Review: Realization and Manifestation of Your Eternal Identity
Published on May 16th, 2014 | by Harmonist staff89
Uttamasloka dasa, Realization and Manifestation of Your Eternal Identity: Identity Transformation Through Raganuga-Bhakti. E-book, 2012
Reviewed by Citta Hari dasa, originally published on February 28, 2013.
In his Gaura-Govindarcana-smarana-paddhati, Dhyanacandra Goswami presented a systematic internal practice for the cultivation of raganuga-bhakti that over time formed the basis of what became known as siddha-pranali. Siddha-pranali is literally a lineage (pranali) of perfected souls (siddhas), but in more recent times the term has come to be identified with that which is thought to descend through such a lineage: information about and realization of one’s internal spiritual, lila-seva form, one’s siddha-deha. Thakura Bhaktivinoda followed this so-called siddha-pranali system when taking diksa from Bipin Bihari Goswami, even while being a radical reformer of Gaudiya Vaishnavism at a time when siddha-pranali diksa had become corrupted by non-siddhas giving out siddha-dehas. In recognition of this corruption, Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati chose to take a more conservative approach to raganuga-bhakti. He totally downplayed the extant siddha-pranali system and ekadasa-bhava meditations in favor of the natural awakening of ruci in the context of nama-kirtana and responsible service in an institutional structure. This accounts for the dim view A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami took of siddha-pranali. And this view was in turn passed along to his disciples. Many of them, unaware of the system’s origins, consider it to be fabricated in the minds of men seeking only to fill their bellies. Uttamasloka dasa seeks to rectify this misunderstanding, among others, in his breakdown and overview of raganuga-bhakti.
Uttamasloka has given his readers what he calls a “study guide” to the corpus of Gaudiya writings dealing with the vast topic of raganuga-bhakti. He covers an impressive amount of ground indeed, dealing with basics like how the material identity arises all the way to the very esoteric asta-kaliya-lila smaranam in one’s siddha-deha. The book is clearly written with an Iskcon audience in mind, as the author seeks to address several misconceptions unique to that society in order to highlight their potential as obstacles for those becoming eligible for raganuga-bhakti. These misconceptions include the “fall of the jiva” (there is none); that studying the books of acaryas other than Prabhupada is detrimental (not only is it not, reading the books of the purvacaryas is essential to truly understanding Prabhupada’s books); and, a personal favorite, that one does not “chant 16 rounds and follow the 4 regs” and somehow magically wake up in Krishna lila after remembering Krishna at the time of death.
In making this information freely available, Uttamasloka seems to be implying that it’s time for the older followers of Srila Prabhupada to start thinking in earnest about where all the book distribution, chanting in the streets, etc., is supposed to lead. I can go with that; after all, a spiritual life consisting of only anartha-nivrtti is really not much of a life at all. Artha-pravrtti has to be there, and to acquire some of the theory underlying a genuinely spiritual life can be helpful indeed in awakening raga. Studying the many books on this topic is clearly something Uttamasloka has done a fair bit of, and it’s only natural to want to share one’s preoccupation. If more people become similarly preoccupied that would be a good thing; at least then perhaps some of the petty bickering we see on the internet might disappear because devotees have better things to do.
Still, there is a part of me that wonders just how relevant this information actually is owing to its highly esoteric nature. Full-on raganuga-bhakti (jata ruci) is a very high and rare thing, which is why the Saraswata sampradaya characteristically is quick to caution those interested in it to not get ahead of themselves: “pujala raga-patha gaurava bhange, the path of raga is worshipable and to be regarded with utmost respect.” In this connection, Srila Sridhara Maharaja used the expression “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” While I certainly don’t think Uttamasloka involved in folly, I do believe that caution in such lofty matters is called for. No doubt raganuga-bhakti is the Gaudiya sampradaya‘s specialty, but books like this one can tend to make it all sound a bit easier than it really is, and so I read with an eye toward how exactly the information in it will be put to practical use.
A crucial point I think Uttamasloka could have done more to bring out is that there is a middle position between anartha-nivrtti and full-on raganuga-bhakti, which might be characterized by ekadasa-bhava meditation and asta-kaliya-lila smaranam. This middle position was termed “ajata-ruci raganuga-bhakti” by Sri Jiva Goswami, a somewhat oxymoronic phrase by which he referred to those whose sadhana is not yet fueled by taste (ruci), but can still adopt the practices of raganuga-bhakti according to their level of spiritual realization. For those whose inclination to follow in the wake of the love of the Vrajavasis is still weak, this amounts to maintaining a desire to become eligible for raganuga-bhakti. Thus while one’s focus at this stage begins to shift from a predominance of effacing the negative to a tangible desire for Vraja bhakti, there is still a huge gap between that and meditating on one’s siddha-deha in the kind of detail outlined by the eleven bhavas. Having a conceptual map of the territory is a good thing as long as people don’t think they’ve actually gotten standing in that realm just by acquiring the map. Presumably the audience Uttamasloka is addressing here may very well still harbor misconceptions about many things. If he succeeds in convincing them that they were mistaken and they wish to tread the raga-marga as outlined herein, they still have only the most meager eligibility for raganuga-bhakti. This means that they would need practical information on how to begin incorporating the elements of raganuga-bhakti while still being ajata-ruci sadhakas. But moreover, it means that they will have to engage in the sravanama-kirtanam of vaidhi-bhakti with a view to attain the stage of ruci in sadhana-bhakti. Ruci arises out of nistha, constant engagement in bhakti without confusion about Gaudiya siddhanta. Then in ruci the desire to attain an affectionate relationship with Krishna descends.
One issue that will definitely get the attention of readers is the section in Chapter 5 on whether or not manjari-bhava is the highest and only rasa for Gaudiyas. Uttamasloka makes the point, and rightly so, that manjari-bhava is not the only rasa Sriman Mahaprabhu made available, as some claim. One can in fact attain any one of the four primary rasas of Vraja bhakti (dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya). Uttamasloka breaks with the tradition, however, when he concludes that manjari-bhava is not the highest attainment possible for the baddha-jiva. He arrives at his conclusions based mostly on the fact that the Goswamis, and Sri Rupa in particular in Sri Ujjvala-nilamani, have not directly written anything to indicate that manjari-bhava is any more exalted than any of the other gopi bhavas. Where the Goswamis do so, as in the case of Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Uttamasloka attributes it to their personal bias in favor of their own bhava and therefore should not be taken as statements of siddhanta on that bhava. This issue was discussed at length on the book’s forum with arguments for both sides given. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the traditional argument or Uttamasloka’s is more compelling.
The overall tenor of Uttamasloka’s approach seems to be that the only way to attain one’s sidda-svarupa is to take up the meditational practices of raganuga-bhakti (such as those given in Dhyanacandra Goswami’s paddhati, included at the end of the book) in a systematic fashion. He says, “Make no mistake about it–there are specific detailed processes. To achieve the goal of direct association with Krishna in Goloka, in any of the four primary rasas—dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and, especially madhurya, all Caitanya Gaudiya Vaisnavas will necessarily tread this path.” (p. 11) Unfortunately the section seems to advocate a “get your siddha-deha now” mentality, when in fact this sacred identity is a gift from the guru-parampara to be bestowed by the grace of Guru and Krishna. He also makes a statement to the effect that realization of the siddha-deha does not arise solely from chanting Harinama. Let us remember that Krishna is non different from his holy name. And all of this is somewhat surprising given the Saraswata sampradaya‘s history and emphasis and that he is a disciple of one of that sampradaya‘s most noteworthy members. It’s not difficult to bring evidence to the contrary to bear; Bhaktivinoda Thakura says in his Sri Nama-Mahatmya, “Such is the power he manifests that when his holy name starts to blossom a little further it then reveals his own divine form and qualities. Thus the holy name steals my heart and takes it to Krishna’s side. When the flower of the holy name is fully blossomed it takes me directly to Vraja and reveals to me his own love-dalliance. This name awards me my own eternal spiritual body, keeps me right by Krishna’s side, and completely destroys everything related to this mortal frame of mine.” Even more compelling is Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja’s famous reply when asked about this issue: “The Hare Krishna mantra is a siddha mantra. Within this mantra are the siddha-rupa of Sri Krishna and the siddha-rupas of all living entities. If you chant the maha-mantra purely the syllables of the mantra will gradually reveal the spiritual form, qualities, and pastimes of Sri Krishna. This chanting will also reveal your eternal spiritual form, service, and the eleven particulars of your spiritual identity.”
My conclusion is that as a book to acquaint and inspire those who have yet to embark on the path of raganuga-bhakti it for the most part succeeds, but caveat emptor applies. An emphasis that diverges from that of Sri Siddhanta Saraswati’s along with heterodox theology mandates that the reader must have a very solid grounding in sastra as well as have competent guidance (either one’s diksa-guru or a siksa-guru, or both) for this information to bear positive fruit and for its wheat to be separated from its chaff.
what is this theory of siddha deha? jiva is anadi baddha how can he be nitya siddha?what is this siddha deha.these is highly unshashtric.
seva sadhaka rupena siddha rupena catra hi Brs.1.2.295
Dear Tripurari Maharaj,
Please accept my obeisances.
Your review seems very fair and thorough yet somewhat cautionary and dispassionate. I feel that which stimulates ecstatic love of God should be accepted and embraced. This book provides a clear road map back to Vraja. It defeats hyperbole on the subject of Raganuga, which is often viewed as too esoteric and beyond the reach of most practicing bhaktas. Of what use if such a valuable gem is to remain hidden? Uttamasloka prabhu has dared to objectify the practice of raganuga bhakti while defeating the greatest misconception, that only liberated souls are allowed into these most sacred chambers.
Gaudiya Vaishnava Raganuga practice should not be seen as too mystical or taboo. It is our heritage and as such if we do not embrace and properly teach it, then it may become lost over time. Without wonderful internal meditations to sustain us, how will we grow through the various stages of bhava and arrive at prem?
The book’s author may seem overconfident, even daring us to prove him wrong. That type of attitude actually grabbed my attention and I am deeply appreciative that it did. After 42 years of hearing and chanting, I have not seen or read anything that is as succinct and powerful in regards to raganuga bhakti. It confirms many of the feelings I have in regards to my internal meditation and enthusiastically encourages me to go further without trepidation.
Sri Krsna is a loving God. He is all about loving relationships. He wants us to approach Him. Conversely, we need to approach Him. Chanting the Holy Names with purpose under the loving care of our rasik acharyas is the best way.
Thank you for allowing me to comment on your review and the book.
Please note that I did not personally review the book. It was reviewed by Citta Hari dasa. And I think he made some good points along with explaining the content of the book.
Sorry for the mistake, Maharaj. I should have seen that Citta Hari prabhu was the reviewer. My oversight.
In reference to the last line of the article, I would give my opinion: There is no “chaff” in this book. My devotional life has taken a quantum leap by studying this book carefully and prayerfully. Yet, I would think that not just anyone taking it up will be able to receive such confidential, spiritual concepts. So, merely reading this book intellectually one could construct myriads of “problems” with the book when one is not ready spiritually to take direction submissively. When one IS ready however, by Krishna’s grace, then that person will find in Uttamasloka’s book the gates of Goloka Vrndaban wide open, where one can, even in this life, find the fullness of relationship with Krishna and His associates readily available to enter into.
But you ignore the caff the reviewer points out. If indeed it is not chaff, it would be good to point that out with appropriate references. After all the reviewer seems to know the subject well and is familiar with the source material the book is derived from. You imply that the reviewer is not spiritually ready to take direction submissively and that he has only read the book “intellectually.” Such a remark itself lacks both intellectual and spiritual integrity. You have basically said that you are more spiritually advanced than the reviewer and therefore his review is faulty, whereas yours is not. This is not the way to that our parampara has taught us to participate in a spiritual discussion.
Dear Swami BV Tripurai prabhu, I’m sorry, perhaps I was not clear in my comment. My first sentence was strictly referring to that one last sentence of the writer, the Biblical reference of the wheat and the tares (chaff)…nothing more. As a matter of fact, I was favorably impressed with the whole article, which was unbiased and well-presented. Perhaps I should have started a new paragraph after my first sentence about the chaff. I’m afraid to press enter as sometimes on these, the message goes after you press enter. So even here I refrain from starting a new paragraph. By no means was I trying to convey that his review was faulty and I’m sorry it was perceived that way. If you re-read my comment, I was simply trying to say how wonderful Uttamasloka’s book has been for my spiritual life. That was my intention. Perhaps I should have praised the reviewer for his excellent work and which I read carefully and with a lot of interest. It was only that last sentence that I felt I would give my opinion, simply, that in my mind there was no chaff in the book, although others may find chaff (not referring to the writer, but others). I knew you before you were a sannyasi when I was in LA in 1972-73. I recall those years with fondness and often wonder where all my godbrothers and sisters are. No, I have no spiritual advancement, although I aspire to be a true devotee of Krisha someday, by Prabhupad’s mercy.
Brahmanada Puri das,
Thank you for your explanation. I too recall those years with fondness.
Acquiring the conceptual road map to Vraja is very useful; I don’t question that. I do however question the majority of devotees’ ability to accurately asses what degree to which they can adopt the practices of raganuga-bhakti on their own. To make use of the information in this book a guru is required, since as you know it can be very easy to think one is on a different location on the map than one really is. Also, I don’t think the gem of raga-bhakti should remain hidden, but it should be approached with dispassion so as to ground one’s budding sentiment in tattva.
I am of the opinion that the vast majority of devotees reading this book can do so at best at the level of intellect. That is not a bad thing–one has to start somewhere. As I mentioned in the review, if the book succeeds in convincing a person that the practices of raganuga-bhakti can be taken up by the non-liberated sadhaka that still only amounts to a low level of adhikara for the practices. Even those who have genuine greed are still on the lower rungs of raganuga-bhakti, and as we know genuine greed is very, very rare. So I don’t believe I am “constructing problems with the book” but merely pointing out that the subject matter IS inherently very esoteric and that it in all likelihood will not be very useful without a competent guide to help the reader apply it practically.
I live alone and pretty far aware from any other devotees. Prior to acquiring this book, I had begun to receive internal guidance on how to purify my chanting. These were basic ‘How to Chant 101’ instructions, but they enabled me to begin chanting with very little interference from the mind. After the first such instruction I actually spontaneously chanted another 16 rounds without any interference whatever from the mind as the instruction was so enlivening! After that I received another 2 instructions, one while actually chanting, as with the first instruction, and another one in a dream. It was very shortly thereafter that this book by Uttama Sloka Prabhu became available. Uttama Sloka has related to me personally how he got a very strong realization that this book had to come out NOW as the devotees needed it. I feel so grateful. I did not ever feel comfortable going outside to seek out this knowledge and I also always felt that when the time was right, the information would be supplied. Srila Prabhupada is still very much looking out for his disciples.
I consider the idea of “going outside,” as you present it, to be not going deeply inside in terms of understanding guru tattva. When the time is right Krsna may send a siksa guru. And Uttamasloka’s book comes largely from outside of Prabhupada’s books. He also consulted with devotees outside of Iskcon in writing it. But surely higher realization can arise out of sadhana without the help of a siksa guru, although the help of a siksa guru is more readily recommended.
Uttamasloka prabhu’s book is composed almost solely of quotes and instructions from our acharyas who are expert in rasa tattva. These acharyas are our siksa gurus. There is no necessity of waiting, as you suggest, nor hoping that Krsna may or may not send another siksa guru. Guru is already there.
As far as stating that Uttamasloka prabhu went outside of ISKCON to receive consultation in writing his book, that conjures up some sort of deviation from Srila Prabhupada. I know that he consulted with you. So what really is your point here?
My reaction to Nandalal dasi’s open expression of enthusiasm for receiving this book is not uncommon. Uttamasloka prabhu has told me that his book is being warmly received by many devotees with letters similar to Nandalal dasi.
I feel that both you and Chitta Hari prabhu might be doing more of a disservice in cautioning others about performing raganuga bhakti than in explaining the merits of its actual performance. Furthermore, it would be wise to reiterate that the book under review is a road map of directions and not a compilation of actual Krsna leela. The review should therefore center around the accuracy of the contents and not whether someone should practice raganuga bhakti. The inclination to practice raganuga bhakti is a personal choice. It cannot be forced or legislated.
Please note that my comments are well supported by the sastra I have cited. And while I have acknowledged that one may not need siksa guru, I have stated that this is the often the route taken by our acaryas. As far as waiting, one does need to wait to incorporate all the practices of raganuga sadhana until one is eligible. There is adhikara for everything. You don’t seem to have read my comments carefully or understood them. Ajat-ruci raganuga sadhana involves pursuing Vraja prema by mixing raga and vaidhi bhakti until one develops the adhikara to incorporate all the practices of raganuga sadhana, such as siddha rupa seva. Start with mantra-mayi upasana, not svarasiki dhyana.
My point to Nandala is simply that she did not want to “go outside.” But by her own intended meaning she has gone “outside” by reading Utttamasloka’s book. I am “outside” where she did not want to go. The books he cites are “outside.” She has gone “outside.” That is not a deviation. The deviation is to think one should not go “outside.” Accepting a siksa guru constitutes going inside, not outside.
You think I am doing a disservice by reminding you of how our parivara—and Prabhupada is hardly the exception—has consistently defined adhikara for raganuga bhakti, how it has understood the sastra on this subject. The fact that the book ignores this is not my problem. And I am not discouraging anyone from practicing raganuga sadhana. I am merely pointing out that without having attained ruci, one can only practice ajata-ruci raganuga sadhana.
It’s true that my book is based on 20 of the primary books of our major Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas.
However, I did not consult extensively with any devotees outside of ISKCON in writing it. It is largely based on my study of these books and inspirational guidance from within from Srila Prabhupada, Krsna and our acaryas.
I consider all of these acaryas to be my siksa-gurus.
Thanks Citta Hari Prabhu. It is an ocean, and I have simply had a peek at the shore line. We were not encouraged to investigate these things when I joined this movement in 1968, or thereafter. I feel that a good road map can help us to have something to look forward to, to enable us to monitor our personal progress, and help create longing for advancement. All of this along with steady sadhana that befits our present level of growth seems to be a nice package.
For example I am reading Srila Kavi-karnapura’s Krishnahnika Kaumudi a little every day, and it helps me in thinking about Krishna and His life in Vrindavan. But I do not begin to imagine that I have begun to realize the form, qualities or pastimes of Krishna through the agency of my japa. I can understand that I am still in the offensive stage of japa meditation, which is the only thing that blocks my ability to have mature realization of the holy name.
Still, I love having these tiny peeks into Krishna’s world. It would seem to be a shame that we could not have this information simply because there will always be those who will use the information in ways that will be more harmful to themselves and others than is useful for our gradual growth.
I also want to acknowledge your capacity to analyze these issues, and to express them so clearly and eloquently.
Hare Krishna!, Prabhu.
Thanks Ishan, I appreciate your comments. You clearly have a handle on how to proceed realistically. Having a road map can indeed inspire one to aspire; without some information on what to aspire for it would be difficult to keep going. Anartha-nivrtti is not the be-all by any means. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati himself said in his lecture “From Anartha-nivrtti to Artha-pravrtti” that asta-kaliya lila-smaranam is our property and not that of the sahijiyas. But of course he and his followers wanted their disciples to approach it in the right way. First deserve, then desire.
Beautiful quote by Bhaktivinode Thakur about the Holy Name, thankyou Citta Hari dasa. When Uttamasloka prabhu explained that realization of the siddha-deha does not arise solely from chanting Harinama, you seemed to make quite an issue out of it by assuming he meant “chanting Harinam is not the way at all” which is not how I took it… at all.
You can find people chanting Harinam everywhere who don’t ever realize their siddha deha or do it for some time then go on to some other fancy to find it. That’s the nature of the restless mind. It depends on ruci, one’s taste may be more for sitting calmly and practicing Vishno-smaranam which can also help one realize siddha deha. Harinam is absolutely “a way” to realize your mental spiritual form, but it’s one of nine ways. Uttamasloka and most devotees already know this, it’s elementary. Harinam is one of my personal favorites actually but I don’t think I’d be attracted to it as much if it were enforced under a dictatorship. That’s why the sweet Lord gave us options. He loves us and knows we like variety, as He does. So He gives us a variety of means to achieve rasa with Him. As the quote goes “Harinama eva kevalam…is the only means to achieve liberation. There is no other way… etc.” So in Kali yuga, the yuga dharm is this chanting of the holy name “to become liberated”… Liberation is a loaded word. When you are being liberated from anarthas the mind continues to focus on siddha deha while doing all your daily activities while functioning in this world until you achieve siddha swarupa… the name of your beloved is always in your heart, on your tongue, in your vision no matter if you are in Harinam or rolling in the sand or washing dishes, and you don’t need to be a sannyasa to be there. To be full-time in Harinam mode is a rare blessing few can accomplish, but we are so fortunate to be able to do it as much as we have.
As far as Uttamasloka advocating a “get your siddha-deha now” mentality as you say, this proves you really didn’t read the whole book. Close to the beginning in “Who should read this book?”…
“First and foremost, this book is intended specifically for Gaudiya Vaisnavas, followers of Sri
Caitanya Mahäprabhu, regardless of their lineage or organizational affiliation. I humbly offer
this book to the entire worldwide Caitanya Gaudiya Vaisnava community.
However, this book is not an introductory presentation of bhakti for people who are not yet
Vaisnavas. Nor is it for devotees who are inexperienced neophytes (kanistha) with little sastric
knowledge, weak faith (sraddhä) and lacking in realizations. People who fall into these two
categories should not read this book until they have acquired sufficient knowledge and
realizations to prepare them for this information.
This book does not contain discussions about the confidential aspects of mädhurya-rasa, rather,
the discussions focus on the processes related to entering that lilä, i.e., the qualifications,
knowledge, practices and techniques of the internal aspects of raganuga-bhajana. Therefore,
persons who have no attraction for, or interest in these topics should not read this book.””
So for you to say it’s a “get your siddha-deha now” mentality is quite revealing of your own “get your chaff now without fully understanding the wheat” mentality.
Uttamasloka’s book has solidified for me the things I already knew, proven to me on issues which I was confused about, and inspired me with a fresh look at my spiritual identity. Whatever the chaff is you talk about I’m not sure , but the wholesome wheat in the book is a timely prasadam meal for those the book is aimed at, the aging devotees who have spent their lives on Harinam, distributing books and prasad, performing vaidhi bhakti, arcana, teaching siddhanta, going on pilgrimage, serving the Lord and His devotees etc.etc….all over the world. ~ys
I was not implying that Uttamasloka was saying that “Harinama is not the way at all.” The quotes I cited were to illustrate the point that one need not engage in a formulaic, forced version of asta-kaliya-lila smaranam/siddha-deha meditation, that it will arise out of the chanting of Harinama.
I did see Uttamasloka’s section on who the book is for. Your comment makes it sound like I saw no value in the book, which is not true. I sought to emphasize that having a conceptual map is very different from being qualified to actually traverse the territory, and that one may fully realize one’s siddha-deha by taking the course set by Bhaktisiddhana Saraswati Thakura and his immediate followers.
“Kirtana prabhave samarana svabhave.” this phrase from his Vaisnava ke? encapsulates BSST’s approach to smarana of the raga marg.It states that by the power of kirtana smarana on one’s spiritual prospect in lila seva will arise naturally, as opposed to forced, mechanical meditation that does not arise out of Harinama and is undertaken before ceto darpana marjanam is attained.
with that phrase BSST seems to have encapsulated the following thoughts of VCT:
“Previously it was discussed that smarana is the main limb of sadhana in raganuga-bhakti, but even that is dependent on kirtana. In the present age of Kali everyone can become eligible for bhajan through the means of kirtana. All the scriptures of all devotional paths proclaim that kirtana is the very best limb of bhakti.”
– Raga Vartma Candrika
I would go one step further and state that the asta-kaliya-lila smaranam in the form taught by Dhyanacandra Gosvami isn’t even necessary in the modern world due to the changes brought about by technology.
What is the purpose of asta-kaliya-lila smaranam? Can that purpose be attained through something simpler and more effective? I believe so.
Hundreds of years ago the ability for most people to meditate on asta-kaliya-lila was very limited compared to today. Most people had no choice but to mentally conceive of that lila. Nowadays we have access to a large rasika literature written by those empowered acaryas of the past, something that was lacking in that time. We can easily meditate on lila simply by reading. Doesn’t that give the same results from the purpose of what Dhyanacandra Gosvami taught? Is it the act of mentally conceiving or is it the meditation on lila which is the purpose?
I believe it’s the meditation on the lila. Due to a lack of books hundreds of years ago, creating a mental image of lila was taught as the practical solution for everyone. Today that’s no longer a problem, and in fact it’s much more potent to read about lila from empowered acharyas, simply because what they have described is so much more comprehensive than anything you can meditate on by yourself.
Reading is hearing, sravanam. That’s a good start. But meditation is another thing, especially lila smaranam. Reading cannot replace meditating and meditative lila seva in particular. It is for advanced sadhakas with ruci. Start with nama smaranam. This is advised by Sri Jiva. And for good reason. Nama is more generous than the rupa, guna, or lila of Sri Krsna. At the same time, his rupa, guna and lila are within his nama. The natural method recommended is to engage in vaidhi bhakti with the ideal of Vraja bhakti inspired by one’s guru. Gradually taste will arise as the heart is cleansed, and in proportion to the extent that it does one can effectively meditate in conjunction with one’s arising taste. More taste, more adhikara for raganuga sadhana and thus more smaranam. Thus one progresses gradually from ajata ruci raganuga to jata ruci raganuga sadhana.
But if anyone cares to offer a new, novel approach there is no harm, but it will only be as credible as it produces tangible results. And it will only produce the desired results if it is scripturally sound, dynamically following revelation. Otherwise it is a disturbance—sruti smriti puranadi . . . .
I’m not saying to discard the meditative lila-smaranam, that is essential. I’m saying it can be made easier and more accessible through the written word than by meditation alone. Whether you imagine the lila in your mind or by reading the lila, in both cases an image is created in your mind (if the writer is good) of that lila, and then you can see yourself as part of it. It is much easier to accomplish that by reading since an elaborate scenario has already been created for you, reading lila during meditation can be much more comprehensive then simply imagining alone. For example it adds the extra benefit of learning about rasa from the experts while you meditate as being part of the lila you read.
The main point is to learn what it means to be an intimate parishad in lila, to prepare for it. By that preparation you become qualified. When qualified the meditation on an imagined or written lila is transformed into a reality (bhava-bhakti) when Krishna manifests in your mind and the mundane world “vanishes,” (Madhurya Kadambini Chp 8).
The purpose of the meditation is to prepare for that, to transform yourself into being qualified for that. A reading guided meditation makes it an easier and more comprehensive form then meditation without reading.
A novel approach?? Reading is not too new a method of engaging the mind in Krishna’s guna, rupa and lila. So that is not smaranam? I think i do not know what smaranam is. As I have understood things, smaranam arises naturally out of shravanam and kirtanam. Never to take away from the primacy of kirtan, is it not seemly to engage in some reading of great books; books of philosophy and books of leela? Nam kirtan is certainly purifying, but what to do with all that purity? Engaging the (relatively) purified mind in reading and hearing about Krishna’s qualities is an integral part of the process, at least the one i have been taught. There are warnings here as well about not reading above one’s level. But remaining extremely cautious and not attempting to delve into Krishna’s world, or really, Rupa Goswami’s world, seems like a recipe for slow incremental advancement towards actual lobha.
If, however, one throws caution to the wind and wades in over ones head, reactions will come, and one must turn back and head for shore. No shame. From my own experience I have concluded that i cannot go any further than my adhikara allows. It is not possible, and when i bump up against the limits of my qualification, the correction that comes is nature’s way of getting me back to my proper position. I think Krishna is not so offended. Rather wouldn’t he be a bit pleased that i even try? Trouble with receiving a sadhana for which one is not qualified is that one practices it as duty, regardless of the warning signs that would otherwise caution one to step back a little. No one has ever given me such a sadhana, thankfully, but I have recieved plenty of great literatures that have helped me to live, for a moment however fleeting, in the amazing world of Krishna. In such a way, some laulyam starts to slowly arise, and how else is taste to become prominent? Hearing the pastimes of Krishna seems like the reward for chanting well done.
So what of this sravanam?? It seems highly important but somehow left out of the kirtanam-smaranam equation.
No one is arguing against reading/hearing. But clearly you are not that good at it to have responded, once again, without having understood the discussion. Read back over the discussion, including my responses to your previous rant.
Harinama is actually central to raga marg and smaranam is to be fortified by it. Furthermore it is Harinama that one can engage in despite an impure heart, whereas samranam requires a pure heart in order to engage in it effectively. Mahaprabhu has shown this by his own example, and he is Krsna in his acarya-lila. He has also taught this in his Siksastakam.
The book also does not contain the kind of cautions regarding lila smaranam and siddha rupa seva that are characteristic of the parivara of Thakura Bhaktivinoda (as well as a number of other parivars). Adkhikara for siddha rupa seva is a widely debated issue, with conservative and liberal interpretations of lobha. However, Sri Jiva Goswami has in my opinion written most authoritatively on the subject in his Bhakti-sandarbha, leaving little room for doubt. But unfortunately his notion of ajat-ruci raganuga sadhana is not mentioned in the book. This seems to be what Citta Hari is contrasting the book with when he speaks of “get your siddha deha now.” Apparently a good number of readers are unfamiliar with Sri Jiva’s position and how it has been understood in the Bhaktivinoda parivara in particular. I have written about this elsewhere in relation to the book and will post it here as well.
Bhakti is not our right but a gift. Granted it is given with diksa in terms of the opportunity to pursue it—the effort to attain more grace, if you will. Sadhana is an effort to attain grace in the form of the blessing of bhava.
Raganuga sadhana is a big subject and it is explained in different ways by different lineages. The Bhaktivinoda parivara tends to take a conservative approach, as do a number of other Gaudiya parivaras. What follows is a description of such a conservative approach.
As far as our choice for rasa, this is repeatedly explained by the Goswamis to be a result of association. With whom one associates one becomes like—samskara. This is the general rule. What appears to be an exception must then be attributed to previous association in another life or the fact that, for example, other bhavas such as sakhya are contained within madhurya. Thus one such bhava may become the bhava of a disciple of the madhurya rasa guru that the disciple is serving.
Then again, the guru is representing Rasaraja, and thus in a general sense all rasas. Looking at it this way, even a guru in sakhya rasa can give madhurya rasa—just as the president comes from a particular state with state affinities but as the president he or she represent all of the states. As saksad hari tvena the guru represents all possibilities, whereas—kintu prabhur ya priya eva tasya—he or she also has a particular sentiment that most disciples will follow— krsnanandaya dhimahi.
The choosing of a sentiment described by Thakura Bhaktivinoda is tied to ruci. Ruci constitutes the absence of material desire—na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va—and the dawning of three spiritual desires: praptya-abhilasa, anukulya-abhilasa, and sauhrdha-abhilasa—the desire to attain Krsna, the desire to serve him favorably, and the desire to establish a particular affectionate relationship with him. These desires begin to manifest in the stage of ruci, and thus in the context of serious and deep sadhana, wherein the medicine of chanting has become one’s food.
The feeling that the desire to establish a specific affectionate relationship with Krsna is one’s own choice is a particular perspective. Actually it descends or arises in the purified heart through sadhana, as nama smaranam develops into rupa and then guna smaranam, or natural, self-arising meditation on a particular from of Krsna and particular qualities of his (out of the 64) relative to the affectionate relationship desired.
Sri Jiva Goswami explains in his Durgama-sangamani that the ruci aspect of bhava (rucibis citta masrnya krd) is constituted of these desires. So before attaining bhava, as ruci itself is attained these desires begin to manifest. But unlike the stages of asakti and bhava wherein they flow spontaneously, in ruci they are cultivated with one’s intelligence. Sri Jiva says about the stage of ruci that, “Ruci means desire for the Bhagavan, that is directed by the intellect—rucir abhilasah kintu buddhi-purvakam.
But in nistha one can also fix one’s ideal on the basis of deep study of sastra that this stage typically involves—nityam bhagavata sevaya. Or on the basis of serving the person Bhagavata and desiring to follow him or her internally. And this will likely give rise to a corresponding desire in ruci. Or even before that in earlier stages the guru may tell us that we are to follow a particular bhava as our ideal. However, in the stage of anistha bhajana kriya and before anartha nivritti eligibility for lila smaranam from the perspective of one’s desired affectionate relationship is surely lacking. How can one meditate effectively when one is distracted by other desires, other values (principal anarthas)? Meditation unlike kirtana requires eligibility. Thus Sri Jiva recommends nama smaranam first, which when done attentively cleanses the heart and develops naturally into rupa, guna, and in asakti, lila smaranam. Rupa, guna, and lil are all within the name. And it is Thakura Bhaktivinoda who cautions against premature attempts at such lila smaranam in his Bhajana-rahasya: “The intelligence of one who thinks of his siddha-deha without first achieving eligibility becomes bewildered.” He calls this sahajiya-bhava.
Following the above, one who has not attained ruci but is attracted to the idea of following the bhavas of the Vrajavasis is an “ajata-ruci raganuga sadhaka.” This is the language Jiva Goswami uses to describe such a sadhaka who has become attracted to the raga marg as a result of associating with a sadhu on that marg but who at the same time is not fully eligible to tread it. Treading it requires doing so in two bodies, a sadhaka deha and a siddha deha. Thus one can follow this marg with a sadhaka deha, as Jiva Goswami explains, before one begins serving in one’s siddha deha in meditation. One does so by adhering to the hearing and chanting of vaidhi bhakti with the aspiration to eventually attain such a siddha deha and full eligibility to tread the raga marg. This is then a mixture of raga and vaidhi sadhana with the aim of attaining further eligibility for pure raganuga sadhana that is driven by ruci. The idea is that the siddha deha arises out of the fully engaged/absorbed sadhaka deha. Today many want a siddha deha without taking the trouble to fully engage their sadhaka deha.
Where does lobha fit in? In the lowest sense of the term it constitutes the desire to follow the bhavas of Vraja, as opposed to the majestic love of Vaikuntha. This sets one on the path in as much as the path differs from pure vaidhi bhakti only in terms of orientation and subsequent ideal. But lobha in and of itself does not turn one into a jata-ruci raganuga sadhaka. First comes ajata-ruci raganuga sadhana. And continuing along conservative lines, Mukunda Goswami has commented in his Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu tika that lobha for raganuga sadhana is more rare than bhava of vaidhi bhakti, which Sri Rupa describes as sudurlabha, very rare.
At any rate, while raga bhakti is open to all, qualification to tread the path in all respects is something that is gradually developed, as Jiva Goswami has explained. Indeed many who aspire for Vraja prema cannot even participate in such discussions due their present lack of eligibility.
Let me add this:
Knowledge related to one’s siddha deha and esoteric raga marg practices can be attained in one of three ways. One can hear about these from one’s diksa guru, from one’s siksa guru, or they may be revealed through sadhana. The first two possibilities speak of information that will gradually need to be realized. The third speaks of gradual realization independent of any specific information. The venerable Visvantha Cakravarti Thakura explains this in his Ragavatma-candrika. He cites the following Bhagavatam verse (SB 11.14.26) as evidence in support of the third method.
“Just as a diseased eye treated with medicinal ointment will
gradually see more clearly, similarly a conscious living entity—
the seer—when purified by hearing and chanting about
my virtues, will gradually be able to see more clearly the underlying reality.”
Commenting on this verse the Thakura writes this knowledges manifests in the heart that has been purified by practices such as nama-sankîrtana. Thus it is nama sankirtana, the sadhana Sri Caitanyadeva’s gave tot he world, that leads to the purified condition of the heart in which realization of one’s prospect in lila-seva manifests. The stage of sadhana bhakti that corresponds with such a purified heart is ruci, characterized marginally by the absence of material desire, na dhanam, na janam, na sundarim, . . . and principally by desire only for bhakti, bhavatad bhakti ahauituki. This is the stage of sadhana in which the submission that characterizes one’s disposition in sadhana bhakti begins to move substantially and meaningfully in the direction of the longing that characterizes bhava-bhakti. Remembering the phrase of BSST “First deserve, then desire,” in this ruci we find spiritual desire well deserved.
Develops naturally into rupa, guna, and lila?? That makes it seem like kirtan need be the only anga of bhakti. And how is one to even know what the rupa, guna and lila of the Lord are if one has not heard of these things? And having once heard them can one not remember them sometimes while taking the name? What is the point of lila shastras.. Is Krishna Book simply a quaint diversion till one gets the lila internally by prolific chanting? No doubt chanting is the prime anga for the age, but taking it to be the only relevant one is extreme, even in the conservative line of BSST.
It seems obvious that one can get some desire for a particular bhava even in the lower stages of bhakti. And one can read so many wonderful pastimes while continuing to chant the holy names. It all goes together wonderfully. No need to force the issue one way or the other, towards exclusive lila smaranam or exclusive chanting. The middle way seems to be the natural way to let it all unfold.
“Kirtana prabhave samarana svabhave.” This is the statement of BSST—kirtanam fosters smaranam. Sri Jiva Goswami says the same. And the point is that samranam requires a pure heart. Not everyone is eligible for smaranam. Kirtana is the best means for cleansing the heart and granting eligibility. Just a meditation in jnana marg is prefaced by niskam karma to purifiy the heart, similarly kirtana prepares the heart for lila samaranam in the bhakti marg, and of course unlike niskama karma it continues thereafter as well.
You conflate smaranam/meditation with sravanam and simple remembrance of what one has heard. Of course one should hear about Krsna lila. It is only from such hearing that one can develop an interest in participating in the lila. Yes, desire can come at anytime, but it will come first in a general way and that may be influenced by one’s material conditioning. Still it has some value. With more hearing it may become better focused as anarthas disappear and practice becomes steady and the import of scripture is better understood. In ruci one will understand how it descends. Do you think it does not descend, that it comes from an impure heart? Or is it how Krsna would like to accept seva from you?
The desire to serve Krsna favorably (anukulya abhilasa), the desire to establish an affectionate relationship with Krsna (sauhrda-abhilasa), and the desire to attain a specific service to Krsna (prapty abhilasa) descend in ruci, when the theological Krsna becomes a real person and lila seva becomes a budding possibility. And at that time the person you thought you were determined by your material desires disappears. Die to live. Lila smaranam is for the siddha deha, and that body is grounded in these three desires that appear in ruci.
Furthermore you completely misunderstood the quote of mine you comment on. I wrote,
The whole quote is about smaranam and recommends nama samaranam as a starting point for samaranam. Within the nama is the rupa, guna, and lila. From one form of smaranam the others follow in a progression. And the rupa, guna, and lila that arise will be particular.
So what is Nama Smaranam exactly? Maybe I missed it when you explained it earlier.. Could you repeat it one more time? I’m thinking maybe mana japa….
Japa is nama samaranam. Do that and read and hear. Meditate if you can.
What Satyanarayan das said about this book?
You would have to ask him.
Here are my responses to Satya Narayana Babaji’s comments on my book, which was posted on his website…
From page p.177 of the book
“Some devotees may still insist that there is no need to learn or study these details because everything will be revealed internally simply by chanting the Holy Names. That would be true only if the chanting was done without offenses. The results speak for themselves. And, as if to answer such questions preemptively, Srila Bhaktivinoda invoked the namacarya, Srila Haridasa Thakura, to be the one who presented this knowledge and instructions at the direct request of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Could it possibly be any more clear or authoritative?
If all that was required for realizing these details was simply chanting, then Haridasa Thakura would have been the quintessential example to confirm that. Instead, Bhaktivinoda Thakura invoked Haridasa to convey these esoteric details directly to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
I find this troublesome and misrepresentative of what Thakura Bhaktivinode is teaching in HNC. The whole teaching is to chant w/o offense. The author is saying that no one can do that therefore they need these details and engagement in smaranam on these details to chant w/o offense. But how do these details help one chant w/o offense? Nowhere is it mentioned that details concerning one’s svarupa are required in order to come to the point of chanting without offense.
In fact Sri Jiva Goswami instructs us in his Bhakti-sandarbha 276, “A pure heart is required for smaranam and thus it is not as effective as kirtana.” One cannot effectively engage in smaranam without having first cleansed one’s heart through kirtana. Thus how is it possible that engaging in smaranam without a pure heart will help one to come to the point of chanting without offense? Bhaktisiddhanta tells a different story: kirtana prabhave smarana svbhave, “By the power of kirtana samranam will arise naturally.” Sri Jiva also instructs us “If one’s heart has become pure by surrender, sadhu-sanga, and hearing and singing the names, forms, attributes and pastimes of the Lord, one can engage in smaranam” (Bs 274).
Also the teaching is clear in Ragavartma-candrika: “Thus, according to the words of Uddhava, some receive instructions from the mouth of Sri Guru, some receive them through hearing from the mouth of an anuragi-bhakta who is conversant with the feelings to be followed, and in some, whose consciousness has become purified through sadhana, the knowledge manifests by itself” (1.9).
The best sadhana is nama sankirtanam. With the proper orientation, in time it will naturally give rise to lila smaranam.
Taken on its own, I can understand your points and concerns about my statements. However, I did not intend to convey the meaning you have derived from this section. This excerpt comes from chapter 5 of my book and that chapter must be understood as a complete package for the most comprehensive understanding of this entire subject. In that excerpt, I was specifically addressing those who say there is no need to hear or learn about these details at all, because they will all be revealed through chanting.
In addition, I was not promoting advanced siddha-deha asta-kaliya-lila-smaranam by my statements. There are sections that follow this excerpt where I go into more detail about the proper gradual process of lila-smaranam and the requisite qualifications for each stage. In the final section of chapter 5, I explain the five progressive stages of smaranam in detail, as part of Smarana-dasa.
I agree with Jiva Gosvami’s statement about a pure heart and I have presented the same conclusions in those later sections. I also agree with your statements about the proper time and adhikara for lila-smaranam, as those later sections confirm.
What I intended to convey was that when a person is qualified to hear about these details – sidhha-deha, ekadasa-bhavas, etc – although they are not qualified at that point to begin advanced lila-smaranam, they are most certainly qualified to ‘learn’ about these details and their proper application. That is why BVT included them as part of his dissertation on chanting the Holy Names. These details must be learned/heard first and then one’s progressively purified chanting will reveal the actual details, unique to each individual, according to their adhikara.
Such learning and understanding thus becomes a powerful impetus for a sincere sadhaka, and consequently one’s chanting, hearing and smarana, dharana becomes enriched and one becomes enlivened to make further progress to become genuinely qualified for those higher stages of revelation. I hope that makes things clearer.
Thanks for the clarification.
The concept of Rupanuga bhakti means that the Rupanuga is a follower in the line of Rupa Goswami. Dyanacandra Gosai is not in the Rupanuga lineage as he was the incarnation of a sakhi. Rupanugas follow Rupa Go swami who never espoused the siddha pranali process. That process is not within the Rupanuga lineage. Nowhere does Rupa Goswami espouse that process. If so then where?
First of all, there is no such thing as “Rupanuga-bhakti”. That term is not mentioned in any of the acaryas’ books. It is a concoction. As described by Rupa Gosvamin in BRS, there is vaidhi-bhakti and raganuga-bhakti, and within them both, there are their respective sadhana-bhakti.
I do not promote siddha-pranali in my book. I do explain several of its variations and implementations, some of which are clearly bogus. BVT received siddha-pranali from his diksa-guru, Bipin Bihari, and I present those details for everyone’s edification, including BVT’s siddha-pranali chart. BVT gives those same details in several of his main books and songs.
While siddha-pranali, as it is understood today, may not be part of Rupa Gosvami’s teachings, understanding the implementation of one’s siddha-deha is fully part of the process of raganuga-bhakti as presented by Rupa Gosvami in BRS (1.2.295) and confirmed by VCT and JG in their commentaries, as well as SG and BVT in their books. The siddha-deha is also mentioned in CC, 2.8.228 and 2.22.156-157. Those, and more details are in my book in chapter 5.
BVT elaborated on the siddha-deha by discussing its ekadasa-bhavas in full detail in Jaiva-dharma and Harinama-cintamani, and I quote extensively from those books to prove this (chapter 5).
Dhyanacandra Gosvami is absolutely directly in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the lineage is presented in Jaiva-dharma by BVT. The line is: Sri Caitanya, Svarupa Damodara, Vakresvara Pandit, Gopala Guru Gosvami, Dhyanacandra Gosvami. Here is an excerpt from my book (page 176):
We can thus understand the importance Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave to this subject [ie: siddha-deha and ekadasa bhavas], because he was establishing unequivocally that this knowledge comes directly from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the absolute highest authority, through Svarupa Damodara (Lalita sakhi), His most intimate associate, in both Gaura lila and krsna-lila. There can be no other conclusion.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also instructed Rupa Gosvami so, again, He was the direct source of all Sri Rupa’s knowledge regarding the processes of bhakti, including the siddha-deha. The same applies to Sanatana Gosvami. These facts are indisputable. They give us an important contextual understanding of the sources and chain of dissemination of this confidential knowledge.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura confirms this in several places in Jaiva-dharma:
“It is very good that you are going to Puri to take darsana of Sri Jagannathadeva. Sriman Mahaprabhu’s sitting place is in Kasi Misra’s house in Puri, and Sri Gopala Guru Gosvami, the disciple of Sri Vakresvara Pandita, is present there now in all his glory. Be sure to have his darsana and accept his instructions with devotion. Nowadays, it is only in that mahatma’s throat that the splendor of Sri Svarupa Gosvami’s teachings is fully manifest.” JD, Chapter 26, Page 594
…You (Gopala Guru Gosvami) are the pre-eminent holy master of the Nimananda sampradaya and you are reigning as jagad-guru on the seat of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s successor, Sri Svarupa Gosvami. We desire to hear rasa-tattva from your divine lips, so that our scholarship may become fruitful.” JD, Chapter 26, 597
The additional knowledge of the ekadasa-bhavas of the siddha-deha come from Dhyanacandra’s, Gaura Govindarcana-smarana-paddhati, which BVT refers to in JD, and from which he derives the details of the ekadasa-bhavas. Therefore, it is a valid text and part of the lineage of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and fully in sync with Rupa Gosvami’s teachings.
Certainly, prabhu you are correct that there is no “Rupanuga-bhakti” terminology in the Gaudiya canon. However, your hyphenated quote of my reference to Rupanuga bhakti is not precise since there is a real difference between your hyphenated version and my non- hyphenated version with lower case b in bhakti. Technical rift that makes a big difference to me.
But, we know well that Srila Prabhupada taught that acharyas in the line of Rupa Goswami are known as Rupanugas. That is an absolutely critical concept for the devotees in the lineage of Bhaktivinoda Thakur to know and understand. Lineages in the lines of Nitai and Gauranga all have their special nuances. Obviously, the lineage of Go pal Guru Goswami has it’s own special nuances. However, it seems obvious that Srila Saraswati Thakur represented the end of that tradition bleeding over into the lineage and according to Sridhar Maharaja he also prohibited his disciples from reading certain books of the Goswami’s like Ujjvala Nilamani and Govinda lilamritam. Sridhar Maharaja never went through either of those books because they are taboo in the Saraswata Gaudiya sampradaya in the line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Lineages are all unique. The Saraswata lineage of Srila Sarsawati Thakuer certainly has many nuances down to the present day gurus like Tripurari Swami who himself has advocated his own nuanced brand of KC in the Rupanuga sampradaya of bhakti-yoga.
Point being that I do not think that the so-called siddha-pranali process in the line of Gopal Guru Goswami is really anything that any acharya since the time of Bhaktivinoda Thakur has advocated. The Thakur got a formal diksha from VBG but he sent his son Bimala Prasad to GK Das babaji who certainly never gave any siddha pranali to him. To say Rupanuga bhaki is a concoction seems a bit critical. We know that Rupanugas practice bhakti-yoga. To say Rupanuga bhakti is certainly viable term.
I agree that we, as followers of Lord Caitanya, are considered Rupanugas. There is no disagreement there and I discuss that in my book. Still, the term Rupanuga Bhakti is not appropriate, whether hyphenated or not.
Furthermore, there is no prohibition by any of the acaryas, including AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, against reading Ujjvala-nilamani or Govinda-lilamrita. They are absolutely NOT taboo. That is utter nonsense.
If BSS and Srila BR Sridhara Swami forbade their disciples from reading those books, that instruction was specifically for them and not for everyone else in the lineage for all eternity. I do not accept that narrow interpretation. UN and GL are quoted extensively in CC by Krsnadasa Kaviraja and ACBS Srila Prabhupada. BVT has a summary study of UN in Jaiva-dharma.
The only prohibition against reading those books has to do with one’s qualifications, and they are given in UN itself. I presented those quotes in my book in chapter 5. As I also prove in my book, if one is genuinely qualified to begin raganuga-bhakti, and if one is desirous of entering madhurya-rasa, then one is qualified to read those books, and they are in fact, essential reading.
Gopala Guru Gosvami did not promote siddha-pranali, and neither do I. GGG and his disciple, Dhyanacandra Gosvami both presented the esoteric processes of raganuga-bhajan, which involves meditation on one’s siddha-deha, as defined by the ekadasa-bhavas. BVT absolutely supported and presented those same teachings in complete detail in JD and HNC. Rupa Gosvami also spoke about the siddha-deha and internal meditation, and it was confirmed by Jiva Gosvami, VCT and other acaryas, like Ramananda Raya, Krsnadasa Kaviraja, Sanatana Gosvami and Narottama Dasa Thakur. These are the facts.
BVT didn’t just get ‘formal diksa’ from Bipin Bihari, he received the details of his siddha-deha and ekadasa-bhavas from him, and BVT taught these details to his son, Lalita Prasada Thakur, to whom he also gave diksa.
What concrete proof do you have that BSS did not receive this knowledge from Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji? In my book in chapter 5, in the section on siddha-pranali, I quote a letter from BSS and an excerpt from the biography of Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, which both confirm conclusively that BSS taught these things as well.
Your understanding of these subjects is incomplete and not fully correct. Please read my book for the details and facts on these matters, if you are inclined. The link to my book is at the beginning of the original review.
The term Rupanuga was used by Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur at the end of his Jaiva dharma in his Phal sruti song.
rupanuga-abhimana pathe drdha haya
jaiva-dharma vimukhake dharma-hina kaya
Faithfully reading Jaiva-dharma will surely strengthen one’s abhimana as a rupanuga (follower of Sri Rupa Gosvami). One who is averse to reading Jaiva-dharma is certainly devoid of religious principles.
There are many songs of Srila Narottam Thakur where he presents himself as a follower of Rupa Goswami.
Of course Rupa Goswami would not write about Rupanuga in his own writtings.
I didn’t imply that being a “Rupanuga” was not acceptable. I talk about that in my book in chapter 5. I was specifically referring to the therm Rupanuga Bhakti.
Certainly, followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are Rupanugas, and I consider myself as such. Sorry I wasn’t more clear about that.
The term Rupanuga-bhakti does appear in this pranam mantra to Srila BSST.
shri-gaura-karuna-shakti-vigrahaya namo ‘stu te
(I offer my respectful obeisances unto you, who delivers devotional service which is enriched with conjugal love of Radha and Krishna, coming exactly in the line of revelation of Shrila Rupa Gosvami.)
Who wrote that prayer? It doesn’t appear that the phrase translates directly to – Rupanuga bhakti. Since this is obviously a recent prayer, that’s hardly validation from the previous Gaudiya acaryas.
Here is a good article on Raganuga-sadhana with appropriate emphasis on kirtana and a discussion on eligibility.
In response to the statements in the above linked article regarding SBSS not giving the details of siddha-deha and ekadasa-bhavas to any of his disciples, here is an excerpt from chapter 5 of my book, page 161:
Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami was a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and thus Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrother and friend. He also initiated Prabhupada into the sannyasa asrama. In Srila B.V. Narayana Maharaja’s biography of his guru, Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami, he recounts a discussion between his guru and another disciple regarding Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and siddha-pranali:
In those days Srila Gurudeva’s dear sevaka, Sripada Narayana Dasadhikari inquired from him privately, “Did your Gurudeva reveal the identity of the siddha-deha of any of his own disciples or not?”
Solemnly, [Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami] replied, “He has certainly done so. Srila Prabhupada (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati) has given the identity of the siddha-deha and siksa in bhajana-pranali to some of his qualified disciples; otherwise the Sri Rupanuga line would come to an end. He also mercifully gave this pranali to me.”
Sri Narayana Prabhu again asked, “Will you bestow your mercy and reveal the name of your siddha-deha?”
Srila Gurudeva replied, “Not just now; it will be disclosed at the appropriate time.”
Fromt he article:
I realize you are replying to this, but I personally do not accept the testimony from Pujyapada Kesava Mahraja’s biography as strong evidence. The strong evidence is the way Srila Saraswati Thakura consistently preached against this form of revelation and emphasized revelation through sadhana, as did Srila Prabhupada and Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja. Indeed, central to the break up of Gaudiya Matha was the contention of Ananta Vasudeva that there was no so called siddha pranali in Gaudiya Math. And no one from Gaudiya Matha protested that there was. Why? Because they understood the matter differently, and arguably more comprehensively, as pointed out in the article.
My sense of the history, however, does lead me to believe that some disciples of Saraswati Thakura were intimidated by the claims and preaching of Ananta Vasudea and Sundarananda Vidyavinode to the extent that they felt the need to make claims that siddha pranali was given in Gaudiya Matha, or in some cases leave Gaudiya Matha. In the case of Kesava Maharaja, who took sannyasa from Sridhara Maharaja, I believe he was in fact speaking about revelation in a broader sense as discussed in the article with reference to Ragavartma-candrika, while allowing the questioner to think of it otherwise in an effort to secure his faith. I am not sure who the questioner is (Sri Narayana Prabhu). Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja’s brahmacari name was Gaura Narayana. So the questioner may or may not be him, but in either case the revered Narayana Maharaja was preoccupied with this issue and at one point left Gaudiya Matha for bhajana life before Kesava Maharaja preached to him and brought him back. And I believe he is the author of the biography.
The statement “No strong evidence” was written with full knowledge of the biography you cite by a disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is a sannyais and had intimate association with Sripad Narayana Maharaja for several years.
Like I stated previously in this thread, I am not personally advocating the currently understood process of siddha-pranali in my book or otherwise.
What I have presented is that the full knowledge of these details and their related processes in the context of raganuga-sadhana-bhajana are very important for aspiring mature devotees to learn and understand, free from the misconceptions and distortions that taint them today.
I also agree that the ‘revelation’ of the details for each individual practitioner will unfold in the course of their sadhana/bhajana of chanting, hearing, remembering and so on.
At the start of that essay HH Dhanurdhara Swami writes:
Do you believe that is what is meant by the sloka he was interpreting? (BRS 1.2.295 and also CC Madhya 22.158)
Has that been taught in the past? It seems to be an extrapolation, especially since most people will find it very difficult, impractical, or impossible to emulate Rupa Goswami’s lifestyle as a necessary prerequisite for being a follower of Rupa Manjari in their raganuga sadhana.
I seem to remember another version of that is taught in ISKCON circles. I think it was HH Bhakti Caru Swami and Sivarama Swami (and maybe more) who teach that because Sri Chaitanya was Sri Radha Krishna combined, and because Sri Radha is a devotee of Krishna and resident of Vrindavan, therefore developing the mood of preaching or “sankirtan” is the same thing as the raganuga methodology taught by Sri Chaitanya (where the sadhaka is told to conform internally with the mood of a nitya-siddha parishad from Vraja lila.) They teach that what has been traditionally taught about those teachings on raganuga by Sri Chaitanya and the acharyas can be discarded, and instead we should meditate on developing the mood of the preaching manifestations of those parishads in Gaura lila, as the only necessary raganuga practice.
Yes, that is exactly what Rupa Goswami is saying. And this has been explained in the tika of VCT following the lead of JG. In the sadhaka deha one should follow the basic example of the Vrajavasis who have appeared in sadhaka dehas to teach us by their example. And as one becomes qualified to meditate, one should follow the Vrajavasis in one’s meditative body and support that meditation with hearing and chanting, etc. I have no comment on what Iskcon teaches.
I remember that from RVC from VCT, sorry for forgetting. It’s just that it seems nowadays that it’s an impractical teaching for most people (around the world) to need to follow the lifestyle of extreme renunciates as a prerequisite for raganuga sadhana, unlike the audience of VCT’s time where the social climate was vastly different than today. I would put forth that VCT was just putting forth an example of a serious and famous Vaishnava for what a sadhaka should aspire to do externally (serious devotion to sadhana), rather than as a necessary prerequisite for a template of a lifestyle (living in Vraj is another example).
Otherwise maybe we would have seen that same doctrine taught by Rupa Goswami himself, where he would give specific examples of people you need to emulate.
I brought up what has become standard ISKCON doctrine on this to showcase what can happen in today’s world if we extrapolate too much from the original teachings.
Yes, of course the spirit of the instruction is to follow the sadhana outlined by one’s guru for one’s sadhaka deha. Not to sleep under a different tree every night. And not to follow the gopis in one’s sadhaka deha by wearing a sari, not having a guru, etc. And the siddha rupa that one does follow the gopis in arises out of a fully engaged sadhaka deha that has lead to a pure enough heart to effectively meditate with.
The renunciation of the Gosvamis was not the key to their sadhana or what was most important for aspiring sadhakas to follow. In chapter 4 of my book I give quotes that put renunciation into its proper perspective.
Detachment from material attachments is a result of sadhana-bhakti – hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. Detachment and renunciation are not prerequisites for engaging in sadhana-bhakti – they are the fruits of sadhana and manifest naturally in due course of time.
Thus, what is to be followed is their absorption in sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, arcanam, etc. These processes, along with contributing to the mission of helping other living entities come to the path of bhakti are the key things to emulate.
Yes, renunciation is not the way. It is a byproduct of the way, whether it be vaidhi or raganuga bhakti. But it is an indicator of one’s progress—ceto darpana marjanam. Loving Krsna involves giving up that with is not favorable to loving him.
In the third stage of identity transformation – Smarana-dasa – we learn that there are five stages of remembering. Jiva Gosvami describes these five stages of remembering in Bhakti-sandarbha, and he also describes four progressive steps specific to contemplating Krsna, as stated by Tripurari Swami:
Just as we have discussed that hearing and singing generally proceed in a certain order – from the Lord’s names, to His forms, attributes and finally His pastimes – remembrance of the Lord should also be taken up in order, which facilitates each successive stage in the progression. Thus, after remembrance of the Lord’s name and form, one should remember His attributes, associates, service and pastimes.
There are five stages in the evolution of remembrance:
1) To think of the Lord in whatever manner and to whatever extent is known as smaranam, or remembrance.
2) To withdraw the mind from all external objects and fix it in a general way on the Lord is called dharana, or concentration.
3) To specifically contemplate the Lord’s name, form and other attributes is called dhyana, or meditation.
4) When remembrance proceeds without interruption like a continuous flow of nectar, it is called dhruvanusmrti, or constant remembrance.
5) When the object of one’s meditation alone is manifest, without awareness even of one’s own (physical) self, it is called samadhi, or trance. BS, Anuccheda 278
Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives his explanation of these five stages specifically in conjunction with meditating on one’s siddha-deha, in his notes on 15.93 in Harinama-cintamani:
Simple remembering is the stage where one recalls his spiritual identity and its eleven
aspects in relationship to one’s service in the circadian pastimes (asta-kaliya-lila) of the Divine Couple. At this point, there is still no constancy in one’s meditation, as one
sometimes remembers, and at other times is distracted.
As one progresses, one comes to the stage of self-reminding, dharana, in which one attempts to gain steadiness in remembering.
When one concentrates on all aspects of the object of meditation, that is called dhyana or meditation.
When one meditates at every moment, the state is called “constant recollection” or anusmrti.
When one’s meditation is perfect and uninterrupted, and one thinks only of Lord Krsna’s pastimes and nothing else, that state is called samadhi. HC, 15.93
The important thing to understand about this particular phase is that our remembrance will gradually become more competent and focused as we progress through these final stages, all as a natural consequence of the intensification of our sadhana and bhajana. In other words, these phases correspond directly to our growing intense desires and focus on Krsna in our meditations in our siddha-deha.
In Madhurya-kadambini, Visvanatha Cakravarti describes the evolving nature of smaranam, in conjunction with the progressive stages of bhakti:
At the stage of bhajana-kriya, meditation on the Lord is momentary, with a tinge of material topics.
At the stage of nistha meditation, there is a trace of other topics.
At the stage of ruci, other topics are absent and the meditation is long lasting.
At the stage of asakti, meditation becomes very deep.
During bhava, meditation is marked with the Lord.
At the stage of prema, in contrast to simply seeing the Lord, there is direct association with the Lord. MK, 8.12
That translation of Madhurya Kadambini isn’t that great, for example where it says: “During bhava, meditation is marked with the Lord.” What does that mean? The Sanskrit is bhAve dhyAna mAtram eva bhagavataH sphUrtiH, which translates like “In bhava, by nothing but contemplation the lord is visibly manifest.” The description of prema in that translation is better, premNi sphUrter vailakSaNyaM tad darzanaM ceti, “At prema, different from being visibly manifest, at that time is the arrival of meeting.” The implication meaning physically meeting since the lord has already visibly manifested and been associating with you since the stage of bhava.
Perhaps the translation is not perfect, but ‘marked’ means one can see Krsna and the pastimes. It’s not that confusing.
However, here BVT appears to be speaking about having received detailed knowledge of one’s svarupa from ones diksa or siksa guru at the stage of bhajana kriya, when one’s ability to meditate at all is limited at best, and not internally as a result of sadhana. The idea being that the knowledge has descended as a result of the guru’s deep meditation and has been mercifully shared verbally with the disciple. But more often the guru does not share this knowledge until later stages of bhakti have been arrived at, or the guru does not give it verbally at all but rather waits for this same knowledge to descend as a result of sadhana and then helps the disciple refine his or her bhajana.
Nowadays some gurus following the approach of Dhyancandra Goswami do not actually assign a svarupa derived from deep meditation, as is spoken about by the Goswami, but instead give a prototype of such detailed knowledge. And neither Dhynacandra Goswami’s teaching on this nor the semblance of it are mentioned in the Goswami granthas. Therein revelation through sadhana has been written about.
The siksastaka verses parallel the stages of progress in bhakti according to BVT, as well as the five stages of remembering:
1. ceto darpana – sraddha – smaranam
2. nama nama – sadhu-sanga – smaranam
3. trinad api – bhajana kriya – smaranam
4. na dhanam – anartha-nivritti – smaranam
5. ayi Nanda – nistha – dharanam
6. nayanam galad – ruci – dhyanam
7. yugayitam nimesena – asakti – anusmriti
8. aslisya va – bhava – samadhi
In Bhajana-rahasya, BVT indicates that one should learn about and accept one’s siddha-deha at the stage of nistha, not bhajan-kriya, and even then the meditation will still be in the beginning stages of dharanam. Effective meditation on one’s siddha-deha realistically begins at the stage of ruci.
BVT recommends a collaborative approach between the guru and disciple, rather than the guru simply giving these details derived from meditation. The guru examines the disciple’s natural and spontaneous inclinations and determines their eligibility accordingly. Then he assists the disciple in developing their ekadasa-bhavas according to those inclinations.
Although some of the details related in Dhyanacandra’s smarana-paddhati are not directly present in the Gosvami’s books, BVT certainly ascribes to them and he presented the details fully in Jaiva-dharma and Harinama-cintamani, so his acceptance and presentation are indicative of his position and their value/importance.
As one executes devotional practices according to the instructions of the siksastaka, the pastimes of Krsna gradually manifest within his heart. In the beginning, one should perform bhajana according to the first sloka of siksastaka for some days. By this practice one should then become mature as described in the second verse.
Gradually one should concentrate on bhajana according to the third and fourth slokas.
According to the fifth sloka (nistha) one should accept one’s spiritual body (siddha-deha). After accepting one’s siddha-deha one should begin bhajana under the shelter of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani and gradually make progress.
Bhajana performed according to the sixth sloka indicates almost all anarthas have disappeared and one, therefore, has the required adhikara (qualification) for attaining
siddha-deha. If one thinks of his siddha-deha without achieving the adhikara his intellect gets bewildered.
But what appears inconsistent in the Thakura’s writing is what you have cited from HNC. Therein he says that meditation on one’s siddha rupa begins not with dharana—corresponding it would seem with nishta—but rather with “simple remembering,” which is followed by the second stage of dharana. So he is speaking of anistha bhajana kriya. Again, it appears to be a section of his writing that is inconsistent with the greater balance of his writing on the subject. But it is not necessarily incorrect, as I pointed out in my previous post.
Otherwise you have connected the stages of bhakti with Siksastakam differently from BVT in his Bhajana-rahasya. The order in the editions I have is:
1. ceto darpana – sraddha/sadhu sanga
2. nama nama – anartha nivritti
3. trinad api – nistha
4. na dhanam – ruci
5. ayi Nanda – asakti
6. nayanam galad – bhava
7. yugayitam nimesena – prema in separation
8. aslisya va – prema in union
Note that the fifth sloka is not about nistha but asakti. So he takes a conservative position in Bhajana-rahasya with regard to lila smaranam from the vantage point of one’s budding siddha rupa.
Yes, your listing is the one given in Bhajana-rahasya. Although, I feel that my list also makes sense on its own.
I think the most important consideration in regard to one’s siddha-deha is that before any such considerations, one must first have an awakening of one’s desired relationship with Krsna. You cannot even begin to consider items like the ekadasa-bhavas until you are certain about your desires and inclinations for a specific relationship with Krsna in His lila. That awakening and clear understanding is a prerequisite more than anything. Raganuga-bhakti cannot begin without that, along with the requisite greed/lobha.
That realization may awaken or begin to awaken at any time, but until one attains nistha, no practical application of these processes can or should take place. So if one has this awakening with clarity at the stage of nistha, then one can begin Sravana-dasa – hearing about these details and processes, with the aim of understanding them clearly and properly in lieu of their eventual application at the appropriate time.
Thus, one will be naturally inclined to enter the beginning stages of such meditations as ruci begins to develop from nistha. There are no hard and fast rules in raganuga-bhakti, so these things will unfold according to one’s genuine qualifications and the direction of Krsna from within.
1.Bhaktivinoda’s sense of the progression is preferable. Yours does not make sense to me.
2.The desired relationship descends is a result of sadhu sanga. One gets it form those who have it.
3.Greed for it in the full sense of the term is characterized marginally by the absence of material greed, etc. Only to the extent that it arises can one incorporate the practices of raganuga sadhana.
4.The description of nistha in Madhurya Kadambini should be carefully studied.
5.Raganuga-bhakti is not without its rules. It is a practice not ruled by faith in the efficacy of bhakti to end samsara and award four-fold mukti. It is driven instead by taste to follow the rules of vaidhi bhakti such as hearing and chanting, taking shelter of the guru, etc. that are related to one’s desired mood (bhava-sambandhi); wearing tilak, tulasi kunti mala, and other such practices that are favorable to one’s desired mood (bhavanukula); worshiping sacred trees, serving cows, and other such practices that are not opposed to one’s desired mood (bhava-avirudha); and avoiding those practices such as living in Dvaraka that are opposed to one’s desired mood (bhava aviruddha) all in pursuit of ragatmika bhakti of Vraja.
1. Bhaktivinoda’s sense of the progression is preferable. Yours does not make sense to me.
I don’t disagree with his presentation. But it’s not that hard to understand what I’ve suggested.
ceto darpana – learning about bhakti and developing faith in the process of kirtan as the yuga-dharma – sraddha
nama nama – learning about the glories of the Holy Names in association of devotees – sadhu-sanga
Trinad api – the beginning of the process – chanting as the essence of sadhana-bhakti – bhajana-kriya.
na dhanam, na janam – freedom from the influence of material desires and aspirations – anartha-nivritti
ayi Nanda – fixed in the conception of your eternal connection with Krsna – nistha
nayanam alad – experiencing a taste for sadhana and bhajana – tears in the eyes, etc – ruci
yugayitam nimesena – experiencing a deep attachement to Krsna to the extent that one moment feels like 12 years – asakti
aslisya va – complete surrender to Krsna under all circumstances as exemplified by Radha – bhava
Separation and union are not parts of the path of sadhana-bhakti. They are aspects of perfection, and separation and union co-exist in a constant state of interplay. I’m just giving another angle of vision. I’m not disagreeing with BVT or trying to promote something new.
2. The desired relationship descends is a result of sadhu sanga. One gets it form those who have it.
Can you provide some references for that assertion? None of the acaryas’ books I studied state or imply that. One’s relationship is one’s svarupa and it is awakened by sadhana-bhakti, through the mercy of one’s guru and Krsna. Your guru doesn’t ‘give’ you your relationship based on what relationship he has. By the guru’s mercy, it is awakened in your heart as indicated by your growing spontaneous attraction towards a particular relationship. Jiva Gosvami says in BRS that it develops over many lifetimes of samskaras.
In Jaiva-dharma Gopala Guru Gosvami asks Vijaya Kumara and Vrajanatha what their inclinations are, and he simply confirms their spontaneous awakenings and gives the guidance accordingly. They didn’t have that awakening solely due to his association or him ‘giving’ it to them. The same principle is evident in Harinama-cintamoni.
3. Greed for it in the full sense of the term is characterized marginally by the absence of material greed, etc. Only to the extent that it arises can one incorporate the practices of raganuga sadhana.
4. The description of nistha in Madhurya Kadambini should be carefully studied.
I have done so. Most of that chapter from MK is included in my book in chapter 4.
5. Raganuga-bhakti is not without its rules. It is a practice not ruled by faith in the efficacy of bhakti to end samsara and award four-fold mukti. It is driven instead by taste to follow the rules of vaidhi bhakti such as hearing and chanting, taking shelter of the guru, etc. that are related to one’s desired mood (bhava-sambandhi); wearing tilak, tulasi kunti mala, and other such practices that are favorable to one’s desired mood (bhavanukula); worshiping sacred trees, serving cows, and other such practices that are not opposed to one’s desired mood (bhava-avirudha); and avoiding those practices such as living in Dvaraka that are opposed to one’s desired mood (bhava aviruddha) all in pursuit of ragatmika bhakti of Vraja.
I agree and have explained these same principles in chapter 3 of my book. However, I would say that it is not driven by “a taste to follow the rules of vaidhi-bhakti”, but rather the greed/desire/longing to be in one’s desired relationship with Krsna, and thus one has a taste for these angas of sadhana and bhajan because they nourish one’s desired mood. Just a small point of clarification. No disagreement in principle.
1. You miss very significant points in the siksastakam verses that warrant their being tied to the stages BVT has tied them to. I will give you one example. Na dhanam na janam, etc. speaks of the marginal characteristic of ruci bhakti, while its svarupa laksana is attachment to bhakti, bhavata bhaktir ahauituki tvayi. So by identifying it with anartha nivritti you miss that the verse is principally about. And the stages are not only about sadhana. They are about all nine stages from sraddha to prema. I have written an extensive commentary on Siksastakam. If you have the time and interest to read it, I am sure you will be benefitted by attaining an improved understanding of all that the verses speak about and exactly how they correspond with stages of bhakti. It is available in printed or kindle edition here: http://swamitripurari.com/shop/
The principle that one becomes like who one associates with is widely known. The basic principle is found in the Bhagavad Gita (2.62): “From association desires are born.” And nothing in a devotee’s association is more powerful, more influential than the sadhus he or she associates with.
Brs. 2.5.13 JG’s tika
Through association with various types of devotees, various types
of sädhana which are like watering the seed will be performed.
This will produce various bhävas in the practicing devotee.
Bss. 2.5.38 VCT’s tika
Among the various tastes such as sweet, sour and bitter, a particular
person has a particular liking because of previous impressions.
Because of impressions from past life of a particular rasa
such as däsya, in this life also, the person has that taste alone and
not others, by the mercy of a great devotee with a similar taste.
But the overriding point is that one’s svarupa is a bhava deha, and bhava is something that descends. It is the ingress of the svarupa sakti in a specific form of haldhini and samvit—suddha sattva visesatma. Thus it constitutes a particular kind of knowing (samvit) such as “I am a gopi,” and a corresponding variety of ecstasy (hladhini), in the case of gopi bhava up to mahabhava.
And bhakti proper is bhava—the essence of the svarupa-sakti. It is not part of the jiva’s constitution. It descends by the mercy of Bhagavan or his devotee. Svarupa-sakti is not inherent in the jiva-sakti. Thatis not taught in any sastra. Nitya siddha prema is found in the ragatmikas. See Brs. 1.2.2 and 1.3.1 tikas of VCT and JG. It comes to us through guru parampara.
The jiva is constituted of sat cit ananda and thus is has the inherent capacity to love, unlike the maya-sakti. If it is graced by the svarupa sakti, it can love Krsna. Bhakti is a gift, not a right. If Krsna sends a jiva to a vaidhi marg samparaya, it has the opportunity to attain aisvarya mayi ragatmika prema. If he sends a jiva to our raga marg sampradaya, it has the opportunity to attain madhurya mayi ragatmika prema. Apparent exceptions are due to previous lives of association as explained above by VCT.
So as I have said earlier, one’s desire is a result of an overture, an invite of a particular nature.
And you refer to “samskaras.” That is the point. One’s bhava is a a result of samskaras derived from sadhu sanga.
From what I have learned, sadhu-sanga, while commonly the external cause, is not necessarily the only causal factor (RVC 1.9), for some they will only need the mercy of the lord to awaken them. As to whether the svarupa of a jiva is inherent or not, the answer is yes and no. No, because the jiva is inherently ignorant, and therefore everything, all knowledge and spiritual evolution, is given to the jiva; and yes because Krishna has a plan for every jiva. Maharaja has also stated this in the past:
Would Krishna leave such an important decision out of his plan for us? Krishna states he knows our past, present and future (BG 7.26 and CC Adi 2.44-46).
There are no independent players in our lives causing this or that to occur independent from the plan and control of the lord (BhP 11.13 24 and BG 15.15 and BG 4.11 ).
Krsna sends us to our guru and our guru gives us bhakti. My bhakti came to me from my guru. Bhakti is the essence of the svarupa sakti. My svarupa is constituted of svarupa sakti. All the quotes of the Bhaktivinoda parivara that may appear to contradict this don’t.
My point is that one who has a taste for attaining ragatmika bhakti has a taste for following the method by which that is attainable. Same difference really.
“When the material life of a wandering soul has ceased, O
Acyuta, he may attain the association of Your devotees.
And when he associates with them, there awakens in him
devotion unto You, who are the goal of the devotees and
the Lord of all causes and their effects.” SB 10.51.53
JG tika “This verse shows how devotee association acts as the seed of rati.”
Again, what kind of samskaras? Bhakti samsakaras resulting from sadhu sanga. One’s svarupa is not in any way a product of material samskaras. And samskaras do not come from within. They influence one’s inside from outside. Bhakti does not merely cleanse the heart so that something that is within the jiva comes out that otherwise could not. If that were the case, then other methods of cleansing the heart such as niskama karma yoga would also reveal one’s inherent svarupa. But they don’t. The reveal only the svarupa or nature of the jiva as an atomic unit of sat cit ananda. Unlike other cleansing methods, bhakti cleanses the heart by way of putting something in the heart that was not there. That something is bhakti itself. Then as a result of bhakti samskaras resulting from sadhu sanga, one finds oneself desiring to serve Krsna in a manner that corresponds with one’s association/samskaras.
The idea that the jiva is “nitya krsna dasa” speaks only of the fact that as well as bing sat cit ananda anu, it is also a dependent entity and in this sense serves in all circumstances knowingly or unknowingly. Such an understanding is an element of sambandha jnana, or part of the knowledge inherent in bhakti, attaining which one is better suited to engage in bhakti.
But I realize that this subject has been written about in our parivara in a manner that can lead one to think the siddha rupa that constitutes the bhakti svarupa of the blessed jiva lies within the jiva itself. However, careful study of the core text and also of the written works of our own parivara reveal that this is not the case.
Regarding the manifestation of one’s desired relationship, I still don’t agree that it is predominantly due to one’s association in the way you have presented. Here are some quotes from BVT’s JD, from chapter 5 of my book, along with other quotes:
Discovering your rasa is in actuality the awakening of your eternal inherent nature (svabhava), which has been dormant since time immemorial, having had no viable opportunity to manifest itself. Bhaktivinoda Thakura discusses this in Jaiva-dharma:
Vrajanatha: Which type of raganuga-bhakti do we have the adhikara (qualification) to adopt?
Babaji: My son, you should scrutinize your own svabhava (the true nature of a thing which forms an essential part of its composition), and then you will see the corresponding type of devotion for which you are qualified. A particular ruci (taste) will awaken according to your inherent svabhava, and you should pursue the rasa that is indicated by that ruci. In order to cultivate that rasa, you should follow one of Krsna’s eternal associates who is perfect in it.
To determine rasa, it is only necessary to examine your own ruci. If your ruci is towards the path of raga, then you should act according to that ruci; and as long as an inclination has not awakened for the path of raga, you should simply execute the principles of vaidhi-bhakti with firm faith.
Vijaya: Prabhu, I have been studying Srimad-bhagavatam for a long time, and I listen to krsna-lila whenever and wherever I find the opportunity. Whenever I deliberate on krsna-lila, a strong bhava arises within my heart to serve the Divine Couple as Lalita-devi does.
Babaji: You need not say any more. You are a manjari (young maidservant) of Lalita-devi.
…When Vrajanatha saw Vijaya Kumara’s spiritual wealth, he folded his hands and humbly said, “My master, whenever I meditate on Sri Krsna’s pastimes, a desire arises in my heart to serve Him by following in the footsteps of Subala.”
Babaji: Which service do you like?
Vrajanatha: When the calves wander far off to graze, I would very much like to bring them back in the company of Subala. When Krsna sits in a place to play upon His flute, I will take the permission of Subala to let the cows drink water, and then I will bring them to Bhai (Brother) Krsna. This is my heart’s desire.
Babaji: I give you the benediction that you will attain Krsna’s service as a follower of Subala. You are eligible to cultivate the sentiment of friendship (sakhya-rasa). JD, Chapter 21, Pages 514-515
Rupa Gosvami explains the qualification for raganuga-bhakti in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:
The qualification for raganuga-bhakti is as follows: That person who is greedy for attaining a bhava similar to that of the inhabitants of Vraja – who are fixed solely in ragatmika-bhakti – is qualified for raganuga-bhakti. BRS, 1.2.291
Visvanatha Cakravarti elaborates on this verse after quoting it in Raga-vartma-candrika:
If one thinks, “let such greed arise in me also”, after hearing about moods such as the transcendental conjugal mood toward Krsna of His associates, the gopis in Vraja, then one need not wait for suitable sanctions from the revealed scriptures or logical arguments. If such impetuses are there (i.e., suitable sanctions or logical arguments), then it cannot be justly called greed.
This greed never arises in anyone on such basis, nor does the candidate ever consider whether or not he is qualified for the path of raganuga-bhakti. Rather, simply after
hearing about the subject matter, or seeing it, that greed will arise in him.
Jiva Gosvami confirms and clarifies this same point further in his Bhakti-sandarbha:
For this reason we will now discuss raganuga-bhakti, the practice of devotion following in the wake of the moods of natural affection. When a person develops a taste for the aforesaid specific raga (i.e., for any of the four primary rasas), even though that raga itself has not arisen in her or him, the heart becomes like a crystal, shining as it reflects the rays of the moon of that raga.
By hearing about this raga from scripture or from one’s teacher, one develops a taste for the actions of the ragatmika associates also, that are expressions of this ragatmika-bhakti. Then by adhering to the raga of a particular associate of the Lord, according to one’s taste, one executes devotion, which is called raganuga. BS, Anuccheda 310
It is overwhelmingly clear from the above statements that one does not get the inclination for a particular relationship with Krsna directly from another devotee or his/her guru. One hears and learns the tattvas and siddhantas from them and is inspired by them and thus makes advancement on the path, but the guru or rasika sadhus do not impart their specific relational rasa into the hearts of their students or followers. That is not the process as described by our acaryas. They certainly bestow their mercy, but not in the form of their rasa. By their mercy we have our own unique awakening according to our unique svarupa/svabhava.
A jiva has a svarupa or svabhava – an eternal individual nature and core personal disposition. It is not one’s full blown eternal ‘identity’ in the conditioned state. In conditioned life that svarupa is not suitable for a relationship with Krsna. A guru will plant the seed of transcendental bhakti within one’s heart and thus the process of sadhana-bhakti begins, resulting in purification from conditioning and the subsequent awakening of the core personal nature, which is eternal and thus fixed.
In the association of qualified devotees, one hears the truth about Krsna and our eternal servitor relationship with Him, and more importantly, one hears about Krsna’s lila. It is the repeated exposure to His lila that forms the core samskaras, which, over many lifetimes, crystalizes into focused desires for participation in the lila based on our svabhava or inherent nature, and its natural tendencies.
The jiva, like Krsna, is filled with desires. Desires are eternally part of the jiva’s nature, and when contaminated, they result in material bodies and relationships, etc. When purified, that same energy of desire causes the direct extraction from material entanglement and they become the subsequent basis for our entrance into the lila. When such desires reach the level of greed, one has the core qualification for beginning raganuga-bhakti.
However, a prerequisite to this greed is the awakening of one’s desired relationship with Krsna in a specific rasa, eg: sakhya or madhurya, etc. But the awakening must reach a level of specific clarity, ie: which group of sakhas, or are you a manjari or priya-sakhi. Also, you have to choose a suitable Vraja associate who is an ideal model for the types of bhava and seva you desire. Greed has no context without this level of clarity and awakening.
If such greed arises along with these levels of awakening of your desired relationship, only then are you fully qualified to begin raganuga-bhakti in earnest. Before that it will be as described above by Jiva Gosvami, and as you always mention, ajata-ruci raganuga-bhakti. It doesn’t explictiy have to do with the stage of ruci, it has to do with the level of clarity of your desired relationship and the presence of lobha/greed. Ruci will automatically follow from that point. This is the consensus of all the acaryas and I have provided exhaustive support for this in my book.
One’s svarupa or svabhava is the core basis of your eternal nature – not exactly your identity in the lila – and that ‘nature’ and its corresponding collection of desires are what will direct your spontaneous and natural inclinations towards a particular type of relationship/rati with Krsna in the context of His lila. When you immerse yourself in hearing the lila – in the association of advanced devotees – your awakening attractions will incline you to a particular rasa and its sevas in the lila.
It doesn’t come directly from the sadhus based on their rasa. That’s not how it works and that’s not how the acaryas explain it. By the sadhu’s and/or guru’s mercy it is awakened according to YOUR svabhava/svarupa and natural tastes/inclinations – NOT according to THEIR rasa.
By raganuga-sadhana-bhakti you progress to the higher stages and finally attain bhava. As I explain in chapter 6 of my book, and as you have concurred, bhava then descends by Krsna’s mercy from His hladini and samvit saktis, and one becomes qualified for a direct relationship in one’s desired rasa, according to what was desired during sadhana and bhajana.
Thus, one attains svarupa-siddhi – the perfection of one’s eternal nature, along with one’s desired identity and bodily form, specifically in the context of the lila. From that transcendental position, one then develops one’s sthayi-bhava and the beginning stages of prema awaken, making one progressively qualified to experience rasa – prema-bhakti-rasa.
As I mentioned, I am familiar with writing of BVT on this subject. I disagree with your understanding of it. And you have cited some of it without bothering to answer the points I have raised. I also disagree with the translation of Bhakti-sandarbha you cite. But regardless, let me point out a couple of philosophical problems I have with your understanding.
You seem to be saying that each atomic jiva is differently composed or programmed such that when any jiva is touched by bhakti it eventually attains the destination/rasa it has been programmed for. Thus in your understanding the jiva is sat cit ananda and something else, and that something else makes each jiva different in a significant way.
I find no support in sastra for this notion. It is somewhat Madhvaish in that Madhava posits different types of souls, sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. But there is no such understanding posited in the core Gaudiya texts. The svabhava BVT writes about concerns a jiva that already has bhakti samskara, not a jiva without bhakti samskara. The jiva has a svabhava in relation to the modes, one in relation to itself, and one in relation to bhakti. Unto itself it is like a crystal. Place it next to a mode of nature and it develops a material identity. Place it next to a raga bhakta and it takes take on the color of that raga.
If your something extra-unique-composition of each jiva determines how each jiva will respond to bhakti, regardless of what kind bhakti they are influenced by they will attain the bhakti rasa they are programmed for. That means that their rasa is not a result of any particular influence but just bhakti in general. Which is exactly what you are saying. It does not matter then if I am influenced by raga bhakti, vaidhi bhakti, Rama bhakti, or Krsna bhakti. The bhakti I will get is determined not by any outside influence but rather by the very composition of my atma. Thus we don’t need Sri Caitanya to extend the opportunity for Vraja bhakti. We could just as well join the Ramanuja sampradaya, and as we engage in bhakti our Vraja svarupa will manifest. I disagree with this understanding.
Reading and chanting are not done in a vaccum. They are done under the influence of one’s gurus. The sadhu is the bearer of bhakti. The type of sadhus one associates with determines the kind of bhakti one attains. Apparent exceptions are a result of previous bhakti samskaras.
Everywhere it is taught that the kind of bhakti one practices determines the kind of bhakti one attains. Not something inside of the jiva. And the kind of bhakti one practices is the kind of bhkati the guru teaches one to practice. The guru plants the seed of bhakti in the heart of the disciple. It was not already there only to be watered. What is that seed? The desire to serve Krsna. Sri Jiva calls it the seed of one’s rati that is determined by one’s association. The desire to serve Krsna comes from one who desires to serve Krsna, and he or she has very particular desires to serve that are not somehow unconnected with all that he or she gives.
TS: “As I mentioned, I am familiar with writing of BVT on this subject. I disagree with your understanding of it.”
It’s not a cryptic passage. It’s very straight-forward and unambiguous. He says nothing at all about Vrajanatha or Vijaya Kumara being attracted to their respective relationships due to his association or the association of their diksa gurus. Why not, if it’s so important? That would be the place to make and emphasize that idea.
They had these inclinations from hearing the lila in the association of devotees. But the inclinations arose from the samskaras imparted by the lila and not specifically from the devotees. They both made that very clear by their direct statements. That’s why we are encouraged to immerse ourselves in hearing Krsna’s lila as written in the books of realized devotees.
TS: “And you have cited some of it without bothering to answer the points I have raised.”
My entire post addresses all of your points. And by the way, you don’t always respond directly to my points either. You selectively ignore some of them and then just make your own points.
TS: “I also disagree with the translation of Bhakti-sandarbha you cite.”
Are you saying the translation is not correct? The translator is a well known Sanskrit scholar trained by one of the top Sanskrit Vaisnava scholars in Vrindavana. Whose translation do you have and how does that one differ?
TS: “But regardless, let me point out a couple of philosophical problems I have with your understanding. You seem to be saying that each atomic jiva is differently composed or programmed such that when any jiva is touched by bhakti it eventually attains the destination/rasa it has been programmed for. Thus in your understanding the jiva is sat cit ananda and something else, and that something else makes each jiva different in a significant way.
I find no support in sastra for this notion. It is somewhat Madhvaish in that Madhava posits different types of souls, sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. But there is no such understanding posited in the core Gaudiya texts.”
That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying that the jiva’s svarupa or svabhava is their inherent core nature – not their full spiritual identity and eternal relationship with Krsna – but their unique defining characteristics and natures as individual eternal persons. It’s not something else – it’s an integral part of their eternal core being.
Each jiva is a unique individual – we are not identical blank-slate clones. Jivas possess many of the qualities of Krsna in minute quantity, including the capacity or potential for a relationship with Him. He stays with the jiva from the beginning as Paramatma, so there is clearly an eternal direct connection, notwithstanding the processes of bhakti to attain that.
TS: “The svabhava BVT writes about concerns a jiva that already has bhakti samskara, not a jiva without bhakti samskara. The jiva has a svabhava in relation to the modes, one in relation to itself, and one in relation to bhakti. Unto itself it is like a crystal. Place it next to a mode of nature and it develops a material identity. Place it next to a raga bhakta and it takes take on the color of that raga.
If your something extra-unique-composition of each jiva determines how each jiva will respond to bhakti, regardless of what kind bhakti they are influenced by they will attain the bhakti rasa they are programmed for. That means that their rasa is not a result of any particular influence but just bhakti in general. Which is exactly what you are saying. It does not matter then if I am influenced by raga bhakti, vaidhi bhakti, Rama bhakti, or Krsna bhakti. The bhakti I will get is determined not by any outside influence but rather by the very composition of my atma. Thus we don’t need Sri Caitanya to extend the opportunity for Vraja bhakti. We could just as well join the Ramanuja sampradaya, and as we engage in bhakti our Vraja svarupa will manifest. I disagree with this understanding.”
You’ve misunderstood what I’ve written and are thus misinterpreting my statements. Why didn’t BVT state, “You have received an inclination for a rasa from your guru, so just see what that is and you’re good to go.”? He indicated nothing of the sort. He said, “look at your own inclinations and tastes and follow your nature.” And they responded accordingly. They both mentioned reading the lila. Neither of them said anything about being influenced in that regard by their respective gurus and their specific relationships.
Rupa’s and Sanatana’s brother was a Rama bhakta and in spite of their exalted positions and continuous attempts to influence him towards Vraja bhakti, he did not want to change his rasa with Rama. He followed his natural inclinations. There is no mention of his being previously influenced by another Rama bhakta or his guru, if he even had one before.
TS: “Reading and chanting are not done in a vaccum. They are done under the influence of one’s gurus. The sadhu is the bearer of bhakti. The type of sadhus one associates with determines the kind of bhakti one attains. Apparent exceptions are a result of previous bhakti samskaras.”
The fact is that most devotees don’t even know the raga or rasa of their guru. Only a few of the devotees in ISKCON knew what Srila Prabhupada’s rasa was (he told them), so how could the rest possibly be influenced by that? He never spoke freely in that personal context, nor did he present bhakti overtly imbued with his particular inclinations. And by your reasoning, all of his disciples should be in sakhya-rasa, which is absurd. And because we know that BSST is a manjari, how is it that Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya-rasa if he got the seed of bhakti from BSST?
Not one single acarya says that you get your rasa or relationship from your guru. You still haven’t presented any significant substantiation from our acaryas to support your case, whereas I have. And your non-acceptance of my understanding of BVT’s statements quoted above, does not constitute a different or correct interpretation of what he has presented. My understading is directly in sync with what he stated. It’s not that complicated or cryptic.
The guru plants the seed of bhakti which is the common denominator of all types of rasas/ratis, but our rasa evolves as a result of our unique individual natures in conjunction with our exposure to the lila in association with devotees. But our attraction to the lila is not due specifically to the devotees we associate with – it is due to our own natures and inclinations to participate in the lila according to OUR natures – not others’ natures. All of the acaryas say this. This is precisely what BVT stated in my original quote. To interpret it any other way is completely unreasonable and illogical.
The Vraja bhakti presented by Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada opens us up to all possibilities and is not limited to Srila Prabhupada’s, or any other guru’s specific rasa. That’s what he taught us and that’s what all of the acaryas present in their books.
TS: “Everywhere it is taught that the kind of bhakti one practices determines the kind of bhakti one attains. Not something inside of the jiva. And the kind of bhakti one practices is the kind of bhkati the guru teaches one to practice. The guru plants the seed of bhakti in the heart of the disciple. It was not already there only to be watered. What is that seed? The desire to serve Krsna. Sri Jiva calls it the seed of one’s rati that is determined by one’s association. The desire to serve Krsna comes from one who desires to serve Krsna, and he or she has very particular desires to serve that are not somehow unconnected with all that he or she gives.”
Everywhere it is taught that one will attain a relationship in bhakti according to the natural tastes and inclinations in one’s heart due to one’s inherent nature as an individual person while practicing bhakti in the association of devotees. The seed of bhakti planted by the guru qualifies you to gain entrance into this transcendental process, and that bhakti, integrated with your unique personal nature is the combination that inclines you to a particular rasa/relationship in bhakti.
Our guru planted the seed of Vraja bhakti, which includes dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya. He then taught us the tattvas and siddhantas of that type of bhakti, as presented by Sri Caitanya and His acaryas. Our choice of rasa evolves according to our innate natures as unique individual spiritual persons who have our own unique desires, which are influenced by many factors, including association, but primarily by hearing the lila and chanting the Holy Names.
And once again, how many disciples understand their guru’s rasa and are directly influenced by that? The acaryas state that you should follow a Vraja associate of “YOUR own choice” according to YOUR tastes and inclinations. They never mention that you will follow your guru’s tastes specifically and that he will tell you which Vraja associate to follow. Srila Prabhupada presented all of the major rasas as possible choices, as did all of the acaryas.
What we imbibe from advanced association are inspiration and purification from the genuine mood of surrender and service and devotion in general, but the choice of rasa is individual according to our nature – svarupa/svabhava, which awakens by the power of sadhana-bhakti and mercy, and that inclines us towards particular bhavas and sevas in the lila.
We have two choices. On this subject we can either try to harmonize what BVT appears in certain sections of his writing to say on the surface with that which the Goswamis and the core texts say, or try to harmonize what the Goswamis and the core texts say with what BVT says. We do not find the Goswmais or the core texts speaking about a unique nature of each jiva, but rather only that each jiva is an individual unit of sat cit ananda. Although each jiva is accepted as an individual, “individual” simply denotes that one atman is autonomous from others. Nowhere in the Bhagavatam is there any indication that one atman is distinct from another due to possessing any other intrinsic qualities that might differentiate it from another atman. Nor is there any such indication in the Gita’s list of the characteristics of the jiva. The list of the jiva’s inherent qualities cited from the Puranas by Jiva Goswami in his Paramatma-sandarbha 45 says nothing more about the jiva. Here is the list of its qualities cited therein:
1.) it is ever pure self (atma nityanirmalah)
2) it maintains a sense of “I am” (ahamartha) (otherwise it would not be able to perceive itself as an atman)
3) it is singular or uniform (ekarupa-svarpa-bhak)
4) it is free of transformation (vikara-rahita)
5) it a part (ekasesa) of the Paramatman
6) it is self-luminous and not simply consciousness (but also conscious)
7) it is very small and different in each “field”
8) it has traits of sat, cit, and ananda
You state: “Each jiva is a unique individual – we are not identical blank-slate clones. Jivas possess many of the qualities of Krsna in minute quantity, including the capacity or potential for a relationship with Him.”
The baddha jiva does not inherently possess some 50 of the 64 qualities of Krsna. It can possess up to this many qualities by engaging in bhakti. The only sense in which the baddha jiva has the inherent potential to have a relationship with Krsna is in the manner in which it is different from matter. It is eternal, conscious, and loving.
Then with regard to bhakti we find that it is constituted of the essence of the svarupa sakti. When it descends into the jiva via the parmapara it eventually manifests in a particular combination of samvit and hladhini—suddha sattva visesatma. That is a certain kind of knowing and ecstasy. And that knowing and ecstasy is what constitutes one’s svarupa, its samvit and hladhini. And different paramparas distribute different types of bhakti.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave the gift of Vraja bhakti to everyone. Not only to some jivas who have an intrinsic nature that corresponds with his gift. You keep stressing that each jiva has a unique nature that informs its svarupa when touched by “general bhakti.” But who is giving your idea of “general bhakti.?” Everyone is giving the bhakti that they have, and it is specific. Mahaprabhu is giving a very specific type of bhakti to the world, not “general bhakti.”
And how can every jiva have an inherent predisposition toward a particular kind of bhakti and still take advantage of Mahaprabhu’s gift? Obviously from your explanation some are predisposed towards Vaikuntha, Rama bhakti, etc. So when they are touched by your idea of “general bhakti,” they will develop Rama bhakti etc., not Vraja-bhakti.
Clearly you interpretation is adding something to the simple equation that is philosophically problematic. You seem to do this on the basis of the idea that rasa is often described as a desire, which implies choice.. But we need an explanation of this so called choice that does not create other problems. Thus the choice is the choice to understand and embrace what one has been offered. That may be a little complex given that the jiva has been influenced by different sadhus over different lives.
So I choose to try to harmonize BVT with the teachings that his teaching follows in the wake of. Not the other way around because of the problems I have stated. If you can show me clear evidence from the core texts to support your contention that each jiva is an individual in the sense that you are thinking, I will consider it. But I have looked hard for it in the past to no avail. Other than that your introduction of the idea of “general bhakti” into the equation appears unsupportable as well.
I have already explained this. Exceptions are due to previous lives. But also in Prabbhupada’s case some feel his descended from Goloka. But otherwise it is a fact that the vast majority of the time we find that the disciple develops the same bhava as the guru.
The seed is the desire to serve Krsna that the guru causes by making Krsna available, the Krsna of his own heart. Rasa evolves by grace and the watering of the seed. This watering comes from the siksa of the guru and how he engages us in bhakti that constitutes bhakti samskaras. The seed of desire is the basis of the rasa that one develops.
The discussion at this point is about the nature of two tattvas: jiva tattva and bhakti tattva. I suggest that comments as to the nature of both as described in sastra would be the best way to proceed. Other than the sruti and smriti the works of the Goswamis, Cc, and Govinda-bhasya should be included, as these are the core text that all Gaudiyas accept.
I have cited this earlier but it may have been missed since no one commented on it. In the section of Brs where the subject of why one develops a taste for one rase and why someone elese develops a taste for another rasa (good place to look), VCT states,
“…Among the various tastes such as sweet, sour and bitter, a particular
person has a particular liking because of previous impressions.
Because of impressions from past life of a particular rasa
such as dasya, in this life also the person has that taste alone and
not others by the mercy of a great devotee with a similar taste.
This is the case of for the two types of däsya and the other three
So one’s taste for a particular rasa is stated to be a result of previous impressions (samskaras), not anything inherent in the atman. Furthermore these samsakaras are stated to be “impressions of a particular rasa.” And these impressions are the mercy of a great devotee who has a similar taste for rasa.
I think this is clear. But BVT takes a different position, or so it appears. I think it is possible to harmonize his position with VCT’s position partially because of how he deals with the issue differently in different places and in consideration of the larger body of siddhanta. For example, BVT’s description of qualities of the jiva when commenting about jiva tattva unto itself is the standard explanation. Similarly he gives a standard explanation of bhakti-tattva when speaking of it unto itself. In my reading of BVT there appears to be some lack of consistency in how he deals with the issue we are discussing, as there is with how he deals with the beginningless-ness of the jiva’s material conditioning. And the two issues are not unrelated.
But I find it difficult to harmonize in the opposite direction—to bring VCT in agreement with BVT on this particular issue. Thus my tendency is to go with VCT, who is in many ways as much one of my gurus as BVT is, and to try to understand BVT in light of his explanation. I also find that his explanation makes perfect sense. In the ideal of raga marg one follows one’s guru into the nitya lila—following one’s guru in all respects. He embodies one of the Vraja bhavas that the disciple comes in direct contact with, kintu prabhur ya priya eva tasya. And we meditate on his ananda‚ krsnanandaya dhimahi. Of course it gets complicated when one takes several lives and several initiating gurus and siksa gurus to attain perfection. Thus there appears to be exceptions to the general rule that one follows the bhava of one’s guru.
It is also noteworthy that in Brs. 2.5.38 cited above with the tika of VCT that the Thakura follows the opinion of JG. The verse explains that madhurya rasa is objectively the sweetest, but that nonetheless some devotees are attracted to other sentiments based on their individual proclivities. However, just what Sri Rupa means by “their own tendencies” is explained by the commentators: such tendencies are a result of samskaras from this or previous lives derived from sadhu sanga. Impressions of one bhava carried from previous lives produces the specific taste in the devotee, or it may come in the present life through sadhu sanga. Thus at some point in one’s progress one can ascertain one’s ideal through the kind of introspection BVT speaks about. But the individual proclivities and so on (one’s svabhava) that one is called to assess are derived from bhakti samskaras originating in sadhu sanga.
Uttamasloka, you wrote:
We begin as a tabula rasa (blank slate) but from there we go in the direction which we are guided to by Paramatma. When the acharyas state we are like sparks from a fire, rays from the sun; or statements speaking of our origin in Brahman, Mahavishnu, or “from a plain sheet of uniform consciousness,” all of those ideas are about the same thing—jivas are inherently made the same from an unconscious consciousness, with the same abilities—-because why would Krishna make us in any way but the best he can?
Our svarupa and svabhava is inherent, but we all share the same essential characteristics, which diverge as we evolve in different directions by Krishna’s will. It’s that evolution which makes us distinct from one another. The idea that our siddha-svarupa is present in a seed form in us should only be understood metaphorically. We are literally the same in every way, all identical sparks of consciousness, created with the fullest capacity that Krishna can bestow on us.
When Bhaktivinoda speaks of svabhava being inherent, it’s not meant that our attraction to a certain bhava and rasa is inherent from our literal conception. At our conception we are ignorant with nothing but potential to go in any direction Krishna desires. Our own desires are channeled in the direction Krishna desires, (“everyone follows my path in ALL respects,” “situated in everyone’s heart, I direct all living entities). Even when liberated we are not bound to a single bhava and rasa, if Krishna desires us to do something different there is no law to stop that. Krishna is independent, and our svarupa is dependent on Krishna (that’s why we see stories like Ramananda Raya being Arjuna and Lalita). The only truly eternal inherent svabhava is nitya krishna das.
The idea that a guru gives us our rasa is not meant literally. The guru in whatever form, is Krishna. By his arrangement we receive inspiration to develop a certain taste for a certain rasa. Whether that comes from a single sadhu, many sadhus, sastra, diksa or siksa gurus, or whether that comes from Paramatma, it’s all really coming from the same source. You have a destiny, it will come to fruition through whatever way Krishna sees fit. You cannot exclude his working through a guru just like you can’t exclude him working solely from within.
Elsewhere BVT says that sraddha is the nitya svabhava of the jiva and that it is acquired through sadhu sanga. That makes sense. Based on one’s acquired sraddha one develops ruci, etc.
Then again he also states that the svabhava of the jiva is eternal service to Krsna. Here he is talking about its nature in terms of the jiva being a dependent entity—jivera svarupa hoy nitya krsna dasa. This then is not an acquired nature. “The svabhava of an object is its nitya-dharma.” Here he is saying that the svabhava of the jiva is to serve. So based on the fact that the jiva is by constitution a subordinate entity, in connection with bhakti coming from sadhu sanga it naturally develops a taste for bhakti, etc. The Thakura writes that “The more strength this inherent nature (of being a serving entity) develops, the more competent he becomes to perceive spirit directly.” So the more the jiva acts in the consciousness that it is a servant of Krsna, the more this sense develops into ruci, etc. And the catalyst for this action called bhakti is sadhu sanga, and that includes hearing/reading.
The Thakura writes that the jiva’s inherent inclination towards God “is gradually strengthened and converted into bhakti when one engages in bhakti.” So this inherent nature refers only to the fact that the jiva is designed such that serving god is its natural position, in which it experiences all that it can be. But this svabhava does not determine how one will serve Krsna. Bhakti coming for sadhu sanga does by giving rise to taste corresponding with one’s association. And Krsna arranges that association.
So when the Thakura says “My son, you should scrutinize your own svabhava, and then
you will see the corresponding type of devotion for which you are qualified. A particular ruci will awaken according to your inherent svabhava, and you should pursue the rasa that is indicated by that ruci,” what svbhava is he talking about? He is talking about one’s developing nature as a servant of Krsna resulting from the influence of bhakti, which comes from sadhu sanga and Krsna. And one may associate with different sadhus and gurus over different lifetimes. As the dominant influence surfaces one can ascertain it by introspection.
Yes, we serve Krsna in the manner in which he desires to accept seva from us, not the other way around (Katha Up. 1.2.23). The general way in which this desire is made known is through sadhu sanga of a particular nature, because bhakti chooses to distribute herself through sadhu sanga. Our choice in the matter is limited, as it is will all things.
In the secition of Jaiva Dharma cited BVT is making a significant point. Krsnadasa Kaviraja writes in relation to Sri Rupa’s anarpita carim citrat . . . unattojjvala rasa . . . verse that Gaura came to give cari bhava of Vraja. This means that he came to give kamarupa and sambandharupa bhakti. And we see that within the sampradaya this has occurred in the form of the most excellent forms of kamarupa and sambandharupa: manjari-bhava and priyanarma-sakha bhava. BVT is making this point. He has two disciples of one guru. Each are learned and well practiced. Each finds within himself a particular affinity, one for priyanarma sakha bhava and the other for manjari bhava. These are the two forms of bhakti the sampradaya is distributing. We find few exceptions and most of them are within sakhya rasa, where we find some priya sakha sakhya rasa.
Now if we understand Prabhupada to be in sakhya rasa, can he give madhurya rasa? Prabhupada took birth in a sakhya rasa family and community and worshiped in this mode before meeting Saraswati Thakura. In Saraswati Thakura he found madhurya bhava and this informed his sakhya bhava—priyanarma sakhya bhava, which is a combination of madhurya and sakhya. And he faithfully taught the highest ideal of the sampradya, that of manjari bhava, in his gauravani pracarine. His disciples are touched by both sakhya and madhurya by connection with him and with the sampradaya overall. The special element of sakhya not found as commonly will capture some, while the madhurya will play its role on others in combination with the principle emphasis of the lineage on manjari bhava. And historically we see that after his departure prominent influences of madhurya bhava came into the lives of many of his disciples. Arguably this was his own arrangement.
I’m going to respond to your posts one by one, so this is the first one. I have quoted you so we can keep track of the discussion.
Everything in Krsna’s creation is unique and all of His energies are personal in nature. It’s inconceivable to think that jivas, who are eternally ‘persons’ with ‘personalities’, would not also be unique as individual persons, in spite of the common denominators you’ve listed, which are primarily the technical aspects of the jiva’s natures.
#2 is, “I am”, and #6 is “I am conscious”. If those are not signs of individual uniqueness then what are? What is the jiva conscious of if not their individuality? If the jivas don’t inherently and initially have a subset of Krsna’s personal qualities, then exactly what are the personal qualities they do have and where did they come from? It makes no sense to see it that way. They are not empty shells devoid of defining characteristics.
That this obvious truth may not have been explicity stated does not logically imply otherwise. It almost sounds like impersonalism to think otherwise. What is the value or purpose of being a person if you are not unique? Nothing in Krsna’s creation that is of a personal nature lacks the characteristic of being unique and individual.
The jivas have the inherent capacity for a unique relationship with Krsna. They don’t require additional personality components, only the seed of bhakti and the resultant bhava and prema that are awarded upon achieving success on the path. Those are the required spiritual components. The other personal aspects already exist and are eternally unique and fully capable for relational activites, otherwise, how do jivas function in this world as humans and demigods, etc?
Here’s a quote from Srila Prabhupada:
“This attachment of the devotee to a particular form of the Lord is due to “natural inclination”. Each and every living entity “is originally attached to a particular type of transcendental service because he is eternally the servitor of the Lord”. Lord Caitanya says that the living entity is eternally a servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. “Therefore, every living entity has a particular type of service relationship with the Lord, eternally”.
This particular attachment is invoked by practice of regulative devotional service to the Lord, and thus the devotee becomes attached to the eternal form of the Lord, exactly like one who is already eternally attached. This attachment for a particular form of the Lord is called svarupa-siddhi. The Lord sits on the lotus heart of the devotee in the eternal form the pure devotee desires, and thus the Lord does not part from the devotee, as confirmed in the previous verse. Bhag. 3:9:11 Purport
I disagree completely. Where is it stated that jivas only have these qualities due to bhakti? The purified versions of those qualities manifest due to bhakti, but they are already present. We are eternally PERSONS, which qualities we derive from being originally parts and parcels of Krsna, the supreme person. Otherwise, how can we have personal interactions in the material world? The material modes color our personalities, but they do not give us the qualities of personhood.
A jiva has a svarupa eternally, not just when bhakti is present. Svarupa means your eternal inherent nature. Srila Prabhupada confirmed that above, and so did BVT in the JD section I quoted. You have added the bhakti qualifier but they have not and nor have other acaryas. A jiva’s original svarupa is purified and elevated to the status of being qualified for a rasa with Krsna by bhakti and the eventual descent of hladini and samvit saktis, both of which act according to the individual desires and tastes that have manifested spontaneously in the jiva. And yes, association is an integral part of this, but it is not the direct and sole transference of another’s bhava as you assert.
Knowing each jiva’s eternal nature and disposition, Krsna arranges for each jiva to connect with the appropriate gurus and lineage to receive the type of bhakti that is appropriate for their progress and eventual success. He is personally making these arrangements as Paramatma. His devotees distribute His mercy by planting the seed of bhakti along with external guidance, but He makes the background arrangements according to His direct involvement with each jiva as Supersoul. Ye yatha mam prapadyante…
Why do you think He chooses to send jivas to specific bhakti lineages? Does it have anything at all to do with the jiva’s nature and inclinations and potential for a specific relationship? Sir Guru is the direct representative of Krsna and it is Krsna who sends the appropriate guru for each jiva and that is not a whimsical or random decision. It is arranged according to the potential relationship that Krsna knows is there.
Yes, Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed Vraja bhakti, but not all of those in His groups of followers went in that direction. Some were still attracted to other forms of Krsna but they were still considered part of His followers and thus received His mercy. All devotees are advised to read Srimad Bhagavatam which includes lilas of many of Krsnas avataras, for whom some, may be more attractive than Radha-Krsna. Why bother to read about them if we are going to end up with Radha-Krsna ultimately and eventually avoid them because they do not nourish our Vraja bhakti?
On the path of bhakti we first learn about sambandha – our eternal foundational relationship with Krsna, ie: I am an eternal servant of Krsna. There is nothing in sambandha that implies a specific relationship or rasa. It is the broadest concept of our fundamental relationship with Krsna without specificity. Why start there? Why didn’t Caitanya’s acaryas say, sambandha means you are in Vraja dasya, sakhya, vatsalya or madhurya?
Desire and choice are what individualism and free will is all about. These are the core characteristics of unique personhood that we derive from being parts of Krsna, who is the original fountainhead of all desires and choices. We CHOOSE to love Krsna and it is DESIRE/LOBHA which fuels our progress and remains in the purified perfected stage.
I have given an explanation of the jiva’s individual unique personhood above with solid logic. It seems very strange to me to even have to argue such a point when it is such an absolute and indisputable tattva. If the jivas aren’t individual unique persons then what exactly are they? Why is there an eternal PERSONAL relationship with Krsna as the Paramatma accompanying them since time immemorial? What personal aspects of Krsna’s energies are not unique and why would the jivas be different in that respect?
Perhaps the reason you’re having problems with BVT’s presentation is because of your particular interpretation of the previous acaryas’ statements which then results in having to harmonize BVT with them. I have not encountered such problematic discrepancies and in my book I found no need to harmonize any of the acaryas’ major statements with each other. I have had to harmonize some of Srila Prabhupada’s statements regarding raganuga-bhakti with the previous acaryas and I explained why in the Introduction of my book. But I found nothing problematic with BVT’s statements in that regard.
Yes, you disagree and find it inconceivable, but that is what the sastra says. I asked you to cite sastra to demonstrate that the jiva has more inherent in it than what I have cited. You have not done that. You have merely tried to make more out of the stated qualities than is stated because you can’t wrap your head around what is stated and say instead that is sounds like impersonalism. I am sorry but I completely disagree.
#2 is, “I am”, and #6 is “I am conscious”. If those are not signs of individual uniqueness then what are? What is the jiva conscious of if not their individuality? If the jivas don’t inherently and initially have a subset of Krsna’s personal qualities, then exactly what are the personal qualities they do have and where did they come from? It makes no sense to see it that way. They are not empty shells devoid of defining characteristics.
You really do not understand the nature of the jiva. As I said, jivas are individual in that they are autonomous from one another. I have already addressed this. Again, jivas has three svabahvas: “I American,” “I am,” and “I am a devotee of Krsna.” One is a conditioned sense of personality one is a liberated sense of personality. The one in-between is just “I am.” And that is itself is huge. I am an unit of experiential reality as opposed to matter. This is what sastra says and I have cited it. Because you have not cited sastra to prove the “I am” svabhava consitutes more than that, I am not interested in discussing it further.
Statements like these
Are meaningless speculation to me. I have already explained with scriptural support that the jiva has the inhernt potential to love Krsna. That is what its ananda says to us. Is is also consciousness, unlike matter. Brahaman is nirguna. Krsna onthe other hand has form, qualities, and lilas. Why does he have these? Because he has svarupa sakti. And the essence of the svarupa sakti is bhakti. Thus the jivas also need this to experience more than Brahmananda and Brahma jana. This is acintya bhedabheda, not advaitavad. Jivas function in this world through ahamkara.
The jiva has the capacity to experience up to 50 of Krsna’s qualities. Read the book. There is no statment that these qualities are inherent or dormant in the jiva. Really your understadning of jiva tattva from a scriptural point of view is disappointing. Your ideas to me sound like half baked Iskcon ideas of decades past.
Yes they do. That is what the false personhood/ego is. Almost everything you think you do is done by your brain. That is what the Gita says. The atma is a witness. But this is all basic Vedanta and your lack of acquaintance with it makes it hard to discuss it with you, what to speak of rasa.
No Uttama, one’s svarupa is a bhava deha. I is constituted of svarupa sakti. There is no svarupa sakti in the jiva. Bhava is a gift. You have a very confused idea about all of this.
But yes, Krsna sends us to our guru to give us the bhakti he wants to accept from us. Not because there is something special in our constitution differentiating us from another jiva.
Diksa is part of sambandha. In the mantra imparted our relationship with Krsna is found.
You words are indisputable but not for the reasons you think. One of us understands the sastra better than the other. With all due respect, I am not interested in continuing the discussion. I prefer to respect you as a devotee and leave it at that. Argument is not conducive to bhajana. Let others decide for themselves who makes more sense. Feel free to post this discussion on your own forum and add whatever else you want to say there. Let others there prove me wrong with infallible logic. I will not be participating.