Anatomy of a Swan: Swami Tripurari Through the Lens of Pranama-mantra and Purva-acarya

By Swāmī Bhakti Praṇaya Padmanābha, presented as an offering on the occasion of Srila Bhaktivedanta Tripurari Swami’s Vyasa-puja.

Swami Bhaktivedanta Tripurari, born in 1949 in New Jersey, is an initiated disciple of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, better known as Srila Prabhupada by his close followers. After receiving harinama, mantra-diksa, and sannyasa from his guru, Swami Tripurari eventually took further guidance from Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. Under Sridhara Maharaja’s inspiration, he founded his own spiritual society in 1985, presently known as Sri Caitanya Sangha, which currently has three asramas in the forests of California, North Carolina, and Costa Rica. Originally one of the main forces in the development of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or Iskcon (Srila Prabhupada’s institution), Swami Tripurari has been recognized, then and now, for his vigorous campaign of literary dissemination, both in the form of spiritual outreach and through his vibrant devotional discourses. In time, his literary involvement took the form of authorship, and his focus gravitated toward theology, a field to which Swami has contributed hundreds of articles, magazine publications, and, last but not least, more than ten scholarly books on Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta and its corollaries (see the appendix for a full list).

Swami Tripurari’s work has received remarkable recognition by distinguished academic journals and traditional Vedic scholars1 highlighting his refined conceptual clarity and deep understanding of spiritual subject matters along with his characteristic poetic narrative, his original presentation, and his undeniable intellectual integrity as a progressive practitioner. While one of the typical ways of delving into the identity and contribution of someone like Swami Tripurari is through studying his robust literary corpus, another is through considering his own purva-acaryas (predecessor teachers), who in Swami’s case are represented mainly in the personalities of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja, and Srila Prabhupada. At the same time, the traditional practice of pranama-mantra, or divine address to a particular spiritual teacher or personality, often functions as a depictive portal that encapsulates that personality’s inner landscape. Since Swami is, in his own words, “a result of the combined grace of those saints that make me,” I will try to establish a comprehensive connection among Swami Tripurari, his own purva-acaryas, and the following pranama-mantra, which is invoked daily by his students in an attempt to grasp their teacher’s contribution:

siddhantotpala-sara-nitya-rasikam hamsam vilasatmakam 
audaryakhya-sudhama-sevaka-dhanam visrambha-bhakti-pradam 
yacna-yukti-vicaksanam tv aghhabhido vaisista-saktyah sada 
vande ’ham tripurari-namaka-yatim sri-bhaktivedantinam

I worship Swami Sri Bhakti Vedanta Tripurari, that swanlike devotee who always playfully relishes the nectar of the lotus blossoms of conclusive knowledge. He is the treasure of the servants of Audarya dhama and the bestower of confidential devotion. Being specially empowered by Aghabhid, he is expert at the art of canvassing.

In the first line of Swami Tripurari’s pranama-mantra, he is envisioned as a sacred hamsa, a swanlike devotee who is perpetually (nitya) engaged in the act of relishing (rasikam) the essence of the lotus blossoms of definitive truth (siddhantotpala-sara) in a playful and charming way (vilasatmakam). This line presents a direct reference to Thakura Bhaktivinoda and his concept of saragrahi (essence seeker)versus bharavahi (baggage carrier).2 As the swan purportedly takes only the milk from a mixture of milk and water, similarly a saragrahi accepts only the active principle of reality, clearly distinguishing between principles and details, substance and form. As we advance in any comprehensive path, our goal acquires considerable specificity, and at the same time, everything is also viewed through a broader, more universal lens. Thus, a permanent challenge for any tradition will be to preserve its mysteries while not losing elasticity. In other words, aspirants to devotional mysticism should prevent themselves from two things: (a) dilettante sectarianism concerning esoteric minutiae (at the cost of losing sight of the universality of their Deity) and (b) excessive universalism to the point of assigning relativity to the Absolute or diluting its existence into energetic abstraction. Both Thakura Bhaktivinoda and his parivara posit a balanced set of dynamics to deal with this issue by vividly describing the swanlike spirit of relishing specific esoteric truth while sharing it with one and all. Like a swan drinking only milk from a mixture of milk and water, a saragrahi practitioner extracts essential teachings from specific spiritual understandings. Swami Tripurari tries to do this in his own presentation.

Here, to playfully inhabit the ocean of conclusive truths means not only to know such conclusions by heart but also to properly expose them in consideration of the quality of time, audience, and current psycho-social sensibilities. As Bhaktivinoda himself did through his bold avant-garde interface with modernity during the nineteenth century, Swami Tripurari embodies an emergent concern about how to present ancient wisdom in contemporary packaging. Thus he shows the world (including his own spiritual contemporaries) how Gaudiya Vaisnavism must be a school whose insights and hermeneutics remain relevant and worthy of examination by the developing postmodern mind. Swami Tripurari writes:

Of course, there are members of the scientific community who find God in nature as observed through modern science—those who find transcendent wonder in empirically observed order, complexity, and beauty, as well as in the randomness and ruthlessness of the natural world. And there is no reason that modern followers of the Bhagavata and Krishnadasa Kaviraja cannot embrace today’s observations of the natural world and draw from them the same inspiration to pursue inner spiritual life that devotees of ancient times did. Thus, if we look at the Bhagavata as an ongoing story of the life of Bhagavan and his sakti, as we should, new commentary can be written with regard to the natural world that takes into consideration present-day empirical observations. Such commentary would continue to posit contemplation of nature through a Bhagavata lens, resulting in the same outcome: descriptions of nature that provide a meditation on her that serves to illuminate the self and its source, providing both positive and negative impetus for a life in pursuit of prema.

Swami Tripurari, Sacred Preface (Darshan Press, 2016), 98.

In this connection we could further identify both Thakura Bhaktivinoda and Swami Tripurari as traditional perennialists, albeit theistic rather than monistic. While the idea of perennialism is derived from positing an underlying, unified spirituality that appears throughout time and history, it also lends itself to diverse interpretations. Speaking about it as a philosophy in the specific context of Hinduism, we may find concepts such as sanatana-dharma to be synonymous with perennialism. But both of these tend to be interpreted from a monistic perspective by their main proponents, Aldous Huxley probably being the most famous Western representative. Although there is indeed a place for monistic Advaita Vedanta in the perennialist worldview, both Thakura Bhaktivinoda and Swami Tripurari posit a very different prospect of its reach, one more closely connected to Robert Zaehner’s contribution. In a radical departure from today’s popular perennialism, Zaehner speaks about three main expressions of mysticism that spread across traditions and time: panenhenism (“all-in-one-ism”), pantheism (“all-is-God-ism,” represented in Upanisadic statements such as tat tvam asi), and theism (as conveyed in Christianity, Islam, and devotional Vedanta).3 In this way, by introducing a oneness-and-difference paradigm to the perennialist discussion, Zaehner has in effect carved out a niche in which Gaudiya Vedanta might find its modern-day perennialist representation, with Bhaktivinoda and Swami being two of its main contemporary incarnations.

Having traced the influence of Swami’s purva-acaryas (both Bhaktivinoda and Bhaktisiddhanta, the latter representing a natural extension of the former’s preoccupations) in the first line of his pranama-mantra, we find that its second line gives further balance to the whole equation, revealing a tender and colorful panorama. Here, the influence of Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja and his role in Swami Tripurari’s life is easily detected in the description of the latter as the wealth of Audarya dhama’s entourage (audaryakhya-sudhama-sevaka-dhanam) and someone expert in bestowing devotional confidence (visrambha-bhakti-pradam). This particular line is both cryptic and meaningful, with a nuanced horizon in mind: Sridhara Maharaja was a “man of grays,” one who very frequently answered questions with further inquiries, inviting his audience to think deeply about the subject matter in question. Similarly, Swami Tripurari is said to have inherited his spirit by dutifully continuing his campaign of relief work, preaching to the preachers and inviting serious sadhakas to become even more serious and progressive, all under the auspices of his affectionate guardian and siksa-guru, Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja.

The mystery and necessity of spiritual evolution is an ongoing affair that represents the law of life itself (since every aspect of reality, from the atomic to the ecstatic, moves forward in a constant way). And in this regard Swami is fond of identifying his own pursuit as an ego-effacing one instead of a mere philistine adherence to religious ideology; in other words, religion must devastate (one’s false values) before it consoles. In contrast to this, the scenario of non-progressive spiritual membership is accurately depicted by Bill Plotkin when he says that, “many of us learn to do our ‘survival dance,’ but we never get to our actual ‘sacred dance.’”4 Undoubtedly, Swami Tripurari will personally choose and encourage others to be part of the sacred dancing troupe.

The aforementioned concept of audarya-seva does not only refer to the generous dispensation coming from Sri Caitanya and his representative. In this case it also points to Swami Tripurari’s main monastery and writing retreat in the redwood forests of San Francisco, which is named Audarya. Thus, in this sense his presence could be taken as the wealth of the inhabitants of this abode. But since there is also a permanent and macrocosmic reading to every localized description, it could be said that his mood of sharing knowledge actually constitutes a treasure house of progressive insights in the line of Sri Caitanya’s audarya-lila. In other words (and again imbibing Sridhara Maharaja’s mood), Swami specializes in stressing the rare significance of Sri Caitanya’s gift of unnatojjvala-rasa5 as a unique manifestation of Sri Krishna and his Vrindavana pastimes:

It is by contemplating the implications of Krishna’s confession to Radha that Sri Caitanya is born. Arriving at such an extraordinary conclusion is the natural result of deeply penetrating insight into the nature of Krishna’s psychology. Gaura lila, although more commonly thought of as a bridge to Krishna lila, resides deep within Krishna lila. It is the logical extension of Krishna lila arising out of his most introspective moments. Gaura is Krishna in crisis. Sri Krishna Caitanya is the Krishna consciousness of Radha.

Swami Tripurari, Sacred Preface, 159.

If for Gaudiyas, Krishna represents the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or “God beyond God,” for someone like Swami, Sri Caitanya represents the Supreme Personality of Krishna—more than Krishna himself. In Abraham Maslow’s terms, Sri Caitanya embodies the self-actualization of the Absolute in its more refined presentation, in that moment beyond time when a unique theological necessity arises in the psychology of Bhagavan: he witnesses the all-attractive nature of his own sakti in the form of Sri Radha, sparking his desire to explore such an experience from her own vantage point. Krishna’s inquiry into the glory of Sri Radha perfectly fits within the theological perimeter of Vedanta, where God personifies not only the very epitome of eternal being but also that of eternal becoming.

The second line of Swami’s pranama-mantra concludes with the notion of visrambha-seva, a crucial concept for every member of the Gaudiya community. According to Srila Rupa Goswami, after taking shelter (diksa and siksa) from sri guru, one should become expert in establishing an affectionate and confident (visrambha) relationship of service (seva) with him or her.6 In this regard, Sridhara Maharaja is considered by many as the very epitome of such an affectionate parental and friendly figure, having inspired a revival of hope in many of his students and extended their own cosmovision by the forces of love, truth, and harmony. Faithful to such an inheritance, Swami Tripurari was originally blessed by Sridhara Maharaja to start his own spiritual organization serving in the capacity of guru, continuing in this way with the current of visrambha-seva. How Swami conceives of and approaches this function is clearly revealed in his own words:

We are accustomed to making material knowledge part of our agenda, but spiritual knowledge has an agenda of its own. This knowledge reveals its agenda and the fact that we are part of it when we approach this knowledge on its terms.

Swami also says:

Identification with a particular guru is the recognition of a specific direction valid for oneself in spiritual life. This identification involves glimpsing one’s own spiritual potential. The practitioner’s own heart free from the clutter of material desire appears before him in the form of sri guru.

Swami Tripurari, Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy, 159.

The third line of Swami Tripurari’s pranama-mantra speaks strongly about his multidimensional link with Srila Prabhupada by describing Swami as being “specially empowered by Aghabhid” (aghhabhido vaisista-saktyah) and thus “expert at the art of canvassing” (yacna-yukti-vicaksanam). On a more tangential level, Swami Tripurari’s canvassing was well-known during Prabhupada’s times, when he received the notable epithet “incarnation of book distribution” from a letter written by his own spiritual preceptor.7 After distributing thousands of holy scriptures over decades, Swami nowadays finds himself immersed in the natural fruit of such a campaign, a different type of canvassing—becoming an author himself and continuing with his homiletics from the vantage point of a contemplative. For the followers of Sri Caitanya, actual preaching necessarily implies the overflow of one’s own practice and realizations; it requires reaching out and touching others’ hearts—as seen in the example of Sri Caitanya himself. Thus, outreach is ideally allowed in the Gaudiya tradition only as much as it nurtures a preacher’s life of bhajana, which will in turn overflow and represent an actual substantial dissemination of the doctrine. And in the case of Swami’s own life of bhajana, he has been labeled here as someone specifically empowered by Aghabhid, another name for Krishna as the enemy of Agha, a demon in the form of an enormous serpent.8 This particular address has to do with the famous aghasura-lila found in the Bhagavata’s tenth canto, which acts as the prelude to the even more famous brahma-vimohana-lila. In the latter, Brahma himself becomes considerably bewildered by the loving interactions between Sri Krishna and his cowherd friends during a picnic lunch after Krishna kills Aghasura. This is arguably the most influential section of the text concerning sakhya-bhava, the state of relating to Krishna as a friend.9 This type of love is one for which Swami Tripurari has special sympathy, having been inspired and empowered in such a way by his guru, Srila Prabhupada. 

Needless to say, Srila Prabhupada was remarkably determined in the service of devotional propagation, and although most people identified him almost exclusively with his striking exploits in that field, he also had a vast inner life that was duly grasped, eventually explored, and fully imbibed by Swami Tripurari. According to Swami, his gurudeva was possessed by an affinity toward sakhya-bhava and, even more specifically, priyanarma-sakhya-bhava, the feeling of an intimate friend who is acquainted with Krishna’s romantic life. Such a friend is able to render service and give support in the context of such intimate dynamics. Now, this may sound foreign to those familiar with Gaudiya Vedanta since it is almost universally established that Sri Caitanya descended mainly to taste radha-bhava, extending his own experience in a “distilled panacea” known as manjari-bhava, which eventually became the main current in his sampradaya. While this is certainly the case, it is also true that Sri Nityananda, during his unrestrained and unconventional preaching of gaura-bhakti, also initiated his own current along with his Vraja associates, the dvadasa-gopalas. Being the first initiating gurus in the whole Gaudiya sampradaya, they originally created many prolific sakhya-bhava lineages, some of which extend even to the present day.

The idea of Srila Prabhupada being situated in something other than madhurya-bhava poses a unique theological challenge for those influenced by what we may call “ontological exceptionalism,” or, to be more explicit, variegated forms of rasism, prejudice, in the context of rasananda. While sakhya-rasa may appear to be a prospect ostracized from the reality of the Gaudiya sampradaya, it nonetheless remains a crucial element in the nitya-lila of Radha-Krishna, more so than any other rasa present there. As we already mentioned, the priyanarma-sakha’s role is an essential spice in the ongoing tryst of the Divine Couple, and failing to recognize this is no doubt an unfortunate omission. In this connection, Swami Tripurari is presently writing “Sakhya-mandala: Circle of Friends,” a book in which he deals with the topic of sakhya-bhava in utmost detail. He takes sakhya-bhava out of its obscure closet by extolling its dignity in the context of both its philosophy and feeling, while also writing about his own inner affinity. He is designing the text as a comprehensive guidebook for those who share a similar taste for this love in post-liberated fraternity. In the following excerpt from this upcoming publication, Swami describes the historicity of friendship in the context of bhakti-rasa as well as the factors that diminished its standing in modern times:

With the stagnation of the overall current of Gaudiya bhakti observed by Thakura Bhaktivinoda that gave way to considerable misrepresentation of the precepts and in some measure rendered a number of previously prominent and spiritually vital lineages more formal than spiritually substantial, the ideal of madhurya-rati outsold the ideal of sakhya-rati. Competition in the spiritually compromised marketplace appears to have led some of the once-prominent sakhya-rati lineages lacking spiritual vitality to unceremoniously claim that their lineages also offered the ideal of madhurya-rati. Indeed, suddenly some of the dvadasa-gopalas were purported to have manjari-svarupas as well as sakhya-rati-gopa-svarupas! In some sectors Nityananda himself was turned into Radha! The philosophical problems with these notions themselves attest to the loss of philosophical acumen in some sectors of the community with sentiment ungrounded in tattva leading the day.

Swami Tripurari, Sakhya-mandala: Circle of Friends (Darshan Press, forthcoming).

Ideas are the real lasting legacy of any thinker, especially if those thoughts have to do with penetration into transcendence. This is true of Swami Tripurari, whose main contribution is his conceptual offering. The Gaudiya school characterizes itself by founding its practice on siddhanta, or perfect conclusions. But even though such virgin truths are considered eternal and transrational, the duty of every member of the parampara is (on the basis of siddhanta) to expand these truths more and more, enriching the tradition with new ideas, “extended siddhanta,” sustained in ancient revelation. Ken Wilber expresses this same point by speaking about two expressions of religion: translative and transformative.10 We find a similar idea in the Gaudiya school, whose more conservative members defend the principle of abhava-pramana, which implies that if something was not said by the founding acaryas of a sampradaya (the Six Goswamis in Gaudiya Vaisnavism), it cannot be accepted as part of its siddhanta. However, a more dynamic consideration is also there in the form of aviruddha-pramana: when something does not contradict the original revelation, it is accepted as a natural evolution of its primal tenets. While Swami clearly belongs to the latter school of thought, he does so through a sober and balanced portrayal of both traditional and contemporary sensibilities. Most of his books are commentaries on old Gaudiya treatises, and thus they encompass the classical blend of philosophical rigor and poetic device found in those earlier texts. But simultaneously, Swami also updates and expands their content through his own spiritual insight and interpretive voice. This specific feature seems to fit perfectly with the final line of his pranama-mantra, where Swami is respectfully honored (vande ’ham) as that yati (monastic) called Sri Bhakti Vedanta Tripurari (tripurari-namaka-yatim sri-bhaktivedantinam). Here, bhakti and Vedanta both speak about the very heart of Gaudiya renunciation—emotion and knowledge combined, expressing themselves in a high, venerable synthesis, creating the potential for what we may call “metaphysical heroism.”

While the hero myth is universally present in every major spiritual tradition, Gaudiya Vedanta approaches it from a unique viewpoint. Although it is applied mainly to Sri Krishna in the context of ecstatic aestheticism,11 its reach could also be extended, from specific angles of meaning, to include Bhagavan’s representatives. For example, in psychologist Erik Erikson’s terms, heroes are by definition “generative” people12 in the sense that they are concerned about the next generation and not just themselves. In other words, a real hero lives in what we may call “deep time”: past, present, and future all at once. From such a higher chronological perspective, the hero is able to draw dexterously from previous events, process their essence in the here and now in an appealing way, and also lay sustainable conceptual foundations with the future in mind. Heroes are mostly exceptions to the rule (even in the context of transcendental lineages). But they are indeed necessary, as such rare people tend to reveal the more hidden side of what is at hand, making us revisit the so-called rule of what we call normal—and recalibrate.

Considering the breadth and depth of Swami Tripurari’s heroic contribution, we see many examples of his swanlike nature, a character shining with the light of charisma and canon—both equally present in this groundbreaking personality—whose devotional integrity and dynamic orthodoxy make for a sadhu of his own kind.

Appendix: Collected Works of Swami Tripurari

Rasa: Love Relationships in Transcendence (1993): A novel approach to the notion of aesthetic sacred rapture, the ultimate theistic experience in Gaudiya Vedanta. 

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Ignorance (1994): A series of essays about still-current issues such as gender designations, deep ecology, sexual dynamics, and so on, seen through the lens of the bhakti tradition.

Tattva-sandarbha (1995): An exegesis of the classic introduction of Sri Jiva Goswami’s Ṣat-sandarbha, where the significance of the Bhagavata Purana is established. 

Joy of Self (1996): An introductory booklet dealing with foundational bhakti concepts, such as guru, sastra, ananda, sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana

Form of Beauty (1998): An art book including 180 paintings about the bucolic love life of Krishna by renowned artist B. G. Sharma, informed by Swami Tripurari’s poetic narrative.

Aesthetic Vedanta (1998): A deeply philosophical and poetic depiction of the rasa-pancadhyaya, the five central chapters of the Bhagavata Purana dealing with the circular dance of Sri Krishna and the gopis.

Sri Guru-parampara (1998): A concise booklet about guru-tattva concerning the legacy of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and how it plays out in modern times.

Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy (2001): A contemporary presentation of “The Song of God” with extensive purports, highlighting its deepest implications according to Gaudiya metaphysics.

Gopala-tapani Upanisad (2004): The first definitive English rendering of the most important Upanisadictreatise for those on the devotional path. 

Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya (2005): An original commentary on Sri Caitanya’s famous eight stanzas concerning the ontology and reach of congregational chanting of God’s name.

Sacred Preface (2016): A detailed exploration of Sri Caitanya-caritamṛta’s auspicious invocation, including Swami Tripurari’s commentary from the perspective of a modern practitioner.

  1. Klaus K. Klostermaier of the University of Manitoba nominated Swami Tripurari’s Aesthetic Vedanta for the Louisville Grawemeyer Award. Yoga Journal (Jul.–Aug. 1998)opined that Aesthetic Vedanta illuminates “the profundity and practicality of the path of devotion.” Swami’s book Form of Beauty was nominated for the Benjamin Franklin Award (2002 and 2003). Huston Smith wrote about Swami’s book Rasa, “It is perhaps the most helpful exposition of the bhakti tradition that has come my way” (Yoga Journal, Mar.–Apr. 1995). Swami Tripurari’s edition of Bhagavad-gita was also reviewed in Yoga Journal (Jul.–Aug. 2002), where Phil Catalfo called it “a kind of postgraduate course in the cultural, metaphysical, and spiritual teachings inherent in this ancient treasure.” And McGill University’s Arvind Sharma lauded this edition’s “hints of originality, rather than mere novelty” in The Journal of Vaishnava Studies. []
  2. In the introduction to his Krishna-samhita, Thakura Bhaktivinoda explains that a school of thought (sampradaya) is characterized by three aspects: physical (alocaka), cultic (alocana), and doctrinal (alocya). The physical/visual characteristics (alocaka) refer to the external cultural differences that exist between the various religions, such as the type and color of clothes, specific sectarian markings, the use of sacred articles, etc. The cultic/ritual characteristics (alocana) refer to the differences in worship, which include honoring various rivers and geographical locations as well as fasting days and dietary restrictions, among others. The doctrinal characteristics (alocya) are differences based on the interpretation of sacred texts, which conclude that God is immanent or transcendent, personal or impersonal, and so on. Interestingly, Bhaktivinoda declares that such differences are external and do not constitute the real essence of religious understanding but rather various components of alienation that separate one community from another. Thus, a genuine saragrahi must be able to see beyond these external characteristics, reconciling them by concluding in his samadhi how jaiva-dharma (the inherent function in every soul) is universally and unanimously present in all. This function is none other than prema, or divine love. []
  3. These concepts were first outlined publicly in Zaehner’s 1957 book, Mysticism, Sacred and Profane, which was itself a direct reply to the ideas in Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy, the book that first defined perennialism in the terms it is most well-known by today. []
  4. Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2003), 156. []
  5. Unnatojjvala-rasa refers to the particular form of romantic love that Sri Caitanya’s dispensation offers to the world, where the opportunity to become a confidante of Sri Radha is given. Mainly known as radha-dasya, manjari-bhava, or bhavollasa-rati, this vicarious conjugal experience is mainly characterized by the exclusive adherence to the service of Radha as her handmaiden, without any trace of desiring direct consorting with Krishna. []
  6. Bhakti-rasamṛta-sindhu, 1.2.74. []
  7. A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami to Swami Tripurari, November 12, 1974, []
  8. Krishna’s killing of Aghasura is described in the twelfth chapter of the tenth canto of the Bhagavata Purana, prefacing the narrative of the brahma-vimohana-lila. []
  9. In the brahma-vimohana-lila, Brahma becomes extremely bewildered by witnessing the topmost degree of intimacy and informality shared between Krishna and his cowherd friends during a picnic lunch. Paradoxically, this exhibition of intimacy (madhurya) gives rise to what is arguably the most majestic (aisvarya) section of the whole Bhagavata. Here, Krishna shows himself in multiple forms to Brahma, forms from which not only calves and cowherds emanate but also unlimited forms of Narayana, thus further confirming the Bhagavata’s main ontological point, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam (“Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” or, in the words of Swami Tripurari, “Krishna is God when God wants to be himself”). []
  10. Ken Wilber, “A Spirituality That Transforms,” accessed July 26, 2015, []
  11. This term refers to the concept of rasa, which Swami Tripurari generally translates as “sacred aesthetic rapture.” Hindu aesthetics deal with truth and beauty mainly in the context of secular dramatic arts, and Gaudiya aestheticism deals exclusively with the concept of Sri Krishna as the sole ecstatic object of all supramundane rasa, according to Srila Rupa Goswami’s system as highlighted in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. []
  12. Saul McLeod, “Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development,” updated 2018, []

About the Author

6 Responses to Anatomy of a Swan: Swami Tripurari Through the Lens of Pranama-mantra and Purva-acarya

  1. Kalachandji dasi

    “a character shining with the light of charisma and canon—both equally present in this groundbreaking personality—whose devotional integrity and dynamic orthodoxy make for a sadhu of his own kind.“ Your work is lovely maharaj. Such a perfect description of my dear gurumaharaj!

  2. Lalita-sakhi dasi

    Padmanabha Maharaja, your essay about the swanlike Swami B. V. Tripurari Maharaja beautifully illuminates the Swami’s exemplary and heroic dedication to his preceptors and to Gaudiya Vaisnavism. You’ve presented much substance that is the foundation of that dedication, describing the essence of the gift he is giving us, that is so enthusing in our sadhana–a comprehensive glimpse into Gaudiya Vaisnavism and, if I may be so bold, your own heroic contribution, following in the footsteps of your teacher.

  3. Sadhu, Sadhu! what an excellent presentation and an amazing offering. My heart goes out to Swami Padmanabha giving us such a profound insight into Guru Maharaja’s pranam mantra. I am also amazed by his command of the English language and have rarely seen someone whose native language was not English have such command. If I did not know better I would have thought he was an English professor. So again thank you for taking the time to write such elegant prose. I fall at your feet and pray one day I get your association. Daso smi, Indranuja DA

  4. Thank you Vrindaranya Dasi for your humble inspiration in the beautiful pranam of your Spiritual Master, latent in the hearts of his positive and progressive disciples who overflow in saranagati. Much to learn. Pranams. =)

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