I have recently read an interesting article, Prabhupādānuga or Rūpānuga? by Irvin H. Collins (Śrīla). I must acknowledge that my sentiments rest fully with those of the author. Nonetheless, the author was partially party to the assumption the ‘Śrīla Prabhupāda’ universally means His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda. (This, of course, must have only been a simple over sight by the author)
I have many friends and associates around the world who are disciples of the disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda and for them the term ‘Śrīla Prabhupāda’ means Sarasvatī Gosvāmī. And for those blessed souls who are directly the disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta and who are still present in this world, for them also ‘Śrīla Prabhupāda’ means Sarasvatī Gosvāmī.
I would first like to mention that ‘Prabhupāda’ is not a name or title applicable to only His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda nor is it simply a generic term applicable to any and all spiritual masters. If one wants to assert that ‘Prabhupāda’ is indeed a generic term to be applied to any bona-fide spiritual master on the basis that it is said so in the Bhaktivedānta purports –– then there arises the necessity to clarify what actually is a ‘bona-fide spiritual master’ in the disciplic succession, accepting the title ‘Prabhupāda’, in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.
There is, as we all know, an on-going debate or controversy –– particularly among the western sections of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavaism as to what and who is a bona fide spiritual master. Without developing here an essay on the numerable necessary qualifications of the ‘bona-fide spiritual master’ I would like to focus on the title ‘Prabhupāda’ by first tracing the etymological and the ontological meaning of the title itself. I wish to show that the ultimate conclusion is that without being in the direct flow of the śrī-rūpa-siddhānta-vāṇī in terms of rāgānuga-bhakti of the mādhurya-rasa one cannot hold the title “Prabhupāda” in its proper dignity and theistic conception.
In our Gauḍīya sampradāya there are only six personalities to have held the title ‘Prabhupāda’ with dignity in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community. They are; Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, Śrī Advaita Ācārya, Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu and Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The latter being the original ‘Prabhupāda’ in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.
kāśī-miśra kahe – ami baḍa bhagyavān
mora gṛhe prabhu-pādera’ habe avasthāna
Regarding this verse from Caitanya-caritāmṛta, (Madhya-līlā, Ch. 10.23), Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda comments, “Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and all His servants address Him as Prabhupāda. This means that there are many prabhus taking shelter under His lotus feet.”
It is indeed clear from the above verse and statement of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta that Mahāprabhu was also ‘Prabhupāda.’ There were many masters, Gosvāmīs, (controllers of the senses) who took shelter at the Lord’s lotus feet such as the Rāya Rāmānanda, Svarūpa Dāmodara, Govinda, Sārvabhauma, Rūpa Gosvāmī, Santana Gosvāmī, Raghunātha Dāsa and many others.
Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda has commented in his purport to the same verse as follows”
The pure Vaiṣṇava is addressed as prabhu, and this address is an etiquette observed between Vaiṣṇavas. When many prabhus remain under the shelter of the lotus feet of another prabhu, the address Prabhupāda is given. Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu and Śrī Advaita Prabhu are also addressed as Prabhupāda. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Śrī Advaita Prabhu and Śrī Nityananda Prabhu are all viṣṇu-tattva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Viṣṇu. Therefore, all living entities are under Their lotus feet. Lord Viṣṇu is the eternal Lord of everyone, and the representative of Lord Viṣṇu is the Lord’s confidential servant. Such a person acts as the spiritual master for neophyte Vaiṣṇavas; therefore the spiritual master is as respectable as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya or Lord Viṣṇu Himself. For this reason, the spiritual master is addressed as Oṁ Viṣṇupada or Prabhupāda. The ācārya, the spiritual master, is generally respected by others as Śrīpāda, and the initiated Vaiṣṇavas are addressed as Prabhu. Prabhu, Prabhupāda and Viṣṇupada are described in revealed scriptures like Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Caitanya-caritāmṛta and Caitanya-bhāgavata. In this regard, these scriptures present evidence accepted by unalloyed devotees.
It should be save to say that all viṣṇu-tattva can be addressed as ‘Prabhupāda’ due to Their being the shelter of all living beings but I think that in regard to Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda and those who have held the title ‘Prabhupāda’ since that time –– that a special qualification can be added to the criterion of those who hold the title ‘Prabhupāda’ ––other than the fact that they may have many sannyāsī disciples.
It is a fact that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda did not have any initiated disciples at all. Only those who took his śikṣā such as Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī were considered Rūpa’s disciples. They did not take formal initiation from him, but only his instructions.
The extra added criterion to hold the title ‘Prabhupāda’ will become self-evident when we examine how it was that Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī was selected as the head of the Gauḍīya sampradāya and thusly to be known as ‘Prabhupāda.’
When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was living at Puri, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī composed a verse and after writing it on a palm leaf he went to bathe in the ocean. At that time Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu visited the residence of Rūpa Gosvāmī and saw the verse written on the leaf:
priyaḥ so ‘yaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ sahacari kuru-kṣetra-militas
tathāhaṁ sā rādhā tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati
“My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend Kṛṣṇa on this field of Kurukṣetra. I am the same Rādhārāṇī and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant, but I would still like to go to the bank of the Yamuna beneath the trees of the forest there. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within the forest of Vṛndāvana.” (Cc. Antya-līlā 1.79)
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu read this verse and was overwhelmed by ecstatic love. When Rūpa Gosvāmī returned Mahāprabhu slapped him mildly and said, “My heart is very confidential. How did you know my mind in this way?” After saying this the Lord firmly embraced Rūpa Gosvāmī.
Mahāprabhu then inquired from Svarūpa Dāmodara, “How could Rūpa have understood My heart?” Svarūpa Dāmodara replied, “I can understand that you have already bestowed Your causeless mercy upon him otherwise it would not be possible for Rūpa to have understood your mind.” Thereupon, Mahāprabhu was very pleased and requested Svarūpa Dāmodara to kindly give further instruction to Rūpa Gosvāmī in the matter of transcendental mellows, rasa-tattva.
After sometime Mahāprabhu again visited Rūpa Gosvāmī accompanied by Svarūpa Dāmodara, Rāmānanda Rāya and others. Mahāprabhu requested Rūpa Gosvāmī to read a number of the verse that he had composed. Being very humble and shy by nature Rūpa Gosvāmī remained silent. Svarūpa Dāmodara then read the previous verse compiled by Rūpa which was so much liked by Mahāprabhu and the verse tuṇḍe taṇḍavinī ratim (Cc. Antya-līlā 1. 99)”
tuṇḍe taṇḍavinī ratiṁ vitanute tuṇḍāvalī-labdhaye
karṇa-kroḍa-kaḍambinī ghaṭayate karṇārbudebhyaḥ spṛhām
cetaḥ-prāṅgana-saṅginī vijayate sarvendrīyāṇāṁ kṛtiṁ
no jāne janitā kiyadbhir amṛtaiḥ kṛṣṇeti varṇa-dvayī
“I do not know how much nectar the two syllables `kṛṣ-ṇa’ have produced. When the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert.”
Hearing these verses compiled by Rūpa Gosvāmī all the Vaiṣṇavas became jubilant. Rāmānanda Rāya especially showed interest in what Rūpa Gosvāmī had written. Being very pleased with him Rāmānanda Rāya began to praise the qualities of Rūpa as if He had a thousand mouths. Rāmānanda Rāya said, “This is not a poetic presentation; it is a continuous shower of nectar. Indeed, it is the essence of all ultimate realizations…. The wonderful descriptions of Rūpa Gosvāmī are superb arrangements to express transcendental loving affairs of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Hearing these verses will plunge the heart and ears of everyone into a whirlpool of supreme transcendental bliss.”
The significance of the praises of Rūpa Gosvāmī offered by Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāmānanda Rāya may be considerably more meaningful to the audience when we take into account the who’s who in the ontological hierarchy of the spiritual world. According to Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, the author of Caitanya Caritamrta, Rāmānanda Rāya was the gopī in kṛṣṇa-līlā named Viśākhā and Svarūpa Dāmodara was the gopī named Lalitā Sakhī. Both Lalitā and Viśākhā are eternally the very intimate associates of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇi. Lalitā and Viśākhā are considered the personal expansions of the serving mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇi thus they are the two chief assistants in the mādhurya love affairs between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
Directly serving under Lalitā Sakhī in the mādhurya-rasa are the mañjarīs, i.e., the younger cowherd girls. This mañjarī group of servitors mainly consists of new recruits to the mādhurya-rasa and due to their young age they have been given the most sacred type of pure service to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Our ācāryas have recommended that we should conceive of the mañjarī class most respectfully and attentively.
When Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are in secrecy, in a private place, the older sakhis do not like to approach the Divine Couple at that time for fear of causing a slight disturbance. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa may feel some shyness in the presence of the older sakhis at that time. But the younger gopīs, the mañjarīs, can enter there without disturbing the free mixing of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. This mañjarī group of servitors in the madhurya-rasa is headed by the gopī named Rūpa Mañjarī. To perform their service, the manjaris, headed by Rūpa Mañjarī, sometimes go to that place where Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are intimately engaged in divine live dalliances. Such a high and intimate scope of service is available to no other group of servitors than that of the mañjarīs. Rūpa Mañjarī who leads the mañjarī group has appeared in gaura-līlā as Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given him the supreme position as head of the Gauḍīya sampradāya (rūpānuga sampradāya).
My śikṣā-guru, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, used to say, “The camp, the sampradāya of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is known as the rūpānuga sampradāya. There our fate and our fortune is located. Now we have to conduct ourselves in such a way that naturally we can connect with that highest, purest spiritual conception, from here. We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with anything less than this highest ideal. That should be the highest goal of our life.”
So, the real meaning of rūpānuga-bhajana is nothing less than that; the highest ideal of the highest spiritual conception. Following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī; ever desiring his mercy; falling prostrate at his lotus feet and praying again and again and again to be enlisted in his group of servitors. That is rūpānuga-bhajana. That is what it means to be a follower of ‘Śrīla Prabhupāda.’
This concept has been expressed most perfectly in a song by Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura called, Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī-pāda. This song is the topmost bhajana sung by the followers of the rūpānuga line.
śrī-rūpa-mañjarī-pada, sei mora sampada
sei mora bhajana-pūjana
sei mora prāṇa-dhana, sei mora ābharaṇa
sei mora jīvanera jīvana
“The lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa-mañjarī are my treasure and the object of my worship. They are the wealth of my existence, they are my ornaments and the very life of my life.”
sei mora rasa-nidhi, sei mora vāñcā-siddhi
sei mora vedera dharama
sei vrata, sei tapa, sei mora mantra-japa
sei mora dharama-karama
“They are my ocean of rasa and they are the perfection of my desires. They are the dharma of the Vedas for me. They are the goal of my vows and austerities and the chanting of my mantras. They are the purpose of my religious activities.”
anukūla habe vidhi, se-pade haibe siddhi
nirakhiba e dui nayane
se rūpa-mādhurī-rāśi, prāṇa-kuvalaya-śaśī
praphullita habe niśi-dine
“By those two lotus feet, all my actions will become favourable and perfection will be achieved. With these two eyes, I will finally be able to see. Both day and night, the sweet waves emanating from Śrī Rūpa-mañjarī’s feet will shine like the moon upon the lotus of my heart.”
tuyā adarśana-ahi, garale jārala dehī
cira-dina tāpita jīvana
hā hā rūpa kara dayā, deha more pada-chāyā
narottama laila śaraṇa
“The poison of the snake of separation from you has wasted my body away and eternally my life is afflicted by fever. O Rūpa! Kindly be merciful unto me. Give me the shade of your lotus feet. Narottama has taken refuge in you.”
My conclusion is that although etymologically ‘Prabhupāda’ means a spiritual master at who’s feet many qualified persons, masters, have taken shelter –– it must be that the ontological meaning of ‘Prabhupāda’ is one who knows the heart of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, one who knows how to extract the internal moods of devotional service, unnatojjvala-rasa, from the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu just as a bumble bee extracts nectar from the lotus flower.
My second conclusion is the same as the author of the paper, Prabhupādānuga or Rūpānuga?–– that without being a follower and obedient servant of the internal flow of devotional service, unnatojjvala-rasa, enunciated by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī one cannot be counted among the followers of ‘Prabhupāda’ ie., a prabhupādānuga.
In this way it is my humble suggestion that all aspiring candidates for devotional service (myself included) should try to enter into the deep and mysterious meanings of kṛṣṇānu-śīlanam, bhaktir-uttama in the line of the Six Gosvāmīs. That is the real śrī-bhaktivedānta-vāṇī and thus the teaching of Prabhupāda Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.