Sanga: Sakhya or Madhurya

Q&A with Swami B. V. Tripurari

Q. While you believe that Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya-rasa, these words from his commentary on Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya 11.31) indicate to me that he must be in madhurya-rasa.

There are different types of devotees—those in the santa-rasa (neutrality), dasya-rasa (servitude), sakhya-rasa (friendship), vatsalya-rasa (parental affection), and madhurya-rasa (conjugal love). Although all the rasas are on the transcendental platform, madhurya-rasa is the supreme transcendental mellow. Consequently, it is concluded that the worship of devotees engaged in the Lord’s service in madhurya-rasa is the supreme spiritual activity. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his followers mainly worship Lord Krishna in madhurya-rasa… It is he only who distributed love of Krishna while exhibiting the superexcellence of loving Krishna in the conjugal rasa.

Any comments?

A. Madhurya-rasa and manjari-bhava, or Radha dasyam in particular, is the highest reach of Mahaprabhu’s divine dispensation. There is no question about this. Sri Rupa refers to it as tad bhavecchamayi kamanuga bhakti, or bhakti that follows the course of kama by way of attaching itself to the bhava of Radha, as opposed to sambhogecchamayi kamanuga bhakti, in which the devotee seeks a direct conjugal relationship with Krishna and ostensibly may be a competitor of Radha. Because no intimacy with Krishna is greater than that of Radha’s, if one seeks the greatest intimacy, one can experience it by way of attaching oneself to her bhava by becoming her handmaiden.

Within raganuga-bhakti, kamanuga (gopi-bhava) is distinguished from sambandhanuga (dasya, sakhya, and vatsalya) in that it is not based on any legitimate relationship (sambandha), such as servitude, friendship, or parental love. In other words, parakiya is illegitimate within the social fabric of the Vraja lila. However, because it gives the highest pleasure to Krishna, it is the highest form of dharma, samsiddhir hari tosanam—prema dharma in its fullest expression.

This is the Gaudiya conclusion (siddhanta) on this matter, so regardless of an acarya‘s personal sentiment, he or she will teach this siddhanta, especially when commenting on Caitanya-caritamrita where this subject is central. I also teach this despite my personal attraction to sakhya-rasa. Thus Srila Prabhupada also taught it despite his stated personal affinity for sakhya-rasa. Objective truth is one thing and personal subjective affinity is another. Sometimes we will speak about one and sometimes the other. If we look carefully at the statements of Srila Prabhupada, it is clear when he is speaking about the objective truth of gopi-bhava‘s position in the lila for the purpose of teaching the siddhanta and when he is speaking subjectively about his own personal affinity. Sri Rupa wrote about all the rasas equally in his book Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, but in Ujjvala-nilamani he wrote specifically about his own personal sentiment (madhurya).

Despite the objective superiority of gopi-bhava, the venerable Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami makes it clear that the best rasa is the one that is subjectively best for each devotee. The idea is that while we teach that gopi-bhava is the most intimate relationship with Krishna, the best relationship with Krishna is the one each devotee personally cherishes. Thus, in the final analysis, it can be said that one rasa is not higher than another, even when from a neutral perspective gopi-bhava is the highest.

Let us look for a moment at how a sakhya-rasa bhakta will experience mantra-mayi-upasana in relation to a description of the lilaMantra-mayi-upasana is mentioned in Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura’s commentary on Brahma-samhita. It consists of meditating on a still picture of the eternal movie of Krishna lila represented in one mantra or verse. In the following Bhagavatam verse, the gopis voice their love:

O friends, those eyes that see the beautiful faces of the sons of Maharaja Nanda are certainly fortunate. As these two sons enter the forest, surrounded by their friends, driving the cows before them, they hold their flutes to their mouths and glance lovingly on the residents of Vrindavana. For those who possess eyes, we think there is no greater object of vision.1

Here the gopis ostensibly glorify the love of the cowherds for Balarama and Krishna, describing the supreme object of vision as the sight of them entering the forest with their friends and cows. How much better is it, then, to be in that picture and enter the forest along with them as cowherds? This is the gopas‘ great fortune, and this wistful statement by the gopis indicates a certain jealousy toward Krishna’s friends, for whom there are no obstacles to spending the entire day with Krishna. This verse thus supports the cowherds’ subjective reality, in which they consider fraternal love to be most desirable. A sakhya-rasa bhakta will meditate on this verse and see it as confirmation that his love is the best. Even the gopis say so!

However, Balarama and Krishna together are not the object of love for the gopis headed by Radha. Thus it can be said that from the madhurya vantage point they mention Balarama in this verse only to veil their love for Krishna, which they cannot express as openly as the cowherds can express their love for Krishna. By mentioning Balarama and the cowherds along with Krishna, they dissimulate their conjugal paramour love for Krishna. Furthermore, if a practitioner’s heart follows the love of the gopis, this verse will speak to him accordingly and he will have no difficulty making Balarama fade into the background of the verse. As Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura has explained, those in gopi-bhava will hear the gopis in this verse speaking only of Krishna’s face adorned with flute and looking back at them: “Those who give up shyness to drink the nectar of that face playing the flute (Krishna), among the two sons of Nanda herding cows in the forest with their friends, have fortunate senses and not others.”

Q. There are some verses in Caitanya-caritamrta (2.8.201-6) that seem to indicate that only a devotee in madhurya-rasa can bestow this rasa on another. Does that mean that if Srila Prabhupada was in sakhya-rasa he could not give his disciples madhurya-rasa?

A. The verses you mentioned do not tell us that only a devotee in madhurya-rasa can bestow madhurya-rasa on another, as some claim. They merely say that in order to enter gopi-bhava one must follow in the footsteps of the gopis. This option is open to all of Prabhupada’s disciples. He has given them harinama, and nama is cintamani svarupa. He has also given them the Gopala mantra and “gopijana vallabhaya svaha” is available therein among other options. Does Srila Prabhupada not have the power to place one under the care of Sri Rupa at the appropriate stage if one so desires? Where does this idea come from?

It is speculative or worse to dismiss Srila Prabhupada’s own stated sentiment as if it were not his eternal affinity and then try to force him into the sentiment one may want him to be in (madhurya-rasa). It only makes matters worse to do so based on the misunderstanding that if Srila Prabhupada were in sakhya-rasa he would be incapable of delivering his disciples who desire gopi bhava to their desired destination. And there are examples of disciples attaining different bhavas from that of their gurus. Syamananda Pandit, of course, comes to mind. His eternal guru is in sakhya-rasa, whereas he is in madhurya-rasa.

In Srila Prabhupada’s case, as in the case of Syamananda’s guru, Hridaya Caitanya, there is considerable evidence that he had a preference for priya-narma sakhya bhava (see the booklet O My Friend!). Radha-sahasra-nama says that when Radha desires to taste sakhya-rasa, she manifests as Subala, the foremost priya-narma sakha. Note that priya-narma sakhya-rasa has also been labeled sakhi-bhava by Sri Rupa. That is to say that these friends of Krsna are intimately involved in the romantic affairs of Radha and Krsna.

Q. If your diksa guru Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya-rasa and your siksa guru B. R. Sridhara Maharaja is in madhurya-rasa, wouldn’t you be obliged to worship the guru who is in madhurya-rasa on a higher level?

A. You ask that if one has a diksa guru in sakhya-rasa and siksa guru in madhurya-rasa, will the madhurya-rasa guru be given more respect because madhurya-rasa is higher than sakhya-rasa? The answer is that both will be given equal respect. All considered the most important guru is the one who is helping us the most at a particular point in time. Therefore we should be careful not to allow mundane conceptions of lower and higher to enter our minds in such matters. My gurus love Krishna perfectly, although differently in terms of details, and my ideal is to do the same by their grace with details of my own, albeit following the general course of one of my gurus (sakhya or madhurya, for example). In Gokula the gopis are not considered higher than the gopas and given special deference. Narada may come there and give deference to the gopis‘ love, but this deference is derived from tatastha-vicara, or observing from an objective, neutral vantage point. In the Vraja lila this vantage point is not prevalent, but rather each devotee’s subjective vantage point prevails. And our ideal is to enter there.

Let me also mention that the priya-narma sakhya-rasa exceeds in excellence vatsalya-rasa and reaches the pitch of the sthayi of mahabhava. Within mahabhava it does not reach as far as the mahabhava of the handmaidens of Radha, but Visvanath Chakaravarti Thakura has written that they are almost the same in the intimacy of assisting Radha-Krishna.

  1. SB 10.21.7 []

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42 Responses to Sanga: Sakhya or Madhurya

  1. I read some nice statements by Srila Prabhupada about the relationship between madhurya and sakhya rasa. He writes in the Nectar of Devotion, “The friendly relationship of the cowherd boys with Krsna is a particular type of spiritual ecstasy almost similar to the ecstasy of conjugal love.” He also states, “Great expert devotees like Rupa Goswami express their astonishment at the inconceivable feelings which are in Krsna and His cowherd boyfriends.” I find it particularly appealing when Srila Prabhupada highlights sakhya-rasa in his comments.

    Although madhurya-rasa is distinguished from the other rasas because it is not based on any legitimate relationship as the article states, Rupa Goswami explains in Bhakti Rasamrta-sindhu a similarity. Fraternal love and conjugal love are the only relationships wherein Krsna and his devotees feel exactly the same way towards each other.

  2. Paternal (vatsalya) rasa seems like the one hardest to understand. Also, one could argue for describing a ‘reverse paternal’ rasa, where Krsna is the father. Many religions promote that sort of a relationship, which to me seems very different than dasya rasa. That rasa seems a lot more natural than vatsalya rasa as described in our tradition. It takes a lot of illusion to consider yourself Lord Krsna’s parent, and thus superior or ‘providing for Him’ in some way.

    • The reverse parental rasa you speak of occurs in Dvaraka, where Krsna had many sones. However, it is considered dasya rasa. The devotee son, that is, experiences dasya rasa. Otherwise, parents tend to love their children more than their children love them.

  3. I have a question about the list of rasas delineated by Sr Rupa. They go from santa and culminate in madhyurya rasa in which seems like a progression. If this is the case, then why is vatsalya rasa listed fourth in the progression of five? It seems that vatsalya is more compatible with dasya in the same way that conjugal and sankya are more compatible in the lila. It also seems that friends and lovers are more intimately involved in the lila as well.

    • Parental love is typically more intense than friendly love.One tens to be more attached to one’s children than to one’s friends. Family first and all . . .

      • Dandavats Maharaja;
        All glories to you & Srila Guru Maharaja.

        If, as you say, one tends to be more attracted to one’s children than to one’s friends (family first n’ all), then would it not be that Sri Krsna should gain more pleasure from the Jiva in the mood of a well behaved child (dasya-bhava)?
        Madhurya would still be a higher taste & manjari-bhava a higher gaol, but given your statement, should not Sri Bhagavan derive more sentimental enjoyment from dasya-lila than sankya-rasa?

        • The type of dasya bhava you mention (gaurava priti rati) is found in Dvaraka, where Krsna has sons. In Vraja he has no sons. In this particular Dvaraka bhava, Krsna is the object of love in a type of dasya bhava that includes aisvarya and the knowing that he is God (gaurava). Any bhava of Vraja is devoid of this aisvarya/gaurava and thus sweeter or more intimate.

        • Dandavats Pranams;
          Forgive my forwardness,
          & thank you for the edifying response.

          This article is rather old, thus I was hardly expecting a reply.
          All the more, I very much appreciate & respect your prompt insight and clarity in this matter.
          Radhe Radhe Radhe
          All glories to your service & Srila Gurudeva.
          Please excuse me of any errors or miscommunication, as I meant no offense.

  4. Although not yet admitted into that inner realm of confidential loving dealings, there is always a desire to have more of a taste of that eternal context. And these kinds of words provide tiny glimpses for me. Here and there I read the repeated message that it is only the liberated souls who can actually have an appreciation for these mellows of spiritual exchange. Still, we always want to hear more about it, as it seems to provide more of a “handle” in terms of what I am trying to develope an attachment for. Thank you for the dispensation.

  5. Again, it is interesting to reflect on the fact that it is one of the corner stones of our daily practice to pray to Srimati Tulasi devi,

    “I beg you to make me a follower of the cowherd damsels of Vraja. Please give me the priviledge of devotional service and make me your own maid-servant…… may I always swim in the love of Sri Sri Radha and Govinda.”

    So from square one, even for the most recent person joining us in our daily sadhana, even without understanding the context of the words, they are engaged in praying for elevation to madhurya rasa.

    I don’t introduce this as a point of contention – simply an observation, with a bit of wonder in the mix.

    This kind of prescribed sadhana has prompted me to think that madhurya rasa, in a most humble position, is in actuality our goal, as it is introduced by our eternal preceptor and guide. But this discussion causes me to hesitate in making such a conclusion, in spite of the prescription that we follow.

    Please comment on this.

    • This prayer to become a follower of the maidservants (sakhira anugata) does speak of madhurya rasa. However, the priyanarma sakhas experience sakya rasa mixed with madhurya rasa, and Rupa Goswami has referred to this type of sakhya rasa as “sakhi-bhava” in Bhaktirasamrta-sindhu. So it can also be construed to be an appeal for this kind of sakhya rasa, the madhurya aspect of it that involves taking shelter of a yuteshvarai or female lover of Krsna (Radha). The priyanarma sakha takes shelter of both a yuteshvari like Radha and a yuteshvara Like Subala-qsakha.

      • It’s interesting how when we consider generalizations we have the broad relationship categories of madhurya and sakhya rasas, lover and friends, yet when we get specific we are really speaking of assistants to the divine couple, not direct participants in the conjugal affairs as in the case of manjari-bhava and the priya-narma sakhas. Both of these relationships are a mixture of their particular relationship, friendship to Krsna or Radha mixed with elements of dasya and madhurya. This seems to be the pinnacle of aspiration in our lineage. The most secret knowledge, if you will. Then there is the general teaching of the siddhanta by the Goswamis and KDK that madhurya-rasa is the farthest reach. When I look at it this way, it seems that we are speaking of a very similar bhava experienced by either a male friend of Krsna or a female friend of Krsna. Is this a correct correlation?

        • The gopis love for Krsna is selfless samartha-rati is further denoted as rudha mahabhava, “full blown great ecstasy.” Only the gopis and Krsna’s intimate friends that assist him in his romantic affairs with the gopis taste this ecstasy. However, when this full-blown great ecstasy expands further, Sri Rupa refers to it as adhirudha mahabhava. It has two divisions, modana and madana. Both modana and madana imply amorous romantic pleasure. Modana mean “joy,” and madana means “joy” and “trembling,” indicating a type of intoxication in love. Adhirudha modana mahabhava appears only in Radha’s group, not all gopis, and adhirudha madan mahabhava appears only in Radha herself, and this at all times. It is the property of Radha alone, she and her handmaidens who are fully identified with her. Just as Krsna among all forms of Bhagavan is svayam Bhagavan, similarly among all forms of rati, adhirudha madana mahabhava is the zenith of spiritual love.

        • When I look at it this way, it seems that we are speaking of a very similar bhava experienced by either a male friend of Krsna or a female friend of Krsna. Is this a correct correlation?

          To clarify, I meant to say a male friend of Krsna and a female friend of Radha.

          Thank you for the detailed explanation and the education in the language of rasa.

          So basically the love of the gopis and that of the priya-narmas like Subal is the same, samartha-rati. Is this what is meant when you write that this particular type of sakhya has an element of madhurya? That is amazing! And then beyond that reach is what the Gaudiya’s consider the furthest reach of ecstasy, Radha’s prema? Her prema is also experienced vicariously by her manjaris who so closely identify with her.

        • Samartha-rati refers to madhurya-rasa. It is experienced in rudha mahabhava by some gopis and in adhirudha mahabhava by Radha and her handmaidens. The priyanarma sakhas among Krsna’s cowherd friends also experience up to rudha mahabhava, but not adhirudha mahabhava. They experience this in the context of their sakhya rasa that includes an element of madhurya within it. However, their love is sakhya rasa, even though it is sometimes referred to as sakhi-bhava. When it is referred to as sakhi-bhava, this is in reference to the madhurya element within their sakhya-rasa and how it plays out in the lila in the form of assisting Radha and Krsna in their romantic love. It is not referred to as samartha-rati. Some details . . .

  6. Samartha-rati refers to madhurya-rasa. It is experienced in rudha mahabhava by some gopis and in adhirudha mahabhava by Radha and her handmaidens. The priyanarma sakhas among Krsna’s cowherd friends also experience up to rudha mahabhava, but not adhirudha mahabhava. They experience this in the context of their sakhya rasa that includes an element of madhurya within it. However, their love is sakhya rasa, even though it is sometimes referred to as sakhi-bhava. When it is referred to as sakhi-bhava, this is in reference to the madhurya element within their sakhya-rasa and how it plays out in the lila in the form of assisting Radha and Krsna in their romantic love. It is not referred to as samartha-rati. Some details . . .

    Interesting. So even though the sakhas find the highest form of bliss in the rudha mahabhava, they are not trying to only focus on that aspect of their service. They still manifest all the other aspects of sakhya-rasa although objectively the highest ecstasy is to be had in connection to assisting the yugala-kishor. This seems to really underscore the fact that all the rasas are about service and not ecstasy-hunting.

  7. I found a nice quote in the Preyo-bhakti-rasa section of BRS describing the bhava of the priya-narma sakhas. I was intrigued by the line, “atyantika-rahasyesu yukta bhava-visesinah,translated as the piya-narmas possessing a very special bhava and who engage in the most confidential pastimes. I imagine the words “yukta bhava visesinah” indicates the mixing of sakhya with madhurya.

    Another verse in that section that highlights this is, “O’ Kesava! Your attractive clothing-the tilted turban, the play lotus in your hand, the golden tilaka on the forehead, and the dot of musk-are making me , courageous Subal, completely dizzy! How much more this will affect the naturally soft gopis.”

    • Sri Rupa explains that this special bhava is the desire to give Krsna pleasure by helping his girlfriends.

      He quotes, “O thin waisted woman! Subal is whispering information about Radha in Krsna’s ear. Ujjvala is handing Syama’s (the gopi, missing diacritics) love letter to the lotus hand of Krsna in a solitary place. Catura is offering betel nut given by Pali into Krsna’s mouth. Kokila is putting a garland sent by Tara over Krsna’s head. In this way the priya-narma-sakhas serve Krsna.”

    • I just wanted to make a correction here. My post is not clear. I have not cited the entirety of the verse where the line, “atyantika-rahasyesu yukta bhava-visesinah” is cited.

      In the BRS commentary to the above verse this quotation below is cited as an example of the priya-narmas seva and desire to give Krsna pleasure by assisting the gopis in their dear friend Krsna’s conjugal lilas.

      “O thin waisted woman! Subal is whispering information about Radha in Krsna’s ear. Ujjvala is handing Syama’s (the gopi, missing diacritics) love letter to the lotus hand of Krsna in a solitary place. Catura is offering betel nut given by Pali into Krsna’s mouth. Kokila is putting a garland sent by Tara over Krsna’s head. In this way the priya-narma-sakhas serve Krsna.”

      The verse I actually quoted, “O’ Kesava! Your attractive clothing-the tilted turban, the play lotus in your hand, the golden tilaka on the forehead, and the dot of musk-are making me , courageous Subal, completely dizzy! How much more this will affect the naturally soft gopis.” is cited in another section of BRS to demonstrate another point.

      Sorry for any confusion.

  8. I have raised this question before, but not received an answer. When I asked Srila Prabhupada, during a quiet moment in Mayapur dham, a question about “sidha deha” (the spiritual body that enables us to particpate in the lila of the spiritual realm), he very strongly came back with, “First understand that you are not this body!”

    Well, I do not yet have the direct perception that I am not this material body. And I took his advice as meaning that we should not try to enter into areas that we are not equipped to actually understand.

    Similarly, when some devotees in L.A. started a club that centered around discussion of subject matters like we are discussing in this thread, Srila Prabhupada put a stop to it as soon as he heard about it.

    I do have an interest in these topics, even if I can only appreciate the sociology intellectually. But why are we being encouraged to discuss these affaires today when previously it was so much discouraged? Perhaps Swami Tripurari can shed some light on this issue. Thanks.

    • Ishan das,

      This question has been addressed to some extent in Ashrama Maharaja’s book, O My Friend!. Have you read that. Look at the beginning paragraphs and at what I have written in the front matter of the book. Some acquaintance with rasa-tattva is important for advancing devotees eager to understand the path, while eligibility to cultivate bhava requires some taste and realization. Those who do not have this sufficiently should focus more on saranagati. Thus Prabhupada’s cautions are appropriate. Still, theoretical acquaintance can also be useful to the practitioner.

      • Thank you Prabhu for your guidance.

        I cannot help being interested in these architypical patterns of love for Krishna. I often feel that if I could have more exposure to the drama of these exchanges then it might help me to have more feelings of affection for Krishna, his loving devotees, and the emotions that they exchange.

        The tiny appreciation that I do have comes from brief sketches of scenarios that I glean from the literatures. If there was a novel that really brought these exchanges into focus, I am sure that I would devour it.

        Certainly the only lack is in me. But my feeling is that it is a kind of Catch 22. I.e., if I could envision more I would feel more, but until I feel more, I will not be able to envision more.

        “… eligibility to cultivate bhava requires some taste and realization. Those who do not have this sufficiently should focus more on saranagati….”.

        My feeling is that this focus on saranagati will be my asignment for many lifetimes to come. I am gradually making peace with this undrstanding; as opposed to lamenting that I am condemned to eternal exile.

      • Dear Tripurari Swami,

        “Have you read that. Look at the beginning paragraphs and at what I have written in the front matter of the book..”

        Well, I just took a look, and then, for the first time, I continued reading on….and seeing what other devotees from those days wrote and said…. and memories began to come back to me….memories that all at once seemed to make more sense – more sense because of what I was reading.

        We were on John Lennin’s estate, in England. It was in Ascott. 17 acres, filled with trees from all parts of the world. Tittenhurst Park. Some lord was forced to sell it for financial reasons.

        I was around Srila Prabhupada a lot at that time. Setting up his room, building a vyasasan, giving him massage. Accompanying him on his morning walk.

        There was one morning in particular that corresponds with those first paragraphs. It was England and of course everything was damp and cold in the mornings. And time for Srila Prabhupada’s walk. For a variety of reasons (which I should not go into here, because of space) I was very respectful of Srila Prabhupada, one could say awe-struck. So although accompanying him on his walk, I always tried to stay a little behind him.

        In spite of the cold, his mood was light. He had on this heavy black full-length coat, and warm hat, and large high rubber boots for walking through the wet grass. And as we pass by Lennin’s house there is this swimming pool filled with water. Around the pool is concrete wall, about 14 – 16 inches higher than the land around the pool, The wall is about a foot wide accross the top.

        We are just walking along, approaching one end of the wall, and all of a sudden, instead of walking beside it, when Srila Prabhupada comes to the end of the wall – he jumps up on the wall – with those large boots on – and begins to walk the length of the wall like he is marching – lke a kid who is playing. One foot in front of the other, marching. It is comical. And when he reaches the other end, without pausing, he playfully jumps down into the grass, and keeps going. I try to keep pace, keep close, and after a few steps, while still walking forward, Srila Prabhupada gestures back over his shoulder with his chin, and says with an expression that sounds a bit comtemptuous, “Doesn’t hold very much water!”
        Like he is comparing it to something much larger.

        Along comes this dog that belongs to a staff member, and he begins barking a Srila Prabhupada, and Srila Prabhupada begins to challenge the dog. He leans towards the dog and says, “Come on, come on!”. This really escites the dog and he begins running in circles around Srila Prabhupada, larger circles and faster. Srila Prabhupada is having fun.

        I ask Srila Prabhupada a question about the subject of the spiritual master, and he says, “I am nobody’s master. But I play this role. Otherwise no one will listen….”

        We pass a man brushing a donkey with a big brush, and Srila Prabhupada remarks to me on the side, “Either you serve Krishna, …. or you serve the donkey.”

        There are nuts, like acorns in the grass, and more than once, one of them goes into Srila Prabhupada’s high rubber boots. He stops and as I offer him my shoulder for balance, he rests on my shoulder as I pull off his boot and dump out the nut. “Why do they do that?” Srila Prabhupada asks me, as if the nuts had a mind to jump into his boots. “I don’t know, Srila Prabhupada.”

        “Are you always thinking of Krishna?” (It is 1968 and we don’t have many books yet, just an abridged Gita). “I don’t know very much about Krishna, Srila Prabhupad. I try to think about you.” “You can just think about me how I am always thinking of Krishna.”

        Then we enter some thickets. These bushes are about 8 -10 feet tall and about an inch, maybe 2 inches wide. And they are thick enough to make walking a challenge. Out comes Srila Prabhupada’s sword, his cane. I am a bit stunned…but Srila Prabhupada is fencing with these bushes with his cane, in a very deft and agile way. He is definitely playing. He is having fun. This man in his seventies, who can be so sober, so authoritative, is in the bushes, fencing with them with his cane. I cannot help but feel the fun of it all.

        The beat goes on and we finish the walk. This was a walk with the personality who spread Krishna consciousness all over the planet. And that morning, on his walk – he was simply playing, having fun.

        • amala gaura das

          Thank you for these sweet remembrances, they are incredible. It is not a side we see of His Divine Grace, but incredibly sweet.

      • “Some acquaintance with rasa-tattva is important for advancing devotees eager to understand the path, while eligibility to cultivate bhava requires some taste and realization. Those who do not have this sufficiently should focus more on saranagati. Thus Prabhupada’s cautions are appropriate.”

        Respected elder godbrother (elder, not by age, but by spiritual maturity):

        Now you are making my point! I am assuming (and I know that you may reprimand me for this), that 99%+ of all aspiring sadhakas, both in Iskcon, and in your own spiritual family, we are all of us 3rd class devotees who have not reached the stage of anartha nivritti. And therefore, for the predominant number of us, we should, as you are writing, “should focus more on saranagati.”

        And yet, in spite of the need of purification that must be there prior to considering “acquaintance with rasa-tattva …. for advancing devotees”, you are very much presenting, in your books and talks, a most intimate level of Krishna consciousness, a style that Srila Prabhupada very rarely implemented.

        At the same time, I find that I am delighted with your presentations. I am presently in the process of setting up an on-going contract with your most dear Gurunistha to receive your DVDs on a monthly basis. And when I listen to your lectures online on Caitanya-caritamrita, it causes me to want to dance on my kitchen floor. The subject and manner of presentation is so sweet. In fact, I don’t hear from anyone else (aside from our Srila Prabhupada). So I do very much appreciate what you are presenting.

        Still, as you say,

        “…to cultivate bhava requires some taste and realization. Those who do not have this sufficiently should focus more on saranagati….”

        And therefore I question your reasons for making this caliber of ambrosial information so readily available, nay, not available – but you seem to place it front stage, in this public site, such in “Entering the Flow” and in “Sanga: Sakhya or Madhurya”.

        I am not bent on challenging you. But these questions come to mind.

        • It is important to know the theory and in that context the goal as well as where one is on the path. In my experience, many devotees do not have a clear idea of the goal nor a clear understanding of where they are on the path. Prabdhupada taught these things but when a successive teacher sees that lessons have not been learned, he or she will opt to emphasize them anew. And times are different and much more information and Gaudiya theory is now available in the world than it was at the time of Prabhupada’s campaign. That is both a sign of the success of his campaign and as well one indicating the need for more theoretical acquaintance with the siddhanta.

          It is unfortunate that devotees can hear about such topics presented insightfully/tastefully with scriptural support, feel enlivened by them but then end up saying BUT . . . Once Prabhupada was asked about the evils of gopis bhava only to reply that “Gopis are not bad.”

          If you read O My Friend you will see that it is presenting what Prabhupda himself said about his sentiment along with supporting evidence (some weak and some strong) and then reasoning about the implications.

        • I really do appreciate the feed-back. Because sometimes I feel that there is not that much room for a conversation of this kind.

          My impression has been, not that “gopis are bad”, but that, people can be, bad, or crazy (which in a sense may be synonymous). Specifically, I am referring to Srila Prabhupada’s repeated reference to the Prakrita Sahajiya sects, wherein unlibereated persons are encouraged to imagine themselves as gopis, etc.

          In the first place, such persons can only be offensive to the subject matter, to Krishna. And also, they give the path a bad name. Also, they mislead seekers into dangerous territory. Overall nothing is gained, and such persons can pave their path to hell. So having seen this, it appears that Srila Prabhupada wanted very much to avert this possible catastrophe among his students. Not that “gopis are bad”, but rather that people can sometimes be somewhat crazy.

          So my thought (from my very neophyte position) is that these intimate teachings are good – for the very reasons that you are pointing out. I am extremely interested in what you are presenting. If I had the authorization to put forward a suggestion, then, it would be that along with such subject matters there would always be the repeated reminder that no one can enter into the spiritual experience of these affairs before becoming a liberated soul, beyond the influence of all mundane designations and dualities. And further that such information, descriptions, are provided to whet our appetite, and provide some conceptualization of the sociology of transcendence, so tht we generate some attraction for the subject matter and a long range sense of direction.

          Apparently Srila Bhaktivenod Thakkur had to do tremendous dredging work in Indian society because of the some 13 sects of pseudo vaishnavas of his time who had brought vaishnavism to be associated with degredation indulged in by lower class people. So the danger exists. And as long as the warnings are provided, along with the siddhanta and the lila, that might be the winning combination.

          I even understand (perhaps wrongly) that some of Srila Prabhupada’s students were being encouraged by one Narayan Maharaja that they could be “initiated’ into receiving their sidha deha (spiritual form) from him, and that these students were deluded into thinking this was taking place. Therefore the ever-present warning of “Not cheap! Not cheap!” should always be flashing.

        • Another thought. Leafing through Srila narottama dasa Thakura’s Sri Prema Bhakti-candrika, I have come accross a purport by Srila Prabhupada, which was inserted by the publisher, Isvara das. In this purort Srila Prabhupada states,

          “…All of these higher stages of devotional improvements will depend more or less on the merciful benediction of a superior devotee who is already hiself engaged in transcendental loving service.”

          So then I would feel that the presentation of these intimate subject matters of transcendental sociology in Krishna Loka or Vrindavan Dham could always be safely and respectfully presented along with the two caveats that:

          1) All of the progressive stages are acquired as benedictions, and not simply because one has intellectual comprehension.


          2) The real test for qualification for entering into that transcendtal arena will be the complete absence within oneself of any mundane conceptions of personal idntification, with a consequent freedom from all dualitic concerns of the material dimension.

          The second would not be different from the first, but actually a by-product as well as a prequalification for further developement.

          My personal feeling is that if these two aspects are aired, along with the encouragement to “enter the flow of the lila”, that will work to avert less intelligent tendancies for jumping ahead into contexts that one is not qulified to enter, other than in a mode of appreciative conceptualization saturated with reverence.

          Otherwise, I am so pleased that you are on this track of presentation, and I feel that I am one of your most enthusiastic customers, who is aspiring for a good place in line to receive the mercy that you are dispensing.

        • Meanwhile Agnideva and other math residents here at Saragrahi’s Ananda Ashram are sining Thakura Bhaktivinode’s Amara jivana . . .

  9. Now, I know what I have just written (oct 22, 7:47 pm), and that it surely points out that Srila Prabhupada had a very playful side to his character – in spite of his capacity to also be the gravest of authoritative persons.

    But this does not, as of yet, indicate that I am ready to jump on the band-wagon that proclaims that my spiritual master is a cowherd boy in Krishna’s nitya-lila. I am convinced that he must be a nitya-siddha, an eternal associate of God, a divinely empowered being who was Krishna’s chosen messenger for spreading Lord Caitanya’s teachings all over planet earth. Therefore, he must also have a fully developed spiritual form. But just who Srila Prabhupada is, in the inner spiritual realm, that I do not know.

    I have not read more than the first few pages of “Oh My Friend” yet, so I will have to do that.

    As far as the evidence supplied by the words of Govinda dasi in those first few pages goes – that simply sounds like her romantic conjectures. We like to refer to the trinity of guru, sadhu and shastra. And Govinda dasi is simply trusting her intuition. Jayatirtha, GBC member, trusted his intuition when he put LSD on Krishna’s altar and had sex with the wives of the devotees in his camp.

    I happen to have had some interaction with Govinda dasi. After Srila Prabhupada left us there was a lot of spiritual insanity in Iskcon. Looking for stability with good association, I was lead to Hansadutta’s camp near Hopland California, where I took over the financial department as book keeper. Although there were ample funds available, mortgage payments were 3 months behind and the note holder was about to implement foreclosure. A few months on the property enabled me to understand that the place was filled with all kinds of contraband, including some very costly horses that had been stolen from another farm. I wrote a few letters to Hansadutta who was quartered in Berkeley to advise him. He told me to mind my own business. I did not know at that point that he was behind all the nonsense. Hansadutta told his cohorts that I had a “little old lady” mentality, and didn’t really understand that “everything actually belongs to Krishna.” When the FBI decided to investigate the property, I left for Hawaii with my wife. But they found copies of my letters to Hansadutta and wanted to talk with me to understand what was going on. They tracked me to Hawaii, where I was staying at the house of – you guessed it – Govinda dasi.

    We have to understand the context of who some of these people were. They knew Srila Prabhupada at a time when Iskcon was just getting started. To them, he was “Swamiji”. Things were very informal. Regulations were sparce. Srila Prabhupada’s tendancy was to engage everyone in some kind of service, both to benefit them, and to forward his mission. As the movement developed and Srila Prabhupada tightened the reins, many of these people maintained their independent styles of life. There in Hawaii, about 1980, Govinda dasi lived near the beach, alone in a modest little house.

    In that house there was no regulated spiritual program. No mangal aratik. There was a picture of my old friend Baradraj who had been a major contributing artist for our books. It was a self-portrait. A self portrait of a man who was mentally and spiritually at his wits end. Govinda dasi (also an artist) was more impressed with his artisiti ability, then she was with the fact that he was a devotee who was on the verge of being asylum material. Like Hansadutta, Govinda dasi also believed that “we can do anything for Krishna”, and she arranged to have some illegal forged documents created for my wife (a Canadian) so that she could become a beneficiary of the local social welfare system. (I tore up the documents. I didn’t want anything we did to reflect negatively on Srila Prabhupada’s movement.)

    Somehow, the FBI found out that I was at Govinda’s house. They called by phone. Govinda got in touch with the GBC and let them know that the FBI wanted to question me about Hansadutta. Satvarupa (GBC) called me at Govinda’s and told me that the GBC had decided that I should not tell the FBI anything. As soon as I hung up, I called the local Hawaian police department and told them that I understood that the FBI was looking for me, and that they should contact them and guide them to Govinda’s house. The FBI put me up in the Hawaiian Hilton and then flew me to Oakland, California where we had a good meeting in the Oakland Hilton. They showed me all the photos of Hansadutta’s henchmen, telling what they could arrest each of them for. But, they said, they were more concerned about a tape they had recovered with Hansadutta speaking. The contents lead the FBI to feel that he might be about to stage a Jim Jones scenario. The FBI people told me they had read all of Srila Prabhupada’s books and could not find anything that supported the way these devotees were behaving. They gave me a nice letter of cooperation, which I still have on file.

    So this little sketch is provided here simply to give some indication of what some of these people, who intuited that Srila Prabhupada is a cowherd boy in Goloka, were actually like. Yes, Govinda loved Srila Prabhupada. Yes, she cared for him, she painted for him. And she never became a part of his movement when it developed, but maintained a separate life of seclusion, without the regulations and practices that Srila Prabhpada’s devotees followed on a daily basis in Iskcon temples.

    As I say, I have not read the book yet, “Oh My Friend”. Of course, now I intend to do so. But to base a conclusion that Srila Prabhupada is a cowherd boy on the kind of evidence that Govinda dasi is providing – her inutition? – I think that such a conclusion would be questionable.

    Is Srila Prabupada a cowherd boy? I don’t know. I’ll read the book and think about it. Is it really important for me to know this? I don’t know. Tripurari Maharaja seems to be saying it is important. If and when I become a mature enough devotee, will Srila Prabhupada reveal to me everything that I need to know in order to advance in Krishna’s service. I am sure this is the case.

      • Thank you for the prodding, the encouragement. I will do as you suggest. Obeisances.

        • Yes, Ishan, please do keep reading. As I have said repeatedly, the case is not made by one piece of evidence or another, but by the body of evidence. I don’t claim that the book proves anything, but that the preponderance of external evidence (and that’s all I deal with here) seems to strongly suggest that Srila Prabhupada identified himself as a friend of Krishna’s. Let’s talk after you have read the entire booklet. It’s not all that long; rather, as one Godbrother observed some time ago, it’s pithy.

        • Dear Ashrama Swami,

          My respectful obeisances, as well as my congratulations on your recent progressive step towards Krishna’s lotus feet.

          I am very moved by receiving your encouragement to enter into the context of this document that you have assembled in glorification of this great vaishnava who Lord Caitanya has chosen for spreading Krishna consciousness to all corners of the globe. Certainly the reading will be a shower of nectar, most interesting, most enlivening and eternally purifying.

          Yes, I will read through it with rapt attention, and then, with your permission, we can talk more.

          Thank you also for your strong example. I do not know if I can reach that station in this lifetime, but my heart does pine for the ability to graciously transcend the obstacles that I carry at present.

          Please pray once in a while for my advancement.

          Your servant,

          Ishan das

        • Hare Krishna! As I have just now informed “the lone ranger” (Swami Tripurari), I have read through the text in one sitting. Thank you so much for a lovely presentation. So readable and clear (even I could digest it). Actually I have to say that I feel quite convinced. I feel, also, a degree closer to Srila Prabhupada, because of reading your work. And so I have to thank you for this.

          One question came strongly to mind and stayed with me to the end. Perhaps you can shed some light on this.

          Concerning Srila Prabhupada’s poem,the impression I got was that Srila Prabhupada was remembering his friendly dealings with Krishna, and longed to return to the spiritual realm so that he could resume thatt relationship. Up to this point I had been under the impression that when a devotee is aware of his relationship with Krishna, he lives in both worlds simultaneously, and can participate in Krishna’s lila even while walking on planet earth. But here we see that our beloved teacher is remembering and wanting to return, as if being embodied in this dimension was an obsticle. Can you say anything about that, in terms of our siddhanta?

          It seems that persons like Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktivenod Thakur had periods in their lives wherein they were not inclined to embrace vaishnavism, had to be convinced. And then went into gear as preachers. Similarly Srila Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis were rubbing elbows with Muslim elites, even had Muslim names, and apparently were compromised by participating in Muslim culture by association, until coming in contact with Lord Caitanya.

          If this is true, then I am inclined to conclude that (as all of the above-mentioned are accepted as nity-siddhas, not sadhana siddhas) that nitya-siddhas can come to this realm for the purpose of preaching, and be placed in forgetfulness of their siddha deha nature, until the time comes for their real mission to begin. And so this temporary forgetfulness seems to be almost like a kind of lila that they are involved in.

          Can you say anything about this? Either yourself or Swami Tripurari? I have often wondered about this aspect of the lives of nitya-siddha preachers.

        • 1. Bhava-bhakti constitutes a longing to be established in one’s experience of lila seva. Bhava involves experience of one’s eternal seva but prema is the intensification of bhava.
          2. The associates of Mahaprabhu and even Mahaprabhu himself engage in a lila of being sadhakas. The land of Gaura-lila is sadhana siddha bhumi, the land where siddhas taste a lila of being sadhakas. By extension this would apply to any nitya siddha engaged in preaching.

      • Alright, I have read through the text in one sitting. I find it to be very well-presented, very moving, and highly convincing. Aside from logical consistancy,it has a wonderful ring of truth to it – it seems to blend well with our personal experience of Srila Prabhupada. I am inclined to embrace it. Thanks for the push.

  10. Swami BV Tripurari

    “Meanwhile Agnideva and other math residents here at Saragrahi’s Ananda Ashram are singing Thakura Bhaktivinode’s Amara jivana . . .”


    Yes, they are singing about me. Surely the Thakur had me in mind when composing this bhajan. And now the “fag-end” of life approaches….

    I know that your loving elbow in my ribs has my eternal welfare at heart.

    Arriving at Madhuvan Dec 11

  11. Sometimes people say that our religious conceptions are merely an earth-based cultural overlay. E.g., they will say that we dress Radha in sari and Krishna in dhoti because these customs come from earthly Indian culture.

    But in “Oh My Friend” we find that Srila Prabhupada wants to return to Krishna Loka in order to have laddus and kachoris. This leads us to understand then that Indian culture (at least in part) comes from the spiritual realm, and not that we conceive of the spiritual realm in terms of an arbitrary earthly culture. I thought that was interesting.

  12. Respected Swami Maharaja,

    Re: your succint statement:

    “The associates of Mahaprabhu and even Mahaprabhu himself engage in a lila of being sadhakas. The land of Gaura-lila is sadhana siddha bhumi, the land where siddhas taste a lila of being sadhakas. By extension this would apply to any nitya siddha engaged in preaching.”,

    may I conclude that there is acutally a period in the lives of nitya siddhas while they “taste a lila of being sadhakas” during which they are forgetful of their siddha deha identity?

    This would mean, by extension, that such eternally liberated souls are temporarily eternally conditioned.

    Do we have any indication, in the case of any of these great personalities (such as Srila Prabhupada) as to just when the “veil” was lifted and what that was like? Do such persons understand the nature of this lila, or do they think of themselves as conditioned souls who are making great spiritual progress? It is a challenge for me to integrate this information. For what purpose are these lila implemented? Or is such a question allowable?

  13. So when a nitya siddha pure devotee like Srila Bhaktivenoda Thakur writes a song like Aramra Jivan, does this mean he is actually feeling that this applies to himself?

    I was always assuming that he wrote such a song for preaching purposes, knowing that this is our situation in the material world, and he is showing the stages of surrender.

    Also, as I have read a biography of Bhaktivenoda Thakur, his whole life, even before “becoming” a bhakta seems to have been in the service of society. So it difficult to understand that he would see himself as he writes in that song.

    However, if he is feeling, when writing, that the song applies to himself, then does that mean that he is not yet in a stage wherein he has recollection of his nitya siddha indentity?

    I cannot help the flood of questions that come to mind.

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