A brief look into the history and essential meaning of the ISKCON and Gauḍīya Maṭha paramparā.
(The following article has been written to counteract the accusation that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda and his disciples and grand disciples are not in the paramparā of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. This accusation has recently appeared on the internet and therefore our response is being posted on VNN. For the most part the western community of devotees are unaware of the early histories surrounding the preaching movement of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, and the types of opposition which they encountered. We hope this article will better acquaint the devotees with the facts and also send a message to the anti-party that we are not so uninformed as they would like to think – nor are we likely to depart from the siddhānta of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in favour of the imitationist process)
It so happens that from time to time over the centuries the movement of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has come under strong criticism and ridicule by those who are either uninformed about the actual practice of pure devotional service or by those who are overtly envious of the Supreme Lord and His pure devotees, the anti-party.
During the 1920s and 30s as well as recently as 1998 the anti-party has revived a certain propaganda that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is not in the paramparā of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. It is the suggestion of the anti-party that Sarasvatī Ṭhākura had no guru connection with Bhaktivinoda whatsoever. Since Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī Maharaja was the dīkṣā–guru (one who gives Guru-mantra to Gopāla–Mantra and Kāma–Gāyatrī) of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura his paramparā, they say, should be traced to the Advaita parivāra (disciplic succession in the family of Advaita) and not to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura whom they say is in the Nityānanda parivāra. It is also their thinking that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura did not regard Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī as his substantial guru (śikṣā–guru).
Furthermore, it is the contention of the anti-party that since Sarasvatī Ṭhākura did not receive siddha–praṇālī from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura he should not be considered his true follower and one who does not receive siddha–praṇālī, they say, cannot attain vraja-bhakti. The anti-party is so strong on this point that they even go so far as to say that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was not pleased with Sarasvatī Ṭhākura due to Sarasvatī Ṭhākura having wholesale rejected Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī (the dīkṣā–mantra/ pañcarātrika–mantra–guru) of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Therefore, they say that Bhaktivinoda did not give siddha–praṇālī to him, as if rejecting Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
It is a fact that Bhaktivinoda sent Sarasvatī Ṭhākura to Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī for initiation and it is universally accepted that Bābājī was a siddha–mahātmā. The fact that Bhaktivinoda did send Sarasvatī to Gaura Kiśora is proof that he saw in the Bābājī a higher conception than he found in his own dīkṣā–guru – otherwise he could easily have corrected Sarasvatī and sent him to Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī. But he didn’t.
The anti-party draws their line of disciplic succession from Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, to Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura (the brother of Bhaktisiddhānta) to Gadādhara Prāṇa and a few others.
The word ‘anti-party’ has been chosen by Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and his disciples to best describe the so-called disciplic succession going under the name of siddha–praṇālī because of their actually being in direct opposition to the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. There is such a thing as siddha–praṇālī and Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has described siddha–praṇālī in his commentary to Kṛṣṇa–karṇāmṛta. He says that both siddha–praṇālī and chanting the holy name are bona-fide, but Kavirāja concludes by saying that of the two – the process of taking the name of Kṛṣṇa is superior. One becomes pure by chanting the name without offence and the holy name itself reveals the aṣta-kāla-līlā (eight-fold pastimes), being non-different from Kṛṣṇa and His līlās. (This reference available at Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta)
The first doubt raised by the anti-party is that the actual guru of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī and not Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī. They say that to consider Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī as the guru of Bhaktivinoda is an offence. They consider this so because Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura accepted dīkṣā from Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī in 1881 and he never received any such initiation from Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī. Thus the anti-party wishes to discredit the paramparā line as shown by Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in his song Guru paramparā and simultaneously they wish to establish their own line as the true paramparā of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura went on pilgrimage to Vṛndāvana in 1881 at which time he met Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī. The Ṭhākura received many spiritual instructions from Bābājī Mahārāja and the Ṭhākura accepted him as his substantial guru (śikṣā–guru). Bhaktivinoda has referred to Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī as Vaiṣṇava Sārvabhauma, the most revered and worshipable Vaiṣṇava:
gaurāvirbhāva-bhūmes tvam nirdeṣṭa saj-jana-priyaḥ
vaiṣṇava-sārvabhaumaḥ śrī-jagannāthāya te namaḥ
“I offer my respectful obeisance to Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja who is respected and worshipped by the entire Vaiṣṇava community and who discovered the birth place where Śrī Caitanyadeva appeared.”
This raises another interesting point – With the help of Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī, Bhaktivinoda was able to discover the place of Mahāprabhu’s appearance. Simultaneously it was declared that the so-call Yogapīṭha at Navadvīpa on the other side of the Ganges was false. Many caste gosvāmīs objected to the site at Māyāpura being the original site. Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī at that time rejected Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura for preaching an untruth (mithyā-pracāra) and he even published his rejection of Bhaktivinoda’s preaching in a small newspaper of his own called Gaurāṅga-sevakā Pātrika in 1919. One could say at this point – that at least that they did not see eye to eye or that their feelings for placing distance in their relationship with each other was mutual – indeed a difficult relationship to maintain between “guru and disciple.” (The Gaurāṅga-sevakā Pātrika and article available at Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta.)
Therefore, Bhaktivinoda turned over the Yogapīṭha at Māyāpura to Sarasvatī and nobody else because he knew that only he had the strength, realisation and śāstrika–pramāṇa (evidence) to hold the sacred ground against the sahajiyā and brāhmaṇa community. It is also interesting to note that although Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī rejected the idea that Yogapīṭha was in Māyāpura – the modern day followers of Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura, nonetheless, accept Yogapīṭha in Māyāpura and not the so-called Yogapīṭha in Navadvīpa.
For many years Sarasvatī Ṭhākura saw the exchanges between Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī and Bhaktivinoda at times when the two lived together at Svānanda-sukhada-kuñja in Nadīyā for many years. We do not find any association of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura with Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī except for a short time in the village of Narail, East Bengal and this does not include any reference to the latter instructing Bhaktivinoda in the matter of pure devotional service.
It is true, as the anti-party says, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura did not have very high regard for Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī – he certainly did not consider him to be the guru of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura as a small child (7 years old) was present when Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura received dīkṣā-mantras from Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī and from the outset Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was critical of the Gosvāmī. When Bhaktivinoda offered his obeisances to the Gosvāmī – the Gosvāmī attempted to place his foot on the head of the Ṭhākura – the child remarked, “Do you think that you have such spiritual power that you can put your foot on the head of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda?”
There is another short story: Once a celebrated sahajiyā came to see Bhaktivinoda at his residence. The sahajiyā was a gentleman but nonetheless a sahajiyā. Sarasvatī was a young boy at the time. When he saw his father (Bhaktivinoda) talking with that gentleman he simply offered obeisances at a distance and got up and went away. Seeing this the gentleman inquired, “Was that your son – why does he offer obeisances and go away?” Bhaktivinoda replied in a happy style, “He has taken a vow not to come within one hundred metres of a sahajiyā.”
We must mention here that both Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura have been accepted by many great devotees and scholars as liberated souls who appeared in this world by the divine arrangement of Kṛṣṇa. They were not a pair (father and son) of this world as the mundane bhaktas (prākṛta-sahajiyās) think – rather they were eternal residents from Goloka Vṛndāvana; namely Kamala Mañjarī and Nayana-maṇi Mañjarī respectively. Therefore, from the beginning of their lives they both showed exceptional qualities and characteristics which are to be attributed only to pure devotees and liberated souls.
For example, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was preaching the process of pure devotion; writing and printing books such as Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā and Kalyāṇa Kalpataru (both revered devotional works) before he even met his so-called guru, Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī – something which is highly unusual, even unheard of – unless that is, one is already a liberated soul. Similarly, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura manifested himself as a pure Vaiṣṇava from his earliest childhood. He was quick to catch the essence of the scripture and he especially showed a keen ability to distinguish between real bhajana and that of the sahajiyās (imitationists). We will not go into greater detail regarding their many transcendental pastimes, for many biographies have been written on this subject – it will suffice to say that both Bhaktivinoda and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura were liberated souls who came down to this world from Kṛṣṇa’s personal entourage to establish the essence of pure devotional service.
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura did for some time show formal respect to Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī but when the Gosvāmī disrespected Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, the Ṭhākura distanced himself even more from Vipina Vihāri. In essence the details of this incident show that like many caste gosvāmīs in Orissa, Bengal, Vṛndāvana and Rādhā-kuṇḍa – Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī also thought that he could give blessings to Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, the prayojanācārya, because Dāsa Gosvāmī was from a ‘lower caste’ or so he mistakenly thought. It appears that Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura overlooked the stressful relation that had evolved between Bhaktivinoda and Vipina Vihāri over the issue of Yogapīṭha being at Māyāpura, and also that of Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī in favour of the formal arrangement of dīkṣā. It does not appear, in spite of his vast learning, that he was able to catch the essence of the teachings of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.
It is also known that Vipina Vihāri mixed very freely with the degraded sections of Bengal society and associated with anti-Vedic philosophers like the Brāhmo Samaja. Even after his return to Vaiṣṇavism he continued bad habits like smoking etc. – thus Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, who was himself very strict in principles, saw this as a sign of lower Vaiṣṇava adhikāra (kaniṣṭha-adhikārī) although Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura remained somewhat unspoken on the issue.
In 1911 there was an assembly of scholars held in Medinpur (Bengal) wherein the topic of debate was to be ‘brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas.’ Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī was present at that assembly and, as already known, he would side with the brāhmaṇa community in the platform that brāhmaṇa Vaiṣṇavas were automatically superior to non-brāhmaṇa Vaiṣṇavas, due to a brāhmaṇa being born in a higher caste. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was also invited to attend that assembly. The conflict between he and Vipina Vihāri was destined. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura – not wanting to take the position of confronting and attempting to defeat his ‘dīkṣā-guru’ in a public forum declined to attend the meeting on the plea of bad health. In his place he sent Sarasvatī Ṭhākura (age 37) to represent pure Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta in the line of Śrī Rūpa and Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī as per the teachings of Mahāprabhu.
In that assembly Sarasvatī Ṭhākura prevailed in the debate and established to the satisfaction of the majority of that assembly that a pure Vaiṣṇava, regardless of his birth was the topmost human being due to his unalloyed love for Godhead. The news of this was very pleasing to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. The lecture (Brāhmaṇa O Vaiṣṇavera Tāratamya Viṣayaka Siddhānta – The Conclusion Concerning the Comparison of Brāhmaṇa and the Vaiṣṇavas) was published in a book in English called Brāhmaṇa and Vaiṣṇavism. (Also available at Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta)
One might ask why Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura took initiation from Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī in the first place, for the question naturally arises whether or not the Gosvāmī was actually a pure devotee (perfected soul)?
During those days in India all the ‘recognised Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas’ were initiated into one of the main parivāras such as Advaita and Nityānanda parivāras. Everyone was expected to wear tilaka and neck beads corresponding to his particular parivāra. Since he had not taken initiation in any such parivāra, Bhaktivinoda did not wear the external markings of a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava. It so happened that some persons who had no real eyes to see him would sometimes consider Bhaktivinoda to be a materialist and so forth and thus commit Vaiṣṇava aparādha. Seeing this situation Bhaktivinoda considered accepting the external markings of a Vaiṣṇava which he must receive from a guru. He longed to meet a bona-fide guru who could inspire him but as Bhaktivinoda later wrote, “But I did not obtain one.” Later in a dream, the Ṭhākura got some direction from Mahāprabhu and he accepted Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī.
The followers of Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura contend that this is proof that Vipina Vihāri was a perfected soul, otherwise Mahāprabhu would not have given direction to Bhaktivinoda to accept him as guru. At this point the anti-party suggests that “could Mahāprabhu have made a mistake?” – thus they wish to indicate that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura received a siddha-guru (sat–guru) by the arrangement of Mahāprabhu Himself and not simply a formal connection for decorum’s sake. We couldn’t disagree more.
Similarly, Mahāprabhu Himself had taken sannyāsa in the māyāvādī sampradāya for the same reason – for decorum’s sake only. And after that the Lord continued His preaching mission of nāma-saṅkīrtana. The situation of Bhaktivinoda was similar – his mission was to preach – he had come down to this world with that purpose.
At the time of his initiation Bhaktivinoda received the pañcarātrika mantras; Guru-Mantras, Gopāla-Mantra, and Kāma-Gāyatrī. It is interesting to note here that Bhaktivinoda received those mantras which are offered as a saṁskāra in place of the Vedic dīkṣā saṁskāra and which are primarily meant for Deity worship following the system of pañca-saṁskāra (tapaḥ, puṇḍra, nāma, mantra, and yāga). It is clear also in studying the life of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura through his writings that he did not imbibe any of the conceptions of Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī. Of course the anti-party says that Bhaktivinoda received siddha–praṇālī (ekādaśa-bhāva) from Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī. Other than hearsay, there is no real proof of what they say – but they do say it. Factually the two, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Vipina Vihāri were distanced from each other from the very beginning – although it can be said that Bhaktivinoda did continue to show the Gosvāmī formal respect.
Such respect for the Gosvāmī was not so visible in Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. In fact, in later years Sarasvatī Ṭhākura re-initiated (hari–nāma, mantra–dīkṣā, and sannyāsa) a prominent disciple of Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī who became known as Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Mahārāja. There is no hiding the truth – Sarasvatī Ṭhākura totally rejected the idea that Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī was a spiritual preceptor of Bhaktivinoda and we are also accepting the same conclusion. The brother of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura (Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura) however accepted just the opposite.
After the disappearance of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura started a mission together in Calcutta called Bhaktivinoda Āsana at Ultadaṅga. In a very short time their difference in conception/vision about Bhaktivinoda arose and they parted ways. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to say, “My brother sees Bhaktivinoda as ‘Bābā’ (father) but I see him as the delegation of Rādhā.” This statement reveals that Sarasvatī Ṭhākura obviously considered that Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura placed more importance on form than on substance and that he had no proper conception of the eternal divinity of Bhaktivinoda.
The disciples of Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura have said that their guru has written extensively on the differences between he and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura although none of those manuscripts have been printed. On the other hand, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura wrote long and printed his manuscripts to spread the glories of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu all over the world. A seemingly distinct character difference between the two brothers; one was prone to fault the other while the other dedicated his life solely for the service of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, preaching vigorously against misconception in the line of Mahāprabhu.
Although Sarasvatī Ṭhākura did receive mantra-dīkṣā from Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī Maharaja (1900) he also accepted Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura as his substantial Guru. It should be mentioned here also that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura gave mantras for worshipping the Deity in 1881 and hari-nāma-dīkṣā to Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in 1886. The following is a letter (1910) from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura to Sarasvatī Ṭhākura wherein Bhaktivinoda gives Sarasvatī essential spiritual instructions, thus demonstrating that he was indeed his substantial (śikṣā) guru.
People of this world who are proud of their own aristocratic birth cannot attain real aristocracy. Therefore, they attack the pure Vaiṣṇavas, saying, ‘They have taken birth in low-class families because of their sins.’ Thus they commit offences. The solution to the problem is to establish the order of daiva–varṇāśrama-dharma – something you have started doing; you should know that to be the real service to the Vaiṣṇavas. Because pure devotional conclusions are not being preached, all kinds of superstitions and bad concepts are being called devotion by such pseudo-sampradāyas as sahajiyā and ativāḍī. Please always crush these anti-devotional concepts by preaching pure devotional conclusions and by setting an example through your personal conduct.
Please make great effort so you can start parikramā of Śrīdhāma Navadvīpa as soon as possible. It is by those actions that everyone in this world will receive kṛṣṇa-bhakti. Please try very hard to make sure that the service to Śrī Māyāpura will become a permanent thing and will become brighter and brighter every day. The real service to Śrī Māyāpura can be done by acquiring printing presses, distributing devotional books, and saṅkīrtana – preaching. Please do not neglect to serve Śrī Māyāpura or to preach for the sake of your own reclusive bhajana.
When I am not present any more, please take care to serve Śrī Māyāpura-dhāma which is so dear to you. This is my special instruction to you. People who are like animals can never attain devotion; therefore, never take their suggestions. But do not let them know this directly or indirectly.
I had a special desire to preach the significance of such books as Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Ṣaṭ Sandarbha, and Vedānta Darśana. You have to accept that responsibility. Śrī Māyāpura will prosper if you establish an educational institution there. Never make any effort to collect knowledge or money for your own enjoyment. Only to serve the Lord will you collect these things. Never engage in bad association, either for money or for some self-interest.
Kedaranātha Datta Bhaktivinoda
This letter shows that the innovator is Bhaktivinoda and the implementer was Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Although the anti-party gives prostrate obeisances to Bhaktivinoda they are nonetheless dead against the sannyāsa order introduced by Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. From the above letter it is clear that Bhaktivinoda introduced the daiva–varṇāśrama. Bhaktivinoda licensed Bhaktisiddhānta to implement sannyāsa – such that persons could actually attain the rāga-mārga adhikāra and tread the path.
Although the alleged story is that Bhaktivinoda did give siddha-praṇālī to Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura, it is also a known fact that Bhaktivinoda advised Lalitā Prasāda Ṭhākura to chant kṛṣṇa-nāma. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura himself gives a warning in Bhajana Rahasya that to attempt meditation on gopī–svarūpa without proper adhikāra will be detrimental:
adhikārī nā labhiyā siddha-deha bhāve
viparyāya buddhi janme śaktira abhāve
“If one thinks of his siddha-deha (siddha–praṇālī) without achieving adhikāra his intellect gets bewildered.”
In time it came to pass that siddha-praṇālī was being given out by imitationists to unqualified persons, therefore Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also wrote one hundred verses called Prākṛta Rasa Śata Dūṣaṇī giving warning to the followers of the imitation siddha-praṇālī system.
Some verses from Prākṛta Rasa Śata Dūṣaṇī follow:
sevāya unmūkha ha’le jaḍa-kathā haya nā
natuvā cin-maya kathā kabhu śruta haya nā
“When one is enthusiastic for constantly rendering unalloyed devotional service, there is never any possibility for becoming distracted by idle talks related to the mundane world. Otherwise, if one is not enthusiastic, then confidential topics about the all-conscious spiritual world should never be heard.”
The warning here is that only those who are enthusiastic should enter into talks and so forth on higher topics (such as siddha-deha). The characteristic of enthusiasm he says is that one should not be interested in any mundane talk. This of course includes mundane activities and also such things as illicit sex, etc. If one still has attraction for this level of existence then he does not have the proper adhikāra for siddha-praṇālī.
sāmagrīra amilane sthāyī-bhāva haya nā
sthāyi-bhāva-vyatireke rase sthiti haya nā
“In the absence of the necessary constituent elements of the bhakti process (such as anartha-nivṛtti, niṣṭhā, ruci, etc.) one can never become fixed up in their own eternal sthāyī-bhāva (one of five principle mellows). In the absence of sthāyī-bhāva and its necessary elements, one can never become situated in their eternal rasa (siddha-deha).”
rati āge, śraddhā pāche, rūpānugā bale nā
krama patha chāḍi’ siddhi rūpānugā bale nā
“The followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī never preach that transcendental attachment is reached before one develops pure faith. The Rūpanugas never teach that the perfection of devotion (siddhi) can be reached by abandoning the consecutive order of developmental stages on the path.”
anartha thākāra kāle līlā-gāna kare nā
anartha-nivṛtti-kāle nāma jaḍa bale nā
“While still contaminated with anarthas, one should never sing songs about the Lord’s confidential pastimes. After these impediments are purified (anartha-nivṛtti), one never speaks of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa as if it were a mundane sound vibration.”
anarthake ‘artha’ bali’ ku-pathete laya nā
prākṛta-sahaja-mata aprākṛta bale nā
“One should never mistakenly call material obstacles ‘useful for devotional service,’ thereby following the wrong path. One should never say that the mundane opinions of the prākṛta-sahajiyās (cheap materialistic imposters) are aprākṛta (transcendental).”
aśakta komala-śraddhe rasa-kathā bale nā
anadhikārīre rase adhikāra deya nā
“A devotee should never speak on the topics of devotional mellows to one who has soft, pliable faith. A devotee should never attempt to bestow the qualification for rasa upon one who is unqualified to receive it.”
Siddha-praṇālī (revelation of one’s eternal perfected spiritual form, siddha-deha) is actually effected by the grace of the Guru for one who purely chants the holy name of Kṛṣṇa without offence. The grace of sat-guru is required and also that of hari-nāma (the holy name) which appears when one purely chants the name in a deep penetrating mood of divine love.
The so-called siddha-praṇālī meditation of the anti-party amounts to mental speculation at best. Siddha-praṇālī cannot be effected in the mind of a conditioned soul because such a mind is actually one of the eight material elements. One is required to transcend the mundane mind and come to the platform of śuddha-sattva – then from the subjective plane of reality the revelation of one’s siddha-deha can be realised – otherwise not.
Yes, we are saying that there is such a process as siddha-praṇālī but that the imitation process is being offered by the anti-party – not the authentic siddha-praṇālī. The line of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is bona-fide and authentic because it recognises both the ajāta-rati-rāgānuga-sādhana (rāgānuga before bhāva) and the jāta-rati-rāgānuga sādhana (rāgānuga after bhāva). The anti-party wants to meditate on their so-called gopī-deha with dress, activities and residence (ekādaśa-bhāva) etc. while still conditioned with anarthas. They do not favour preaching, saṅkīrtana, distribution of Bhāgavata literature and so forth – thinking that these things are not ajāta-rati-rāgānuga-sādhana but of a lower conception – that is their mistake. These services are non-different from ajāta-rati-rāgānuga-sādhana and will contribute to the purification of one’s heart, enabling one to fix the mind on the lotus feet of Rūpa Gosvāmī and gradually come to the stage of bhāva and thus jāta-rati-rāgānuga-sādhana wherein one will glimpse the lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī.
The anti-party wants to say, “let us meditate on gopī-svarūpa as the activity of the ajāta-rati-rāgānuga–sādhana,” but we strongly disagree – and so have our many ācāryas. Otherwise what is the use of Gītā, Bhāgavatam, Ṣaṭ-Sandarbhas, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu and a host of other essential literature for all sādhakas desiring pure devotional service?
The anti-party contends that ekādaśa-bhāva (siddha-praṇālī) is supported in Bhakti Sandarbha by Jīva Gosvāmī in the following verse:
divyaṁ jñānaṁ hy atra śrīmati mantre bhagavat svarūpa-jñānaṁ
tena bhagavatā sambandha-viśeṣa-jñānaṁ ca
“The term ‘divine knowledge’ here refers to the knowledge of the specific form of the Lord contained in the holy syllables of the mantra and knowledge of a specific relationship with the Lord.” (Bhakti Sandarbha, 283)
The anti-party then jumps to the conclusion that divyaṁ jñānaṁ (divine knowledge) means ekādaśa–bhāva (siddha-praṇālī) the knowledge of one’s form as a gopī, dress, residence, etc. However, this divine knowledge revealed by the guru at the time of giving dīkṣā (as stated in Bhakti-sandarbha) is actually a reference to receiving proper understanding of the mantras for worship such as upanayana–saṁskāra (Brahma-Gāyatrī), Guru-Mantra and Gāyatrī, Gaura-Mantra and Gāyatrī, Gopāla-Mantra, and Kāma-Gāyatrī. There is no suitable support for ekādaśa-bhāva found in the above quoted verse. For a thorough understanding of this subject (revealing the meaning of the mantra – receiving divyaṁ jñānaṁ) one should read the book Śrī Gāyatrī Mantrārtha Dīpikā published by Mandala Publishers.
It is in one sense ironic that the anti-party dares to even show their face in the Vaiṣṇava world of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s movement to preach their misconception. The persons who are doing this mischief were once all devotees of ISKCON who, leaving our Guru Maharaja A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda in the 1970’s to go for siddha-praṇālī initiation, eventually fell down and were unable to even maintain the four basic regulative principles, what to speak of the meditation on their eternal form and relationship with Kṛṣṇa. In this way these men became reject disciples. Of course at least one of them feels himself qualified to give siddha-praṇālī initiation and has misled a number of newcomers. In an attempt to rationalise their existence, these ex-ISKCON devotees have taken to the study of many books – became scholars and after acquiring some theoretical knowledge of rāgānuga-bhakti and siddha-praṇālī, they have tried to establish themselves as the actual followers of Mahāprabhu and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura – while at the same time they try to discredit the authority and qualifications of Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Other than that, since the disappearance of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in 1914 they have done nothing to spread the cause of Mahāprabhu’s mission to the world. Their primary work is to try to disprove the paramparā of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. In Bengal the anti-party is no match for the Gauḍīya Maṭha who are highly learned in all these matters historically and according to śāstra. The anti-party is only able to spread their misconception to a few less fortunate devotees from the west who are of weaker faith and beginner’s knowledge.
It is important to know that the paramparā which Sarasvatī Ṭhākura mentioned in his paramparā song is a śikṣā-sampradāya and not a dīkṣā-sampradāya and does not rely on any formality whatsoever but which draws completely on substance over form. The line shown by Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is not the line of a bodily succession but the recognition of where (in which great Vaiṣṇavas) the conception of pure devotion was manifest. The line of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is not at all concerned with the so-called ‘pedigree’ dīkṣā-paramparā of the so-called “unbroken” succession.
The anti-party claims that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura never made any reference to śikṣā-guru-paramparā in his writing and therefore, how could there be a śikṣā-paramparā? Unfortunately, the anti-party produces ‘evidence of convenience’ and not the truth. They have thus conveniently overlooked the following śloka from Kalyāṇa-kalpataru:
dīkṣā-guru-kṛpā kari mantra-upadeśa
kariyā dekhana kṛṣṇa-tattva nirdeśa
śikṣā-guru-vṛndā kṛpā kariyā apara
sādhake śikhana sādhanera aṅga-sāra
“The initiating spiritual master (dīkṣā-guru) shows his causeless mercy by giving his disciples instructions in chanting the mantra. By so doing, he points the disciples in the direction of the truths pertaining to the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. I consider the numerous instructing spiritual masters (śikṣā–gurus) to be more important, for they show more mercy by training the sādhakas in all the essential aspects of sādhana-bhakti.”
A classic example of how the anti-party is lost in their ‘pedigree’ conception of dīkṣā-guru becomes apparent in their disregard of Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī – going so far as to say that, “There is no dīkṣā connection from Dāsa Gosvāmī to Bhaktivinoda.” Does the anti-party wish to suggest that Bhaktivinoda in not in the line/paramparā of Dāsa Gosvāmī simply because the dīkṣā-guru of Ṭhākura was not in a dīkṣā-paramparā from Dāsa Gosvāmī? Yes, that is exactly what they want to say. We find such a mentality to be mundane, strictly form oriented, undernourished, and blind to revealed truth.
Full-fledged theism is not always manifest – it sometimes goes underground like a stream and again reappears. When it is underground in the unmanifest quarter we are not concerned with the paramparā which simply upholds the formal tradition, the bodily succession. Rather, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has demonstrated that we should be solely concerned with the substance and always seek out pure devotion – wherever it appears and accept that on our heads. For that he taught a high measure of discrimination and caution.
The following is a quote from the Guardian of Devotion Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī supporting the above statements on accepting the essence and not simply the form:
“The very gist of the guru-paramparā, the disciplic succession, is śikṣā, the spiritual teaching, and wherever it is to be traced, there is guru. One who has the transcendental eye, the divine eye, will recognise the guru wherever he appears. One who possesses knowledge of absolute divine love in purity he is guru. Otherwise the guru-paramparā is only a body paramparā: a succession of bodies. Then the caste brāhmaṇas, the caste gosvāmīs, will continue with their trade, because body after body, they are getting the mantra. But their mantra is dead. We are after a living mantra, and wherever we can trace the living tendency for a higher type of devotional service, we shall find that there is our guru. One who has that sort of vision awakened will be able to recognise the guru wherever he may appear.” (Śrī Guru and His Grace, p22.)
The highest fulfilment of life (aprākṛta-gopī-deha) the perfected form of an eternal maidservant of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda is not a cheap achievement. The reality is that few are willing to pay the price – nonetheless Sarasvatī Ṭhākura preferred not to lower the price – rather he showed by his own ardent example that the goal of life can be achieved by those honest seekers of truth who will not indulge in self-deception (the imitation process of siddha-praṇālī).
Apart from all that I have said thus far, the fact that Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s disciplic succession is the bona fide succession of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is self-evident in the fact that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura turned over the world preaching mission and the birth site of Mahāprabhu (Yogapīṭha) along with his full blessings for success to Siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. It was Sarasvatī Ṭhākura who sent his disciples (particularly A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda) out to preach the holy name all over the world and establish Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism and that is a fact. If you are reading this article you are doing so by the grace of Siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and the grace of his disciples – because it is they who have brought Kṛṣṇa consciousness to the west and to the internet. Gaura-premānande!