accept the opinion of an advanced Vaisnava. But if there is a divergence of opinion about Srila Prabhupada’s rasa, isn’t the best opinion to take that of Srila Prabhupada himself, which he stated to several devotees? This pretty much closes the case, and the substantial amount of supporting evidence further narrows the margin of uncertainty.

Conclusion

It is extremely difficult and forced to try to explain away Srila Prabhupada’s sakhya sentiments. They are too numerous and direct. Maharaja has given different ways to try to reconcile Srila Prabhupada’s expressions of sakhya-rasa, but as we have seen, several problems arise in his explanations. As long as one accepts that it is possible for Srila Prabhupada to be in either sakhya or madhurya-rasa, the most simple and natural understanding of the evidence, an understanding that harmonizes the evidence for both sakhya and madhurya-rasa, is that Srila Prabhupada is a priya-narma-sakha. Again, I do appreciate Maharaja’s courteous and thoughtful review. In my reply I have tried to stick to tattva and rasa-vicara, and I beg forgiveness from Dhanurdhara Maharaja if I have inadvertently strayed from that path. Taking the dust of his feet and that of all the Vaisnava readers, I express my thanks for the opportunity to participate in this important discussion.

  1. Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 2.117–118 []
  2. Syamarani dasi (Jadurani dasi), “Is Srila Prabhupada In The Highest Rasa?” http://www.cowdust.info. []
  3. Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 3.3.44 []
  4. Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja, Vaisnava Folio Archives, Bhakti Siddhanta Sara: Essence of Pure Devotion, Giri Govardhan Pastimes. []
  5. Ujjvala-nilamani []
  6. Subala dasa, email message to Swami B. V. Tripurari, May 16, 2009. []
  7. Srila Sridhara Maharaja Folio, transcribed lecture, August 14, 1981. []
  8. Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 3.3.93 []
  9. Swami B. V. Tripurari, email message to Sri B. V. Narayana Maharaja, May 13, 2009. []
  10. Srila Sridhara Maharaja Folio, Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja room conversation, March 17, 1973. []


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69 Responses to Sakhyam’s Razor: A reply to Dhanurdhara Swami

  1. I think that that the reply is very good. The fact that sakhya is the simple explanation for the mood of SP can be highlighted somewhere in the essay. That is because I was thinking that people who feel that all gurus in our lineage have to be in madhurya rasa stretch their “simple” model as much as possible to fit SP’s statements though it can be fit better using a more complex model: a sakhya with madhurya connection. But here it was not pointed out clearly which was a simple model and which was complex.

    • Gaura-Vijaya,

      Please reread the conclusion.

      The explanation that Srila Prabhupada is in madhurya-rasa because gurus in our line have to be in madhurya-rasa is not the most simple explanation of the entirety of the evidence. To begin with, it is a faulty proposition, as the article explains. Secondly, how does it explain that Srila Prabhupada himself said he is in sakhya-rasa? This requires further explanations, and in the article I have highlighted several complications that arise from these explanations. Thus the complete explanation becomes complex. Furthermore, the idea that madhurya is less complicated than priya-narma is like saying that sakhya is less complicated than manjari-bhava.

      My point is this: look at all the evidence and the most simple and natural explanation arises.

      Ys,
      Vrindaranya

      • “Furthermore, the idea that madhurya is less complicated than priya-narma is like saying that sakhya is less complicated than manjari-bhava.”

        This is an excellent point. The priyanarma-sakha’s bhava is a mixture of sakhya rasa and sringara rasa but it is one of the four principal varieties of sakhya rasa nonetheless.

        In order to help devotees understand manjari-bhava it is sometimes discussed in terms of its similarity to dasya rasa because of the manjaris’ allegiance to Radha as her dasis. Manjari-bhava is hardly less complex than the bhava of a priyanarma-sakha.

  2. I think, I should clarify myself; the simple model is that all advanced gurus need to be in madhurya, especially in our lineage, not that madhurya rasa itself is simple. New evidence has come in the form of SP’s own words and the fact that SP does not completely identify with VCT’s song. Still people want to stick with the model where all gurus can be lumped into one rasa without fail and stretch that model even when evidence in the case of SP points to the contrary. I just had a different way of looking things wherein Ockham razor is leading to wrong models because there is no willingness to substitute the model of lumping all gurus into one rasa due to an emotional bias with a particular paradigm. It is much like the reductionist model being stretched to fit everything by people who believe in scientism.

    • The problem with the simple model that all advanced gurus need to be in madhurya (other than the fact that is scripturally unsound) is that it fails to explain the evidence that Srila Prabhupada said that he is in sakhya-rasa. A general interpretation of Ockham’s razor is that “the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is most likely the correct explanation.” The phenomenon in this case is the entirety of the evidence, evidence that supports both sakhya-rasa and madhurya-rasa. So when you are weighing which explanation is more simple or elegant, you have to take an explanation which actually explains the phenomenon. In order words, simplicity on its own is not sufficient if the simple explanation fails in its primary task: to explain the phenomenon. This is the problem with the all advanced gurus need to be in madhurya model.

      • That’s what he just said.

        • Perhaps it is just splitting hairs, but what I was objecting to was the that he said that “Ockham razor is leading to wrong models.” It is not Ockham’s razor itself but the misapplication of the principle that is the problem. But otherwise, I agree with Gaura-Vijaya’s insight that it is problematic to have such a simple model that it fails to address the complexity of an issue.

  3. Vrindaranya’s reply to H.H. Dhanurdhara Swami’s review of “O My Friend! O My Friend!” exemplifies clarity, integrity, and objectivity. The two additional points she presents by Swami B.V. Tripurari that SP demonstrated his sakhya bhava prior to his empowerment and his point that the sentiment expressed in SP’s poem are inconsistent with the nature of a manjari are brilliant and inarguable. A slam dunk IMHO. What more can be said, “The simple and obvious reason why there is such a large amount of evidence that points to Srila Prabhupada being in sakhya rasa is that Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya rasa.”

  4. Although a small component of the response, I think it is extremely valuable to contextualize (as the article has done nicely) the bombastic and “aggressive” statements of Srila Prabhupada. Indeed, by doing so we shed flattering and charming light on statements that could otherwise seem extreme or off-putting. Personally there have been times when I have been a bit taken aback by such “heavy” language. But when those same statements are read (and appropriately so) as an overflow of Prabhupada’s inner life, instead I find myself thinking, “How can I get in on the fun?”

  5. tomara milane bhai abar se sukha pai
    gocarane ghuri din bhor
    kata bane chutachuti bane khai lutaputi
    sei din kabe habe mor

    “When I shall be united with you again, I shall wander along with you the whole day keeping the cows, running this side and that side in the forest and falling on the ground in different shows of play. I aspire after that day.”

    One possible way to understand this defining verse from Prabhupada’s poem is to see it in light of viyoga, or seperation. According to Brs 3.2.114, the separation from the object of one’s love which comes after having once attained his direct association is called viyoga. Thus the verse could be understood to be an example of Prabhupada desiring to have the darsana of Sri Krishna once again after having had it and then lost it. This occurs in the lives of great devotees. The Bhagavata gives the example of Narada receiving Bhagavan’s darsana and then losing it, which caused Narada’s devotion to intensify. Note that in the verse Prabhupada is aspiring to be reunited with his companion Sri Krishna.

    The verse is clearly written in the sthayi-bhava of sakhya-rati, as Vrindaranya has pointed out. The words lutaputi and chutachuti represent sattvika-bhavas of sakhya rasa and anubhavas respectively. The word gocarane (herding cows/pasturing) represents the udippana-vibhava. Prabhupada’s aspiration (tomara milane bhai/sei din kabe habe mor) is filled with transcendental eagerness and anxiety representing vyabhicari-bhavas. The visaya alambana-vibhava is Prabhupadas bhai (friend/brother) Sri Krshna. Thus you have all the ingredients for sakhya-rasa.

    By contrast below are some prayers written in manjari-bhava in the same condition of viyoga.

    From the Stavamala,

    O Krishna! O Radha! You are resting by the banks of the Yamuna beneath a vine of malati flowers, exhausted after wandering through the forest and enjoying its sights. When will I come and, undoing the braids of my hair, use it to sweep the dust from your lotus feet?

    From Stavavali,

    “O sweet faced Radha, this forest cottage known as Cupid’s house of joy is beautifully adorned by vines of malati flowers. Will I be able to come and serve you by fanning you while you lie on your flower couch with your Lord and enjoy joking conversation with him, your cheeks covered with goose bumps? When will such a day be mine?”

    “O Radha Krishna! In the course of their romantic affairs, my beloved Radha is always sporting on your banks with her lover Krishna; you are dearer to Radha than anything else, therefore please show her to me for she is more to me than my life.”

    “O Radhe! When will you bestow ecstasy on my eyes, if only for a moment? While Madhava lies on the bed of malli flowers in the forest groves, I wish to see you adorning his black, cloud-like chest, like a combination of a golden vine of yuthi flowers and a frozen-yet-flickering bolt of lightning.”

    • Brilliant analysis. I really appreciated the way that you showed the constituents of rasa in the stanza. The verses exemplifying manjari-bhava vividly illustrated the difference between the mood of the priya-narma and manjari.

  6. As mentioned in the article, the first verse of Prabhupada’s poem is also clearly in sakhya rasa in that it typifies the kind of seva advice rendered by the priyanarma-sakhas.

    Govinda-lilamrita relates that Subala, and the brahmana boy Madhumangala are most learned in the six arts of politics and diplomacy. Thus Krsna regularly approaches them for counsel in effort to conquer the empire of Radha’s love. Gopis like Vrinda devi may also assist in this seva, but this is not the seva of a manjari.

  7. Dhanurdhara Swami just sent me this response to my article, which he said that I could post here in the comments section:

    I looked over your paper briefly. Of course, I don’t mind at all that you replied. I welcome it.

    I will surely respond in some way, and hopefully more quickly than my book review was finally responded to in the form of your formal reply. I still haven’t heard a response from Babhru, although he said he would do so, so I assume that your reply represents his. I am on a deadline to finish an extensive research article by June 15th, but I should get around to answering you soon. I just wanted to acknowledge your letter with the reply to my book review attached.

    Of course, one of my main arguments was that there are some conditions concerning where these discussions are held. Your first point was to disagree. Anyway, that’s all I have time to say now, but I will carefully read your reply and then decide on the appropriate response. Depending on what I decide, you may hear from me sooner or later, but within a few weeks for sure.

    • Although this is addressed to an extent in the article, I feel compelled to say something—some repetition perhaps but hopefully something more as well. Dhanurdhara Maharaja’s position on the appropriateness of publicly discussing this topic seems contradictory just from the fact that he published his opinion publicly. He qualified this by saying that his article was a response to “O My Friend!”—a response that among other things pointed out that the topic is not for public consumption.

      However, “O My Friend” was itself an alternative to two positions readily available and widely circulated, one that Prabhupada is in manjari-bhava, circulated by Sripad B. V. Narayana Maharaja, and another that such topics should not be discussed at all, circulated by many of Prabhupada’s disciples. The greater section of devotees were faced with having these two positions to consider as their interest in the topic increased, each of which ignores much of the information in the book that contains so much of what Prabhupada himself has said. Should all of this information remain buried? And why did Maharaja not feel compelled to object to Narayana Maharaja’s publication, Gauravani-pracarine?

      Furthermore, how do we know that Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada is Rupa-manjari in Krishna-lila? I have not read anything that Rupa Goswami wrote about his svarupa. Some reliable person has revealed this truth. And so it is with so many. What about Kavi Karnapura, who revealed so much about the Krishna-lila svarupas of Sri Caitanya’s associates? Most devotees find his book Gaura-gonoddesa-dipika very tasteful, and it has been widely circulated. Furthermore, “O My Friend!” does not even discuss Prabhupada’s particular svarupa, but rather the much more general topic of what his rasa is. Since when has it been taboo to discuss this, especially when the discussion seeks to focus its readers on saranagati? All rasikas are saranagatas but all saranagatas are not rasikas. First surrender then rasa. Then again, in order to effectively become a saranagata one must have the ideal of rasa in mind. This is what the book stresses, citing Prabhpada’s example of self-surrender.

      Maharaja writes that discussing this subject publicly will lead to discord among the devotees. I would rather think it would bring harmony as everyone hearkens to the words of Srila Prabhupada himself on the subject. That is how we responded when my beloved Gurudeva was among us, thinking of which melts my heart.

      As comprehensive as Vrindaranya’s article is, she wrote it in a couple of days, and I am sure there is more to say in response. So it’s good to know that Babhru is also planning to respond.

      • Swami wrote, ““O My Friend!” does not even discuss Prabhupada’s particular svarupa, but rather the much more general topic of what his rasa is. Since when has it been taboo to discuss this, especially when the discussion seeks to focus its readers on saranagati? All rasikas are saranagatas but all saranagatas are not rasikas. First surrender then rasa. Then again, in order to effectively become a saranagata one must have the ideal of rasa in mind. This is what the book stresses, citing Prabhpada’s example of self-surrender.”

        This is something many casual readers seem to miss, and apparently a few careful readers as well: that I never claim to know or broadcast anything esoteric, sush as Srila Prabhupada’s particular svarupa. This should deflate the arguments of anyone objecting to my participation in any sort of siddha-pranali project.

        And what we see even more clearly than anything else, even in Srila Prabhupada’s “Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krishna,” is the extent of Prabhupada’s surrender to Krishna’s will. Because his spiritual master indicated doing something such as going to America would be desirable, he made that project–quite literally, as I think we see in the two prayers written on the Jaladuta–his life and soul. He showed us how he was willing, as Lord Siva says in the 8th canto of the Bhagavatam, to risk his very life (suffering a pair of heart attacks on the ship, and, later, a stroke) in the service of his guru’s order. The real subject of the essay, then, may be seen as saranagati.

      • Dhanurdhara Maharaja has asked me to post the following on his behalf.

        ys,
        rkd

        From Dhanurdhara Maharaja:

        I am finishing a paper on yoga psychology for Sacinandana Swami that is long overdue so I cannot reply extensively now, even if I thought it was the right thing to do. I just wanted to clear up one misconception. Tripurari Swami implied that I was perhaps being unfair in not responding to Narayana Maharaja’s paper on Srila Prabhupada’s rasa, but writing something about Babhru’s.

        I never saw or read any such paper by Narayana Maharaja. I did, however, receive Babhru’s paper through Tripurari Swami and comments were solicited. Maharaja also wrote me several times to share with me the senior god-brother’s that supported “O My Friend.” Finally I received from him an unsolicited letter suggesting that I was compiling a paper on Srila Prabhupada’s manjari svarupa with a very strong caution “you have a real mountain of evidence to climb to find Srila Prabhupada in manjari bhava. In fact I am planning to write yet another paper on his sakhya bhava with more evidence and realization.”

        I hope that answers the question that Maharaja raised about why I did not object to Narayana Maharaja’s paper, although I wrote something about Babhru’s. In the future, probably better if one is asked directly before such misconceptions are aired publicly.

        In my paper I also dealt with the apparent contradiction raised by Maharaja between my writing about these subjects and the cautions I raised about publicly discussing them by explaining both the necessity for writing my review and my reluctance do so. I am confident that most who read my paper accept it as a reasonable tension and position on a complex issue.

        • Thanks for the clarification. However, I feel that it casts me in a very unfair light and necessitates some clarification on my own part. As for my sharing with Maharaja the responses of senior Godbrothers that supported O My Friend, I did this because after sending him a couple of the responses Maharaja asked me to keep him in the loop. As for me sending an unsolicited letter with a strong caution, my letter was not “unsolicited” in my opinion. It was in response to Maharaja writing to me earlier that he was thinking of writing a response to the book and then later hearing from a mutual friend that he was researching the viability of Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja’s translation of the first verse of Prabhupada’s poem, which I found astonishing since Srila Sridhara Maharaja is not only fluent in Bengali but a realized soul. It is for this reason that I wrote the note cited to let him know that there was more to be said on the subject from this side and that I felt his endeavor would be an uphill climb.

          I concede that Maharaja is justified in writing his paper despite the fact that he writes that such topics are not appropriate for public consumption. Indeed, in writing that his position “seemed” contradictory, I added that Maharaja nonetheless clarified his position. This is the reasonable tension Maharaja writes about above, tension that he perceives is based on his opinion that such topics are best discussed in private, yet since Babhru’s book had been published in the public forum, a public response was required.

          However, I disagree with his logic as to the inappropriateness of publicly discussing the topic. This is my main point. Thus I see his perceived tension as misperceived. Indeed, this has been a topic of public discussion for more than a decade. Narayana Maharaja has preached and published his opinion on the subject. Now Babhru has published something. Why is it suddenly important to question the policy of discussing the subject publicly and only with regard to Prabhupada’s affinity for sakhya rasa and in defense of the possibility of his being in madhurya rasa? I also maintain that there was not a pressing need to counter-balance Babhru’s book for the reasons stated above. For that matter, Babhru’s book already brings balance to the discussion.

          While I accept Maharaja’s statement that he was unaware of Gauravani-pracarine, Maharaja was hardly unaware of the position and preaching of Narayana Maharaja on the subject over the last decade, as he was, after all, his student for years. In fact I wrote to Maharaja explaining that part of the logic behind writing the book was that there were only two alternatives out and about—the ones I mentioned earlier on this thread: Narayana Maharaja’s widely preached position that Prabhupada is in manjari-bhava and the position that one should not discuss such topics at all. In response to this, Maharaja wrote that “I see now the reason for the article, to balance out Narayan Maharaja. That’s fair. I didn’t think about that before. Thank you for explaining the necessity of the paper more clearly by pointing out the context.”

          Maharaja has implied that I have erred in terms of etiquette by not asking him privately why he did not respond to Narayana Maharaja’s book before questioning his position on this publicly. While I always appreciate reminders of Vaisvana etiquette, I believe it is clear that Maharaja is fully aware of the very public position of Narayana Maharaja, an opinion aired in numerous lectures that eventually found their way into a publication. Maharaja may have been unaware of the book, but not of its contents.

          While I did solicit a response to O My Friend from Maharaja and I appreciate his doing so at length (as stated earlier), I only found out about it third hand. I think it is the best effort to date to cast doubt on the possibility of Prabhupada being in sakya-rasa, but I think Vrindaranya’s response to it retires the arguments Maharaja has put forth.

  8. I find the manner in which this topic is being discussed very refreshing indeed. That is, in contrast to the personal attacks and baseless opinions so often slung about on the internet. I feel blessed to witness these exchanges between very highly educated and qualified vaisnavas.

  9. I think the discussion whether this topic should be discussed in public is moot. It is obviously being discussed and Dhanurdhara Swami made the personal decision to write a review and publish it on his blog.

    Now let’s get to the real topic of Srila Prabhupada’s rasa. For such a seemingly “complex” issue, I have yet to see any substantial evidence to counter SP being in sakhya -rasa. I would like to read a reply to the actual points and evidence presented by Babhru, Swami BV Tripurari, and Vrindaranya.

  10. To be fair I think that Maharaja review does try to bring balance in the sense that he concludes that either position—that Prabhupada is in sakhya or mandhurya-rasa—is viable. He does so by returning to the example in Jaiva Dharma. However, as Vrindaranya’s article points out, Maharaja’s interpretation of the significance of this example makes more out of it than what Thakura Bhaktivinoda has written.

    • I think that Dhanurdhara Maharaja interpretation from the Jaiva Dharma incident would have been very strong if SP himself did not speak about his rasa. Even in case of people appearing in Gaura-Lila there is confusion regarding the identities of Ramananda Raya. I don’t whether anybody has a conclusive opinion about the identity of many people including Ramananda Raya but Ramananda Raya or many other people have not spoken about their identity, unlike SP. Therefore SP’s case is a very special one indeed.

      • The Jaiva Dharma interpretation was that the guru manifests different moods for the instruction and inspiration of disciples who may be in different rasas. How do you see this to be illustrated in the Jaiva Dharma? I’m also unclear how the case of Ramananda Raya relates to the Jaiva Dharma interpretation–or perhaps you didn’t mean it to?

        • I said that different devotees saw Raya Ramananda’s identity differently and we don’t know which identity is actually correct because he did not comment on his identity himself. But those were not direct disciple of Raya Ramananda either; I think there is difference in opinion between BVT and VCT about the identity of Ramananda Raya.

          • Jaiva Dharma is not talking about the guru manifesting different svarupas to different disciples. It is talking about the fact that different disciples may have different spiritual affinities from one another and from that of their guru. This is how Babhru used the example from this book: to support the idea that Prabhupada may find his ideal in sakhya rasa even though his guru finds his ideal in madhurya rasa. Whereas Dhanurdhara Maharaja has used it to try to support the idea that the guru manifests different svarupas to different disciples or in some external sense shows himself at different times to different disciples that he is in one or another rasa. As pointed out in this article of Vrindaranya, this is not what Jaiva Dharma is saying. The guru of Vrajanatha and Vijay Kumara did not appear to them in different svarupas or tell one he was in madhurya and another he was in sakhya. But the disciples prior to attaining bhava acknowledged that they were blessed by their guru to pursue their different ideals and thus saw that their potential to attain it was a manifestation of his grace and that in this general sense he represented the two ideals. This has nothing to do with what the actual svarupa of their guru was.

            In Prabhupda’s case he said he was in sakhya rasa more than once. There is no record of him saying anything else. He never told anyone he was in madhurya rasa. So even if Jaiva Dharma was making the point Dhanurdhara Maharaja has used it in support of, we don’t have any instance of Prabhupada saying he is in sakhya rasa to one disciple and he is in madhurya rasa to another. We have one objective statement that he is in sakhya rasa made more than once and also numerous statements that imply this in fairly obvious ways on one side, and then we have subjective impressions on the other and “evidence” based primarily on the ideas that one must be in the same rasa as one’s guru, or that our sampradaya is a madhurya sampradaya to the extent that no acarya has ever been in any other rasa, implying that none could ever be for that matter (Sripad Narayana Maharaja’s evidence as I understand it). How are these two sides comparable in terms of the idea that Prabhupda has shown both? Again, even if Jaiva Dharma was making the point (it’s not) that the guru shows different svarupas to different devotees. It may be convenient and popular to take this stand and give the appearance of harmonizing, but to me it seems to fudge the facts on an important issue and reach a forced conclusion that contradicts Srila Prabhupada. On the other hand I think Babhru has harmonized very well in terms of supporting Prabhupada’s disciples of both sentiments by making it clear that they can both attain their ideal by his grace, and his position has clear support from sastra.

  11. Although I don’t want anyone to take this comment as my response to Dhanurdhara Maharaja’s review of my booklet, I do want to address briefly a couple things that have come up in this discussion.

    I appreciate Dhanurdhara Maharaja’s careful reading of my essay, and I’m grateful he has taken the time and trouble to write such a thoughtful response. I think that his is the best I’ve seen of the responses disagreeing with my conclusion. I’ll address specifics of that review later.

    As has been pointed out by a couple of comments, this topic has been discussed in public for several years. I didn’t start the discussion; I merely responded by compiling whatever external evidence I could find, after realizing that there is a substantial amount of such evidence. I welcome vigorous discussion of the issue, as I mention in the essay. And I do feel that almost all the discussion so far has been healthy. Neither was I surprised by any of the points Dhanurdhara Maharaja raised in his review. I’m heartened by the overall tone; however, I was sometimes a little surprised by the strength of his insistence on a couple of points, especially in light of the reticence he expresses about discussing this topic publicly. And I think the assertiveness of the responses to his review can be attributed to the strength of those authors’ convictions. I think it’s certainly possible for thoughtful people to allow room for other perspectives without compromising their own.

  12. I have a question. If a guru does not inform his or her disciples as to his or her swarup, how can that disciple do any bhajan?

    What, for example, would be the disciple’s meditation during guru mantra and guru gayatri?

    • The guru gayatri is given for the purpose of facilitating the disciple’s realization of the significance of guru-tattva (gurudevaya vidmahe) and guru’s svarupa (krsnanadaya dhimahi), his ananda. Just as Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti explains in Ragavartma-candrika that the disciple’s svarupa my either be revealed externally by the diska guru or by a siksa guru, or it may be revealed from within in the course of sadhana, so similarly the guru’s svarupa may be revealed in either of these ways. In other words some gurus only give the mantra and an explanation of how to chant it, and the mantra itself, which is nondifferent from the guru, reveals itself from within. It is after all a petition for such revelation.

      As for bhajana, as the mantra reveals itself gradually one is able to engage in actual bhajana. Bhajana is internal, and internal life comes gradually, regardless of what one’s guru tells one verbally.

      With regard to the article under discussion, the most venerable Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada told his disciples that he found his ideal in a gopa svarupa, leaving the details (priyanarma-sakha, etc) to be reveled through the mantra in due course.

  13. Thankyou. So if at the time of diksha, when giving these mantras, Sri B.V. Swami Maharaja told his disciple that he was a gopa, then I don’t see what the issue is.

    • I think that if you read the original article O My Friend ! it will be clear to you.

      • I just want to underline Swami’s last response. My editors and I worked rather diligently to ensure that the booklet coverd the topic comprehnsively. But in order to understand what I wrote, it’s necessary to actually read it carefully. and because the essay is rather long and the argument a little complex, I would suggest that it be read as graduate students and their professors read work in their fields–that is to say, it needs to be read more than once, I’d suggest three times. First, go through the entire essay without making any notes. Then, on the second and third readings, annote where you see fit, noting any questions or comments, whatever you’d like to say to me–or to any of us who are interested–if we were to meet. That kind of carful reading is most likely to yield satisfying discussion.

  14. Babhru’s new book is a wonderful example of fine scholarship and devotion to a subject.

    As such it reaches and explores intricate details of the subject matter with taste and passion, drawing conclusions that are both immanent, inherent and logical, and thus very delightful. As much as it reveals about the subject, it reveals the personal reality and inspiration of its author(s).

    Honestly, we need more attempts like this. Discussing it in public also contributes and adds to the universal nature of the subject of personal revelation, which cannot be isolated from its environment, its reality, its participants. In addition, a tasteful public analysis makes the subject matter even more relevant, more innate and personal, helping us better understand and relate to the complex reality of spiritual life.

    Thank you for delivering it, and yes, I hope there’ll be more attempts like this.

  15. Madan Gopal das

    I spoke with Dasarath-suta prabhu this weekend and inquired from him about a new BBT book entitled “Srila Prabhupada’s poetry.” As a fan of “O My Friend”, I had a question for him about Prabhupada’s “Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krsna” which was included in the book. I noticed that in this new book Dasarath-suta’s translation of the first line is similar to that of the long standing BBT translation wherein Prabhupada appears to address humanity saying “oh my brothers, you will attain your good fortune (become pious) only when Srimati Radharani becomes pleased with you.”
    So, I asked him why this was translated as such when in his introduction to the poem Dasarath-suta explains that “Srila Prabhupada gives a glimpse of his own confidential relationship with Krsna by addressing Him as ‘oh my brother’.” Because I have a great interest in this topic and know that the BBT translation leaves much to be desired and is at worst misleading, I asked him why the difference between his own introduction to the poem and the translation?
    His response to me was that I had discovered the only mistake in the book. He explained that he has a Bengali friend who explained to him that the word bhai in this verse is singular and that Prabhupada is addressing Krsna as his brother.
    Not that we require any, but this is another confirmation of Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s accurate rendering of (being fluent in Bengali) and confidential insight into Srila Prabhupada’s self-expression. It is also noteworthy to me that the correct translation of this very important prayer could lead to so much insight, yet it has not been corrected after so many years.
    After all, Prabhupada is addressing Krsna, his brother, on the Jaladuta, in a time of need, when nobody is looking; when Iskcon and the thousands of followers do not exist. It is just the two of them having a sweet conversation. Don’t miss what confidential knowledge comes from that conversation by reading it incorrectly!

    “Oh my dear friend Krsna, it is certain that you will attain piety if Radha is pleased with you.”

    Jai Prabhupada!!!

    • My question is: Was the author aware of the mistake prior to the book’s printing? If so, why let it stand? If not, then hopefully it will be corrected it in future editions (if there are any).

      • Madan Gopal das

        Dasarath-suta did say it would be corrected in future editions, but since the book is new and not even available yet I’m skeptical that correcting this VERY significant error will be priority whenever that time comes. Hopefully the powers that be will recognize the importance and make it happen.

  16. Madan, I’m really glad you had an opportunity to ask Dasaratha-suta about this. When Tattvavit das sent me Dasaratha-suta’s translation of the poem some time ago, I was more than surprised to see “O brothers” in the opening. I asked Tattvavit what he made of that, and he didn’t have an answer. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to ask Dasaratha-suta at the time. Worse, no one pointed it out to him before the book went to print.

    Even though we don’t need further confirmation, this is good information to have. Thanks.

  17. http://madangopal.blogspot.com/

    some great comments on this topic.

  18. Do you mean in the book review? I found the absence of balance in Advaita’s review really disappointing. It doesn’t assess both the strengths and weaknesses of the booklet or give an impartial evaluation of whether the booklet succeeded in what it set out to do, but rather merely lists everything Advaita didn’t like or thought was incorrect. Furthermore, it does not appear that he read O My Friend! carefully, since he repeatedly attacks positions that the book does not hold. Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the points that were brought up in the review. Here is the first paragraph:

    “Several friends have asked me to react to Babhru Das’ recent booklet ‘O my friend! O my friend!’ in which he tries to establish some sort of equality of sakhya rasa vis a vis manjari bhava, based on the assumption that his Guru A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami was/is a cowherd boy friend of Krishna. This review of mine is purely philosophical, not political. I keep in the middle whether A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami is a gopa, gopi, both or neither, that is not the issue of this blog. I believe it is neither necessary nor warranted to play down madhura rasa because one’s Guru is presumed to be a cowherd boy. He could also have been both a gopa and a gopi, as many double svarupas are described in Gaura Ganoddesh Deepika. The Chandogya Upanisad (quoted in Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s commentary on Vedanta Sutra 4.4.11) also says one can have many many siddha svarupas at once.”

    • There are many problems associated with the with the idea that Prabhupada could be both a gopi or a gopa. But first a word about Gaura Ganoddesh Deepika cited by Advaita as evidence to support his contention, a word that sheds further light on the purpose and prayojana of the Gaudiya samparadaya as well how about how Kavi-karnpura went about determining a the svarupas of Mahaprabhu’s associates.

      Sri Kavi-karnapura writes at the onset of his book that he gathered evidence from that which had been written by his predecessors (Svarupa Damodara in particular is cited), and that he also gather testimonies from devotees of Mathura, Bengal, and Orrissa regarding who Mahaprabhu’s associates were in the Vraja-lila. This is not much different from what Babhru has done, something that has been called into question by others and in some cases labeled “intellectual,” meaning “not spiritual.”

      Then as the most venerable Kavi-karnapura begins to discuss Mahaprabhu’s associates he writes the following about Madhavendra Puri: “Madhavendra Puri was an incarnation of a kalpa-vrksa tree situated in Vraja Dhama that bears as its fruits the rasas of dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya.”

      Merely by acknowledging that the sampradaya has room for devotees in sakhya rasa, Babhru has been accused of playing down madhurya rasa. It is said in the Bhagavata that one thinks others to be like oneself. I sense a playing down of sakhya more than anything else in the review under discussion, which is something Babhru seeks to address in his book.

    • Continuing with Advaita’s citation of Gaura Ganoddesh Deepika, it is important to note that this book deals with who Mahaprabhu’s eternal associates are in Krishna-lila. These associates being manifestations of svarupa-sakti are constituted differently from jiva-sakti. They tend to appear along with Bhagavan wherever he appears, following him from lila to lila. Candravali appears as Rukmini in his Dvaraka-lila, Sridama as Garuda, and so on.

      Is Prabhupada a manifestation of the svarupa-sakti like Subala, or is he a perfected devotee, a sadhana siddha. If one chooses the latter, the citing of Kavi-karnapura on this point does not hold up well, for the standard understanding in the sampradaya is that such devotees follow in the footsteps of devotees like Subala but cannot be thought of as being one of them. And although they may appear in two svarupas, they do so by appearing in one form in Krishna-lila and one in Gaura-lila, not two different svarupas constituted of different sthayi-bhavas in Krishna-lila. Let us also remember that the teaching is that one attains that which one cultivates. We find Prabhupada directly cultivating sakhya rasa in his poem aboard the Jaladuta. How could he then attain two svarupas, one a gopi and one a gopa?

      If one chooses the former, it may at first appear to hold weight, but a closer look takes some of the gravity out of it again. In only one instance I am aware does Kavi-karnapura attribute different svarupas of varying sentiments to one devotee. This is Ramanada Raya, who Kavi-karnapura considers to be two different gopis as well as Pandava Arjuna. He arrives at this conclusion based on the testimony of learned devotees, words from the Padma Purana, and the words of Sri Caitanaya. However, even in this instance of Ramananda appearing as as two different gopis, he does not have two different sthayi-bhavas in Vraja-lila. Both forms mentioned in Kavi-karnapura’s conclusion are those of gopis, and Pandava Arjuna is not directly a member of the Vraja-lila.

      Thus to cite Kavi-karnapura as support for the idea that Prabhupada could be both a gopi and a gopa in the Vraja-lila at the same time is not responsible. Indeed, this promotes a very dangerous idea that could lead to much speculation. For example, despite the fact that Rupa Goswami is known to be Sri Rupa manjari, by Adviata’s logic one could also say that Sri Rupa is also possibly a cowherd boy as well . . .

      Advaita’s additional citation of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana does not help his point either. Baladeva cites Chandogya for the purpose of establishing that the liberated jiva can have a spiritual form, and in doing so points out that such a liberated soul may have more than one form (as Chandogya implies). Again, the standard Gaudiya explanation of this is that sadhana-siddha devotees appear in both Gaura and Kishna-lilas in different forms.

    • Looking back at Advaita das’ comments on O My Friend, the following comment struck me:

      “Rupa Goswami’s Anarpita-verse is the paribhasha (general definition) of Caitanya Caritamrita and thus of our siddhanta as a whole. It says clearly that Mahaprabhu’s ‘mission’ was to bestow unnatojjvala rasa, madhura rasa.”

      However, Sri Krsnadas himself identifies this verse (Cc 1.1.4) as the book’s asirvada sloka, or the verse through which the author seeks to bless the readers. On the other hand Kaviraja Goswami cites SB 10.14.14 in Cc 1.1.59 as the paribhasa sloka of Srimad Bhagavatam in the context of explaining the vastu nirdesa sloka of Cc (Cc 1.1.3), while in Sat-sandarbha Sri Jiva cites the famous krsnas tu bhagavan svayam of SB 1.3.28 as its paribhasa sloka.

      But both of these Bhagavata verses say the same thing and represent the key to understanding the siddhanta or tattva of the Bhagavatam: Krishna is the source of Narayana and thus he is svayam bhavavan. This understanding is vital to the ingress Vraja-bhava, as Gita 10.8 explains.

      Now it stands to reason that the siddhanta or tattva of Cc is the same as that of the Bhagavatam with the addition of identifying Sri Caitanyadeva with Sri Krishna in all respects. Indeed, this exactly is what the vastu nirdesa sloka of Cc seeks to do, and vastu nirdesa is a defining of one’s objective.

  19. It is indeed a very poor reading of the book to come away from it thinking that Babhru has written it “to establish some sort of equality of sakhya rasa vis a vis manjari bhava.” The book clearly says that the two are not equal in all respects and that madhurya rasa is the highest reach of the sampradaya. Furthermore, where has Babhru seen fit “to play down madhura rasa because one’s Guru is presumed to be a cowherd boy.” Making the point that one’s guru can be in sakhya rasa in the Gaudiya sampradaya is not playing down madhurya rasa. But to say that the sampradaya is only about madhurya and nothing else is lacking balance, as Babhru has pointed out with evidence that some devotees in the Gaudiya sampradaya have embraced other rasas.

    The book is about the abundance of evidence that points to the distinct possibility that Babhru’s guru embraced sakhya rasa. In bringing forth this evidence Babhru has also pointed out that it is not contrary to the Gaudiya siddhanta for a guru to be in sakhya rasa despite the fact that the Gaudiya sampradaya stresses madhurya rasa. Furthermore Babhru has pointed out that the evidence lends support to the idea that Prabhupada’s particular sakhya-bhava is mixed with madhurya as in the case of Sri Krishna’s priyanarma-sakhas. I really do not know how Babhru could have made this more clear. It is quite surprising that a reader would think the book promotes some type of competition between sakhya and madhurya rasa.

  20. yet again the simple model of all gurus being in madhurya rasa is being used and stretched even when it does not explain the evidence well.
    Only his arguments against the use of family lineage to trace out SP’s svarupa carry some weight.

  21. Why is this being called “the simple modell”? My undertanding is that, as the conclusion of Srila Rupa Gosvami himself, it is in fact a very sophisticated model. Despite there being very deep meanings to each individual rasa, as a group there is also an hierarchy to them, and one cannot help but make distinctions of more or less completeness in relation to each progressively. The gift of Mahaprabhu, unnatojvala rasa, has a point, a purpose, and that point is the specific glorification of Srimati Radharani.

    • The simple model is that “all” gurus have to be in madhurya rasa! I didn’t talk about the simplicity of the rasa itself
      Anyway this is my insight into this issue and only my response to what Advaita’s reply is all about. Vrindaranya’s point in the article is different from my insight and she has made it clear in the response above.

  22. I accept the conclusions of Babrhu Prabhu and of course the special insight of my Gurudeva Swami BV Tripurari. However, If a sadhu’s or guru’s svarupa is often revealed to the community by his disciples as a result of personal communication from the guru or from internal darsan as a result of guru gayatri, why is the question of Srila Prabhupada’s svarupa being discussed using only tattva and interpretation of his statements? Certainly, a realized follower of Srila Prabhupada has had the darsan of his eternal form in the kunja and can reveal this to the sadhakas.

    I am actually not proposing that this be done as much as I am asking for the reasons for so much discretion?

    • From what I understand, this is what the followers of Srila Narayana Maharaja believe, i.e., that he can actually see Srila Prabhupada’s eternal form as a manjari and knows her name and so on. I heard the name once but have since forgotten it.

      • The strength of their belief is such that it dismisses all evidence to the contrary even when the realization of their sadhu lacks evidence in support his conclusion. So as Gopa Kumara has said, for some the experience of the sadhu is more compelling than any other evidence, should one have faith in him or her. But a problem does arise when evidence to the contrary is very strong and supported by the realization of other sadhus, some of whom are senior to the one with a different opinion that others have attached themselves to. This is the reason why internal realization should be backed by external evidence. Even Kavi Karnapur has set this example.

      • Hi Amara… I didn’t know you were on here! Haven’t heard from you in so many years… it is nice to see you on here!

        This is the problem with what seems like the subjective nature of this endeavor. There are contradictions in the lila as experienced by different siddhas and that is supposedly resolved through the unlimited nature of the Absolute.

        However, here it arises again in relation to a siddha deha of a realized sadhaka. If the sadhaka siddha is jiva sakti with hladini sakti does this same limitlessness apply to the perfected jiva? If a contrary realization of exists between Srila Prabhupada as Priya-Narma sakha and Manjari sakhi then how is this resolved? The unfortunate thing is that given my faith in my gurudeva I am inclined to honor his view as that which has more veracity, especially given the compelling evidence Babrhu Prabhu has compiled. But, this leaves me having to think of Srila Narayana Maharaja as a pretender, which is a way of thinking I am attempting to stay very far from. How can such contradictions be resolved without having to do major rationalizations or becoming offensive?

        • One could easily say that NM tells his students to think in a particular way because he wants them to pursue manjari bhava, and to introduce another bhava with regard to Prabhupada, a prominent acarya in their sect would confuse the issue and hinder the one minded resolve for manjari bhava that NM seeks to instill in his students. Or it is natural for NM to think of Prabhupada as being in manjari bhava, as most devotees go in this direction. Furthermore he has met many disciples of Prabhupada who know very little about our sampradaya’s prayojana, and thus he has consistently educated them about the lofty heights of manjari bhava while not being familiar in any detail with the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But the simple explanation is that NM does not know, but without information to the contrary he naturally thinks Prabhupada is in manjari bhava and educates his disciples accordingly. Then they in turn conclude that he is sitting in the nikunja with Prabhupada (and he does not discourage them from thinking so). Personally I think this kind of thinking on the part of one’s students is a bit of a material projection as to the nature of realized life in pema-bhakti but that is another subject. Should it be that NM does not know, no harm in my opinion.

          • Well, it is nice to hear that it is no harm to think that Srila Narayana Maharaja may not know. It is hard to think of such a prominent figure in such a skeptical manner, but as long as it does not cause me to be critical and mean spirited I can accept that.

            I am however very interested in the other subject you bring up about the nature of realized life in prema-bhakti. I think we are generally confused by that. I can infer from the narratives of bhava bhakti that there are varying degrees of visions and raptures and that they can also be withdrawn by the Lord also to increase the longing of separation. But you are right… I have no idea of the nature of absorption, realization and such. Is a realized soul internally capable of sitting in the nikunja and able to see the souls at play with the Lord? Is it like witnessing a drama? Is it like being in a drama? Is it more like real life, more real than real life itself? Are other unperfected sadhakas already manifest there due to their potential or only manifest as they are perfected? I know this may not be answerable at this time… but it would be an interesting explanation.

          • It’s rare enough to know one’s own guru’s svarupa, which one spends one’s entire life in pursuit of, what to speak of the svarupa of his or her associates. Otherwise you bring up a big topic. Well I guess I brought it up, but it may be too big to discuss here, and for that matter no one will fully understand the aprakrta-lila until they attain vastu siddhi. Short of that everything is an approximation. In Jaiva Dharma questions about the aprakrita lila are left to be answered by experience that the guru questioned had not yet had, and after all, going there on never returns. Even Mahaprabhu’s associates are absorbed in the lila of being sadhakas, but Sanatana Prabhu has tried to speak about it through Sarupa (Gopa Kumara)—a circular drama ever unfolding. Sri Krsnadas tries to illustrate bhava and svarupa siddhi in Cc when he describes the experience of Mahaprabhu himself as filled with longing and glimpses, flashes of lila. Lila is divine play where the one becomes many to experience himself. There oneness is as prominent as and simultaneously experienced along with difference, a sense of difference. We are but one of the many of his playmates but some knowing of one another is also possible there in the context of sancari-bhava augmenting one’s sthayi-bhava. We may be lost yet found in one aspect of one lila in one eternal moment forever. It is that vast, that consuming. One may be blessed first with some acquaintance with the pastures there and cows, so many cows that personify affection, an ocean of milk. It is called Goloka. Try to go there. Go there.

          • I also agree that there’s no harm in assuming that NM is not familiar with Srila Prabhupada’s svarupa. After all, such things are more likely to be revealed to disciples immersed in serving sri guru under his direction. NM’s own mood in this regard seems to follow that of Raghunatha Das Goswami, who asserted repeatedly his lack of interest in even hearing of any mood other than that of a manjari. I certainly don’t have a problem with that. But even Das Goswami praises sakhya bhava, as I point out in my booklet.

            The problem arises when teachers such as Sripad Narayana Maharaja assert that they know, for example, Srila Prabhupada’s inner life in truth. Such assertions cause many followers to not only dismiss the kind of evidence presented in this booklet, but to dismiss the conclusion that evidence suggests as apasiddhanta, as I have heard. I’m not sure this is salutary for those disciples.

          • I think the comment I made about the possibility of Sripad Narayana Maharaja’s not know the specifics of Srila Prabhupada’s svarupa may bear a little clarification. What I mean by there being no harm in this is that it is not necessarily skepticism, or doubting NM’s sincerity or the strength (or even veracity) of his conviction. Rather, it’s an honest expression of the nature of one’s faith in him, inasmuch as his own assertions reflect the nature of his faith.

            My relationship with someone’s guru, however much I respect and revere him and his service, will necessarily differ from his own disciples’ faith. They should not read that difference as disrespect or indifference.

            Moreover, I also have my own relationship with Srila Prabhupada, which will differ from that of other gurus’ disciples; the convictions arising from that faith are made stronger by the evidence I see, especially when it is confirmed by sadhus in whom I have faith. And I feel confident that, whatever differences there may be, broadminded souls will be able to accommodate those differences with the same respect I do.

        • Hey, Gopa! Please accept my dandavat pranamas…it’s great to see you here as I had no idea you were still around. You definitely made my day!

          Personally I have always leaned toward the conclusion presented by Babhru, Tripurari Swami, and others, even long before the evidence presented so nicely in O My Friend!. Still, I don’t mind hearing other opinions and taking them into account, even if I don’t agree with them. There are always differing views and disagreements among sadhus. I even heard one devotee say that Srila Prabhupada has two separate forms in lila, one as a cowherd boy and the other as a manjari!

          A while back Tridandi Maharaja was staying with me and we were trying to find any reference to the manjaris by Srila Prabhupada. We found only one usage of the term in all of his books (“The Nectar of Instruction,” pp.90-91) and even there it was only in parenthesis. To me that says a lot in itself.

  23. I think that external evidence in light of tattva is valuable in support of internal realization, and it may be all that many are willing to accept owing to their lack of faith in a particular sadhu’s internal realization. And being aware of that lack of faith a sadhu may be reticent to offer much more than external evidence, tattva and so on. Indeed, what we have seen is that some are unwilling to acknowledge even external evidence supported by siddhanta as conclusive.

    As for discretion, I think the above answers this question to an extent. However, I also believe that misunderstanding often prevails in the name of discretion. For example, while Narottama Thakura cautions about revealing one’s bhajana or inner life, no one hesitates to speak about the inner life of Sri Rupa and others. So the caution pertains more to the individual practitioner in whom the tendency to attract attention to himself lingers even as his inner life begins to awaken.

  24. I agree that this sort of disclosure of one’s bhajana will not be taken seriously and will also invite offenses if there is a lack of faith.

    Conversely, many people are likely to accept personal testimony as evidence over scriptural or objective evidence. As much as it is subjective and thereby unverifiable, until one reaches that same level of realization, it is also more compelling and harder to disregard. This is particularly the case if you know the person making the disclosure and consider them a person of integrity. I am one of these people that is far more likely to be influenced by personal testimony of a sadhu than by scripture. During my darkest moments of distance from my Gurumaharaja I would still consider his spiritual strength and insights as evidence to stay near. So at what point is it acceptable to ask for more detailed insights about such esoteric matters?

    The reason I ask this is because the topic itself pressumes that those debating are comprised in part by sadhakas that have not attained bhava and are thereby not privy to such visions. So the revelation of the siddha deha of any sadhu is done for the benefit of the sadhaka. I imagine that the point of this would be to fuel their practice and cultivate their affinity for particular sentiments. Is this the case? If so, what can be asked and when?

    In reading Jaiva dharma Vijaya and Vrajananda both ask rather bold questions to Babaji about tattva and about their own sentiments. Babaji informs them of their names, forms, and services. They have at this point, it seems from the narrative, attained nistha and ruci. However, when it comes to the question of Babaji’s sentiment and siddha deha the disciples hesitate. So it seems such hesitation is warranted. I imagine some hesitation is warranted, especially for disciples like me who have not attained nishta. Or is a certain boldness warranted when the longing or greed for such knowledge is great? Maybe the implicit answer is that if greed was so great, it would have been asked despite its boldness?

    Another question I have is about the nature of this siddha deha in sadhakas. Is this form already established and awaiting expression? For example, can the realized Guru perceive such forms? If so, does the Guru perceive such forms with knowledge of which jiva it pertains to? Or is this a form that is established upon approach and reciprocated by Krsna due to the desire of the devotee:

    ye yatha mam prapadyante
    tams tathaiva bhajamy aham

    Or, as another possibility, is this form established by the guru who has granted some service and admission into the lila by his/her mercy?

    I know many of these questions center around the theme of siddha pranali initiation. One of the reasons I wonder about this, having recently re-read Sri-Guru-Parampara, is that there was obviously some purpose for the giving of such details. What might those have been? I assume that it is to fuel practice and fan the flames of greed for realization? So, given the possible abuses of such a system, what is the alternative to such a process that might accomplish the same objectives? Is the alternative of siddha pranali at diksa maybe to give the disciple a more general idea of their group membership or sentiment? If so, does this fulfill they same objective? Might there be an appropriate use of siddha pranali initiation in the future of our sampradaya?

    • With regard to revelation, we may accept that the holy name is fully competent to effect such. In his commentary on Bhagavad-gita 12. 10, Swami cites one of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s songs to this effect: “When the name is even slightly revealed, it shows me in my own spiritual form and characteristics. It steals my mind and takes it to Krishna’s side. When the name is fully revealed, it takes me directly to Vraja, where it shows me my personal role in the eternal pastimes.”

    • Thakura Bhaktivinode understands the siddha deha as arising from bhakti and beginning to show itself to the guru and disciple at the stage of ruci. Thus it is subsequently discussed and settled. But it can come earlier as well in terms of a particular attraction to one of the primary rasas. I think that it may very well be helpful to a sadhaka to settle this matter early on, at least in a general sense. But greed for this as it is sometimes called should be distinguished from curiosity seeking.

  25. Why should atheists be immoral by default? We are capable of holding very complex systems of values.

    Are all religious people moral by default? Study history and find out.

  26. “My relationship with someone’s guru, however much I respect and revere him and his service, will necessarily differ from his own disciples’ faith. They should not read that difference as disrespect or indifference.”

    It would be nice if more disciples of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja felt that way. So often they expect the entire world to feel the same way about Prabhupada that they do, and be just as much into him as they are. What gives?

  27. “It’s rare enough to know one’s own guru’s svarupa, which one spends one’s entire life in pursuit of”

    Most Gaudiya gurus tell their disciples what their swarup is. That is part of the siksha given with the guru mantra and guru gayatri.

    Darshan of it, is of course, a matter of bhajan.

  28. Bijaya Kumara Das Brian D Grover

    I have been waiting for months for Dhanurdhara Swami reply that he said would be done after his June 15th dead line for a previous commitment. What has happened since?

  29. You write in this article:
    “Babhru’s actual words are important to note. He wrote that “some of Srila Prabhupada’s more spirited, aggressive expressions may be attributed to, or at least perhaps better understood in the context of, an affinity for sakhya-rasa.” He then gives two examples: Srila Prabhupada’s well-known retort, “I will kick on his face with boots,” and his remarks about dropping bombs on the heads of atheists. Although both gopis and gopas can exhibit harshness, this particular manifestation of harshness, which contains chivalry and a suggestion of violence, is characteristic of sakhya-bhava, fascinated with these qualities as young boys often are.”

    I really like that explanation. I think his dealings with his Godbrothers can be seen in the same context of sakhya-rasa boistrous expressions. Harshness and chivalrly of sakhya-bhava – his little moments of sakhya ecstasy…

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