Question: There is a book entitled Why Did Caitanya Mahaprabhu Come and What Did He Come to Give? written by Gadadhara-prana who resides in Navadwipa-dhama. Could you kindly comment on this book in light of our parampara system?
Narasingha Maharaja: The book and the author that you have mentioned both belong to the imitationist school sometimes called siddha-pranali.Their thinking will not be of any assistance to those devotees desiring to make advancement on the path of raganuga-bhakti, spontaneous love of Krsna.
Question: The author strongly supports his statements and conclusions with many scriptural references from the bhakti school and extolls raganuga bhakti as the highest path of devotion, so how can it not be helpful for our progress? What is the fault in it?
Answer: The imitationist schools have been disqualified because they do not want to pay the price that Sri Chaitanya has insisted upon. Sri Chaitanya has said,
upajiya bade lata ''brahmanda'bhedi'yaya
tabe yaya tad-upari 'goloka vrndavana'
'krsna-carana'-kalpa-vrkse kare arohana
The creeper of devotion is born and grows to pierce the wall of the universe. It crosses the Viraja river and the Brahman plane and reaches to the Vaikuntha plane. Then it grows further up to Goloka Vrndavana, finally reaching to embrace the wish-yielding tree of Krsna's lotus feet. (C.c. Mad.19.153-154)
The imitationists ignore this statement of Sri Chaitanya and take the whole process very cheaply. From the brahmanda the physical and mental plane, the imitators try to speculate their way into Goloka Vrndavana. They do not care to purify themselves or elevate themselves beyond the scope of matter. They must cross the Viraja, Brahman, and even Vaikuntha conceptions before they can reach Goloka Vrndavana. But they are not ready to pay the price of surrender and purification first. In the words of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, "The imitators want the fruits without taking the trouble to climb the tree, so what sort of fruits can be expected? Their so-called progress is imaginary -- a sort of self-deception." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura has written a poem called Prakrta-rasa sata-dusini in which he has given one hundred defects in the imitationists' conception. Their defects are numerous, but Saraswati Thakura has listed only one hundred.
Sri Chaitanya's disciples, such as Rupa, Sanatana, and Raghunatha dasa Goswami, were instructed to write many books outlining the progressive steps toward raganuga-bhakti. Srila Sanatana Goswami has given sambandha-jnana by which we can reestablish our relationship with Krsna. In his writings we find a general description of rasa. Srila Rupa Goswami has given us the directions by which we can actually engage in a service relationship with Krsna (abhidheya-tattva ), and he has also emphasized madhurya-rasa. Raghunatha dasa Goswami, our prayojana-tattva-acarya, has given us the concept of the highest aspiration of service, the maidservant's service to Srimati Radharani. However, even while quoting profusely from the writings of these Goswamis, the imitators try to jump, by the agency of the mind, to the highest stage described by Raghunatha dasa Goswami. The imitators misunderstand the instructions of the exalted devotees, and by the process of imitation, they unfortunately develop a demonic mentality.
Under the guidance of a so-called guru, the imitators hear of their spiritual name, form, age, dress, relationship, group, orders, service, highest ambition, residence, and the eternal devotee under whom they are to serve (ekadas-bhava ). They consider this to be the siddha-pranali initiation mentioned in Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Jaiva Dharma. They try to imitate the intimate followers of Sri Chaitanya, but by imitation real bhajana cannot be effected.
In the words of Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, "The imitator is like a woman who enters the maternity ward and simply by producing the sounds of labor thinks that she can produce a child. Many things are required before that." In other words, one must first become qualified by transcending mundane lust. But the imitationists do not care to take this trouble. They misunderstand the process and, while still being conditioned by lust, try to bring the supramundane lila of Krsna within their speculation. Their imitation bears no spiritual result. Worse than no result, they may even be barred from ever entering the highest domain for their offenses.
"The imitator is like a woman who enters the maternity ward and simply by producing the sounds of labor thinks that she can produce a child. Many things are required before that."
As in the case of the author of the book that you have mentioned, it is an unfortunate history, but he and two others who first came in connection with our spiritual master, Om Visnupada Paramahamsa parivrajakacarya-jagadguru Sri Srimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, later rejected the order of Srila Prabhupdda and took initiation from the siddha-pranali sampradaya. In this way, these men became reject disciples and their advancement in spiritual life came to an end. In an attempt to rationalize their existence, they have taken to the study of many books. After acquiring some theoretical knowledge of raganuga-bhakti and siddha-pranali, they have tried to establish themselves as the actual followers of Sri Chaitanya while at the same time trying to discredit the authority and qualifications of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. It is sad to say, but they are simply increasing their offenses and paving their way to a darker and darker material existence.
Question: Although many of our western godbrothers and godsisters have only recently become aware of the siddha-pranali misconception, am I correct to assume that our param gurus had to contend with this issue?
Answer: Yes, the imitators have been trying to create a disturbance in the teachings of Sri Chaitanya for the last 450 years. Almost immediately after the disappearance of Sri Chaitanya, the weeds of imitation began to sprout up and choke the creeper of pure devotion.
By the time of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the imitators had almost completely ruined the reputation of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The general opinion of Gaudiya Vaisnavas was that they mixed freely with the opposite sex and begged from door to door just to fill their bellies. By his untiring service and uncompromising dedication to the pure precepts of Sri Chaitanya, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, after much difficulty, brought dignity and respect once again to the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. He wrote many books, commentaries, and songs eliminating false conceptions and establishing the proper conclusions.
After the disappearance of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the imitators, with a concocted concept of siddha-pranali, entered the line of Bhaktivinoda, but fortunately were detected and exposed by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Saraswati Thakura was highly revolutionary in his approach to eliminate the imitators from the preceptorial line of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. For example, Saraswati Thakura accepted sannyasa and the saffron dress, which was previously not accepted by the followers of Sri Chaitanya's disciples, the six Goswamis. Saraswati Thakura accepted Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja as a real babaji-paramahamsa but rejected almost all other babajis in his time as pretenders. He declared that we should formally hold a lower position as tridandi- sannyasa, or parivrajakacarya, and give dignity to the real paramahamsas. Actually, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was a paramahamsa-parivrajakacarya, as were many of his followers, and a significant proof of this is the fact that he gave the parmahamsa-babaji mantra to his disciples at the time of giving them sannyasa. That mantra is also a principal mantra of the raganuga-madhurya-bhajana. I have explained this in two small booklets entitled, The Meaning of the Sannyasa Asrama and the Sannyasa-gayatri-vakya.
In an attempt to discredit Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, the siddha-pranali imitators declared that Saraswati Thakura was not an actual follower of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and did not represent the inner desires of Bhaktivinoda -- a difficult accusation to substantiate. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura upheld the pure doctrines of Sri Chaitanya and exposed the many upstarts who attempted to equate the supramundane lilas of Sri Krsna and the gopis with the lusty affairs of mundane men and women. Saraswati Thakura showed the proper standard for a sincere follower of the teachings of Sri Chaitanya. He taught us not to imitate Sri Chaitanya and his intimate followers, but to follow their teaching, focusing our attention on Sri Guru and service to Vaisnavas. He also taught us that we must know the highest ideal of divine love as taught by Sri Rupa and Raghunatha and that we must cultivate the highest regard for their lotus feet, pujala ragapatha gaurava bhange mattala sadhu-jana visaya range. Saraswati Thakura has told us that we should not try to see God, but act such that God will want to see us. For this we must engage in Sri Krsna sankirtana and first approach the vipralambha murti, Sri Chaitanya, in the mood of santa and dasya, respect and servitude, following the example of his acarya lila. As we become purified, we will come to know about rasa-raja mahabhava Mahaprabhu (Sri Chaitanya as Radha-Krsna in a spiritual rather than mental way). The fullest expression of sankirtana brings us to rasa lila, as revealed by Sri Chaitanya himself in his Siksastakam. Everything is found there. The fourth stage of development mentioned in his first verse reveals that Krsna sankirtana leads to consorthood, vidya-vadhu-jivanam. This is the proper approach to raganuga-bhakti, and is exemplified by our Guru Maharaja, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the most renowned disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.
"Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was a paramahamsa-parivrajakacarya, as were many of his followers, and he gave the paramahamsa-babaji mantra to his disciples at the time of giving them sannyasa."
At this time, the disciples of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the disciples of other branches of Srila Saraswati Thakura's disciplic succession are continuing the parampara system, giving great pleasure to Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Thus to say that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was not the successor of Bhaktivinoda Thakura is unthinkable -- at least to any sane person.
Question: Should we ignore this talk about siddha-deha and just continue with our service and the chanting of krsna-nama?
Answer: Realizing one's siddha-deha is the highest stage of reality for the liberated souls who have entered the world of prema-bhakti. Only the imitationists' process for attaining siddha-pranali is false. One should therefore show interest and study this subject in great detail under the guidance of pure devotees who are themselves free from material contamination, tendencies toward exploitation, and self-deception.
The path of raganuga-bhakti is in fact the process leading to one's siddha-deha, either as a braja gopi (kamanuga ) or as a devotee in sakhya, vatsalya, or dasya rasa (sambandhanuga ). Contemplation of one's siddha-deha, however, requires realization. It is not within the capacity of the conditioned mind. Unless the necessary adhikara is achieved, attempting to contemplate one's siddha-deha will only cause confusion. This is confirmed in Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Bhajana-rahasya as follows:
adhikara na labhiya siddhadeha bhave
viparyaya buddhi janme saktira abhave
"If one thinks of their siddha-deha without achieving the adhikara (necessary realization), their intelligence gets bewildered."
Upon acquiring the necessary adhikara, the internal sadhana of raganuga-bhakti begins. Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.21.2) states further:
sve sve 'dhikare ya nistha
sa gunah parikirtah
viparyayas tu disah syad
ubhayor esa niscayah
Piety and impiety are ascertained thus: Applying oneself steadily (chanting the Holy Name) in accordance with one's level of advancement is actual piety, whereas deviation from one's position (imitating a stage that one has not attained) is considered impiety.
Sufficient lobha or eagerness must awaken within the sadhaka to begin the inner culture of raganuga. In the meantime, we should follow the vaidhi-bhakti outlined in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu with emphasis on chanting the Holy Name. Regarding lila kirtana, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura states in Prakrta-rasa-sata-dusini,
anartha thakara kale rusa-guna kore na
"While still contaminated by anarthas, one should never sing songs about the Lord's confidential pastimes." The symptom of eagerness (lobha ) is freedom from lust. When lobha arises, the sadhaka has the necessary adhikara to enter into raganuga-sadhana proper. At that time, anarthas or impediments from past karma may still be present. One may still be affected by sleep, hunger, thirst, and so on, yet eagerness for material life (lust) will be gone. We cannot be eager for love of Krsna and love of the opposite sex at the same time. Rupa Goswami explains that in raganuga-bhakti one must follow all of the vaidhi until lobha awakens. This certainly includes hearing about the vraja gopis, but this must be done properly. When one's heart has become cleansed from lust and intense eagerness for vraja prema is aroused, one is qualified to hear about the vraja gopis and to perform the internal raganuga-sadhana.
vikriditam vraia-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh
sraddhanvito 'nusrnuyad atha varnayed yah
bhaktirm param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam
hrd-rogam agv apahinoty acirena dhirah
One who, following in the footsteps of the previous acaryas, faithfully hears from a qualified Vaishnava about the transcendental pastimes of Krsna and the gopis, in time becomes sense controlled and freed from lust and attains pure devotional service. (SB.10.33.39)
The qualifications for pure devotional service are not cheap. The siddha-pranali imitators twist this sloka and so many other slokas to suit their purpose. The so-called gurus who encourage their followers to jump immediately to hearing about the intimate affairs of Radha and Krsna are not following the spirit of this verse. They are not nivrtta tarsair (free from lust) as Sukadeva Goswami was. Sukadeva Goswami properly administered the bhavausadhi (medicine of Krsna katha ) to Maharaja Pariksit after first discussing the nine other cantos of the Bhagavat.
"Piety and impiety are ascertained thus: Applying oneself steadily (chanting the Holy Name) in accordance with one's level of advancement is actual piety, whereas deviation from one's position (imitating a stage that one has not attained) is considered impiety." Srimad Bhagavatam (11.21.2)
To attain the stage of pure devotional service, first one must have some faith or sraddha. Sraddha has been described by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Goswami as the halo of Srimati Radharani. Only Radharani can reveal Krsna to the devotee and her good will appears in the fortunate living entities as sraddha. That sraddha will lead one to associate with pure devotees, sadhu-sanga. In the association of pure devotees, one will hear the Holy Name of Krsna and holy talks about Krsna. Gradually, one will come to inquire about how to make spiritual advancement and render devotional service. That is the stage of bhajana-kriya. In bhajana-kriya, initiation or diksa is offered to the devotee who has taken shelter under the lotus feet of the spiritual master. By the acceptance of diksa, the devotee is given proper acquaintance with the goal of Krsna consciousness and he or she is sent in the direction of krsna-lila. Diksa may be of two kinds depending on the qualification of the disciple. In Sri Chaitanya's lila, so many qualified persons were present. The kind of initiation they received brings with it the immediate experience of the siddha-deha. We are not qualified for this, neither are the so-called siddha pranali gurus capable of giving it.
After receiving diksa, the devotee begins the process of developing a spiritual body or siddha-deha. At that time, the knowledge and services required for advancement are given to the disciple by the guru. This is followed by siksa or further instructions, and the disciple simply has to carry out those instructions according to the directives given by the six Goswamis.
Next comes the stage of anartha nivrtti, the clearing of unwanted things from the core of the devotee's heart. This means purification. Then nistha, firm faith, develops, at which time the devotee is not easily shaken from the path. A devotee in the stage of nistha becomes steady in devotional service and does not waste time, especially in idle talks or in matters that do not concern Krsna. Then comes the stage of ruci or a sweet taste for hearing the transcendental glories of the Supreme Lord, his name, his abode, his devotees, and his lila. When ruci increases, asaktih or attachment to the object of one's bhajana develops. From asaktih, the sadhaka progresses to bhava-bhakti, the awakening of transcendental emotions of love. These emotions when mature are called prema. They are the feelings that constitute the spiritual body of a liberated devotee. Realizing this spiritual body is also called svarupa-siddhi.
Once the devotee has reached the stage of svarupa-siddhi in madhurya-rasa, further instruction is given from Sri Gurudeva and the devotee realizes her to be a representative of Srimati Radharani. At that time all the details about the devotee's eternal form and service are revealed. To want to know these things in a premature stage of devotion is a material desire. Such knowledge certainly comes to a devotee in due course, but it is never the desire of a pure devotee to want to know such things prematurely.
A realized devotee who gives up bodily connection with this material world is immediately transferred to Gokula Vrndavana within the universe where Krsna has manifest his lila. There, in the company of the eternal associates of the divine couple, the devotee receives a spiritual body corresponding to his or her rasa. When the Lord manifests his lila in another universe, the devotee is transferred to the portion of lila that always remains unmanifest, Goloka Vrndavana. This is known as vastu-siddhi. This is explained in the Brahma-samhita purports of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, texts two and fifty-five.
As long as one still has a material body, one should receive direction from Rupa, Sanatana, and Raghunatha dasa while serving and taking shelter of a bona fide spiritual master who knows the science of Krsna consciousness. Our success is assured if we follow the process in this way. But if we want the cheaper method, we are lost.
Our parampara is not in want of anything, as wrongly conceived by the imitators and some caste goswamis. Raghunatha dasa Goswami has given everything, and our guru has carefully handed that to us. The divine service of Srimati Radharani is the highest aspiration within the infinite lila of Krsna. Radha-kunda is the highest place of service. By our guru's grace, we will take our place at Govardhana Hill, the place of our eternal residence. Sri Guru has given us the aspiration to join the highest group of Srimati Radharani's servitors under the shelter of Lalita devi and Rupa Manjari, and he has given us the hope that one day we will be accepted into the group of Sri Chaitanya's most intimate associates. The imitators, misunderstanding all these things, are now barren of the most valuable opportunity in this human form of life.
Our humble position is to go on uttering Krsna-nama and rendering pure devotional service at the lotus feet of our spiritual master, free from exploitation and renunciation, in the association of like-minded pure devotees. That is our eternal spiritual identity and our highest aspiration.