Question: There is a book entitled, Why Did Caitanya Mahāprabhu Come and What Did He Come to Give? written by Gadādhara Prāṇa who resides in Navadvīpa-dhāma. Could you kindly comment on this book in light of our paramparā system?
Narasingha Mahārāja: The book and the author that you have mentioned both belong to the imitationist school sometimes called siddha-praṇālī. Their thinking will not be of any assistance to those devotees desiring to make advancement on the path of rāgānuga–bhakti, spontaneous love of Kṛṣṇa.
Question: The author strongly supports his statements and conclusions with many scriptural references from the bhakti school and extolls rāgānuga-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 Śrī Caitanya has insisted upon. Śrī Caitanya has said,
upajiyā bāḍe latā brahmāṇḍa bhedi yāya
virajā brahma-loka bhedi para-vyoma pāya
tabe yāya tad-upari goloka-vṛndāvana
kṛṣṇa-caraṇa-kalpa-vṛkṣe kare ārohaṇa
“The creeper of devotion is born and grows to pierce the wall of the universe. It crosses the Virajā river and the Brahman plane and reaches to the Vaikuṇṭha plane. Then it grows further up to Goloka Vṛndāvana, finally reaching to embrace the wish-yielding tree of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.” (C.c. Madhya-līlā 19.153-154)
The imitationists ignore this statement of Śrī Caitanya and take the whole process very cheaply. From the brahmāṇḍa the physical and mental plane, the imitators try to speculate their way into Goloka Vṛndāvana. They do not care to purify themselves or elevate themselves beyond the scope of matter. They must cross the Virajā, Brahman, and even Vaikuṇṭha conceptions before they can reach Goloka Vṛndāvana. But they are not ready to pay the price of surrender and purification first. In the words of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, “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.” Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has written a poem called Prākṛta-rasa Śata-duśaṇī in which he has given one hundred defects in the imitationists’ conception. Their defects are numerous, but Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has listed only one hundred.
Śrī Caitanya’s disciples, such as Rūpa, Sanātana, and Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, were instructed to write many books outlining the progressive steps toward rāgānuga-bhakti. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has given sambandha-jñāna by which we can reestablish our relationship with Kṛṣṇa. In his writings we find a general description of rasa. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has given us the directions by which we can actually engage in a service relationship with Kṛṣṇa (abhidheya-tattva), and he has also emphasized mādhurya-rasa. Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, our prayojana-tattva-ācārya, has given us the concept of the highest aspiration of service, the maidservant’s service to Śrīmatī Rādhāraṇī. However, even while quoting profusely from the writings of these Gosvāmīs, the imitators try to jump, by the agency of the mind, to the highest stage described by Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī. 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 (ekādaśa-bhāva). They consider this to be the siddha-praṇālī initiation mentioned in Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Jaiva Dharma. They try to imitate the intimate followers of Śrī Caitanya, but by imitation real bhajana cannot be effected.
In the words of Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, “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 līlā of Kṛṣṇa 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 offences.
“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, Oṁ Viṣṇupada paramahaṁsa parivrājakācārya Jagad-Guru Śrī Śrīmad A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda, later rejected the order of Śrīla Prabhupāda and took initiation from the siddha-praṇālī sampradāya. In this way, these men became reject disciples and their advancement in spiritual life came to an end. In an attempt to rationalise their existence, they have taken to the study of many books. After acquiring some theoretical knowledge of rāgānuga-bhakti and siddha–praṇālī, they have tried to establish themselves as the actual followers of Śrī Caitanya while at the same time trying to discredit the authority and qualifications of Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. It is sad to say, but they are simply increasing their offences 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–praṇālī 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 Śrī Caitanya for the last 450 years. Almost immediately after the disappearance of Śrī Caitanya, the weeds of imitation began to sprout up and choke the creeper of pure devotion.
By the time of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the imitators had almost completely ruined the reputation of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. The general opinion of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas 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 Śrī Caitanya, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, after much difficulty, brought dignity and respect once again to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. He wrote many books, commentaries, and songs eliminating false conceptions and establishing the proper conclusions.
After the disappearance of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the imitators, with a concocted concept of siddha–praṇālī, entered the line of Bhaktivinoda, but fortunately were detected and exposed by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was highly revolutionary in his approach to eliminate the imitators from the preceptorial line of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. For example, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura accepted sannyāsa and the saffron dress, which was previously not accepted by the followers of Śrī Caitanya’s disciples, the Six Gosvāmīs. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura accepted Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja as a real bābājī-paramahaṁsa but rejected almost all other bābājīs in his time as pretenders. He declared that we should formally hold a lower position as tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa, or parivrājakācārya, and give dignity to the real paramahaṁsas. Actually, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was a paramahaṁsa-parivrājakācārya, as were many of his followers, and a significant proof of this is the fact that he gave the paramahaṁsa–bābājī mantra to his disciples at the time of giving them sannyāsa. That mantra is also a principal mantra of the rāgānuga-mādhurya-bhajana. I have explained this in two small booklets entitled, The Meaning of the Sannyāsa Āśrama and the Sannyāsa Mantra Vākya.
In an attempt to discredit Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the siddha-praṇālī imitators declared that Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was not an actual follower of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and did not represent the inner desires of Bhaktivinoda – a difficult accusation to substantiate. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura upheld the pure doctrines of Śrī Caitanya and exposed the many upstarts who attempted to equate the supramundane līlās of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs with the lusty affairs of mundane men and women. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura showed the proper standard for a sincere follower of the teachings of Śrī Caitanya. He taught us not to imitate Śrī Caitanya and his intimate followers, but to follow their teaching, focusing our attention on Śrī Guru and service to Vaiṣṇavas. He also taught us that we must know the highest ideal of divine love as taught by Śrī Rūpa and Raghunātha and that we must cultivate the highest regard for their lotus feet, pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge mātala sādhu-jana viṣaya raṅge. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura 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 śrī-kṛṣṇa–saṅkīrtana and first approach the vipralambha-mūrti, Śrī Caitanya, in the mood of śānta and dāsya, respect and servitude, following the example of His ācārya-līlā. As we become purified, we will come to know about Rasa-rāja Mahā-bhāva Mahāprabhu (Śrī Caitanya as Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in a spiritual, rather than mental way). The fullest expression of saṅkīrtana brings us to rāsa-līlā, as revealed by Śrī Caitanya Himself in his Śikṣāṣṭakam. Everything is found there. The fourth stage of development mentioned in his first verse reveals that kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana leads to consorthood, vidyā-vadhu-jīvanam. This is the proper approach to rāgānuga-bhakti, and is exemplified by our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda, the most renowned disciple of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
“Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was a paramahaṁsa-parivrājakācārya, as were many of his followers, and he gave the paramahaṁsa-bābājī mantra to his disciples at the time of giving them sannyāsa.”
At this time, the disciples of Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda and the disciples of other branches of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s disciplic succession are continuing the paramparā system, giving great pleasure to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Thus to say that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was not the successor of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura 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 kṛṣṇa-nāma?
Answer: Realising 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–praṇālī 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 rāgānuga–bhakti is in fact the process leading to one’s siddha–deha, either as a vraja–gopī (kāmānuga) or as a devotee in sakhya, vatsalya, or dāsya–rasa (sambandhānuga). Contemplation of one’s siddha–deha, however, requires realization. It is not within the capacity of the conditioned mind. Unless the necessary adhikāra is achieved, attempting to contemplate one’s siddha–deha will only cause confusion. This is confirmed in Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Bhajana Rahasya as follows:
adhikāra nā labhiyā siddha-deha bhāve
viparyaya buddhi janme śaktira abhāve
“If one thinks of their siddha-deha without achieving the adhikara (necessary realisation), their intelligence gets bewildered.”
Upon acquiring the necessary adhikāra, the internal sādhana of rāgānuga–bhakti begins. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.21.2) states further:
sve sve’dhikāre yā niṣṭhā sa guṇaḥ parikīrtitaḥ
viparyayas tu doṣaḥ syād ubhayor eṣa niścayaḥ
“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 sādhaka to begin the inner culture of rāgānuga. In the meantime, we should follow the vaidhi-bhakti outlined in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu with emphasis on chanting the Holy Name. Regarding līlā-kīrtana, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura states in Prākṛta-rasa Śata-duṣaṇī:
anartha thakara kāle rasa-guṇa kare nā
“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 sādhaka has the necessary adhikāra to enter into rāgānuga–sādhana 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 Kṛṣṇa and love of the opposite sex at the same time. Rūpa Gosvāmī explains that in rāgānuga–bhakti one must follow all of the vaidhi until lobha awakens. This certainly includes hearing about the vraja–gopīs, 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–gopīs and to perform the internal rāgānuga–sādhana.
vikrīḍitaṁ vraja-vadhūbhir idaṁ ca viṣṇoḥ
śraddhānvito ’nuśṛṇuyād atha varṇayed yaḥ
bhaktiṁ parāṁ bhagavati pratilabhya kāmaṁ
hṛd-rogam āśv apahinoty acireṇa dhīraḥ
“One who, following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas, faithfully hears from a qualified Vaiṣṇava about the transcendental pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs, in time becomes sense controlled and freed from lust and attains pure devotional service.” (Bhāg.10.33.39)
The qualifications for pure devotional service are not cheap. The siddha–praṇālī imitators twist this śloka and so many other ślokas to suit their purpose. The so-called gurus who encourage their followers to jump immediately to hearing about the intimate affairs of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are not following the spirit of this verse. They are not nivṛtta tarṣair (free from lust) as Śukadeva Gosvāmī was. Śukadeva Gosvāmī properly administered the bhavausadhi (medicine of kṛṣṇa-kathā) to Mahārāja Parikṣit after first discussing the nine other cantos of the Bhāgavata.
“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.” Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.21.2)
To attain the stage of pure devotional service, first one must have some faith or śraddhā. Śraddhā has been described by Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī as the halo of Śrīmatī Rādhāraṇī. Only Rādhāraṇī can reveal Kṛṣṇa to the devotee and her good will appears in the fortunate living entities as śraddhā. That śraddhā will lead one to associate with pure devotees, sādhu–saṅga. In the association of pure devotees, one will hear the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa and holy talks about Kṛṣṇa. Gradually, one will come to inquire about how to make spiritual advancement and render devotional service. That is the stage of bhajana-kriyā. In bhajana–kriyā, initiation or dīkṣā is offered to the devotee who has taken shelter under the lotus feet of the spiritual master. By the acceptance of dīkṣā, the devotee is given proper acquaintance with the goal of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and he or she is sent in the direction of kṛṣṇa-līlā. Dīkṣā may be of two kinds depending on the qualification of the disciple. In Śrī Caitanya’s līlā, 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 praṇālī gurus capable of giving it.
After receiving dīkṣā, 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 śikṣā or further instructions, and the disciple simply has to carry out those instructions according to the directives given by the Six Gosvāmīs.
Next comes the stage of anartha–nivṛtti, the clearing of unwanted things from the core of the devotee’s heart. This means purification. Then nisthā, firm faith, develops, at which time the devotee is not easily shaken from the path. A devotee in the stage of nisthā becomes steady in devotional service and does not waste time, especially in idle talks or in matters that do not concern Kṛṣṇa. 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 līlā. When ruci increases, āsakti or attachment to the object of one’s bhajana develops. From āsakti, the sādhaka progresses to bhāva–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. Realising this spiritual body is also called svarūpa–siddhi.
Once the devotee has reached the stage of svarūpa–siddhi in mādhurya–rasa, further instruction is given from Śrī Gurudeva and the devotee realizes her to be a representative of Śrīmatī Rādhāraṇī. 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 Vṛndāvana within the universe where Kṛṣṇa has manifest his līlā. 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 līlā in another universe, the devotee is transferred to the portion of līlā that always remains unmanifest, Goloka Vṛndāvana. This is known as vastu–siddhi. This is explained in the Brahma-saṁhitā purports of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, texts two and fifty-five.
As long as one still has a material body, one should receive direction from Rūpa, Sanātana, and Raghunātha Dāsa while serving and taking shelter of a bona fide spiritual master who knows the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Our success is assured if we follow the process in this way. But if we want the cheaper method, we are lost.
Our paramparā is not in want of anything, as wrongly conceived by the imitators and some caste Gosvāmīs. Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī has given everything, and our guru has carefully handed that to us. The divine service of Śrīmatī Rādhāraṇī is the highest aspiration within the infinite līlā of Kṛṣṇa. Rādhā-kuṇḍa 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. Śrī Guru has given us the aspiration to join the highest group of Śrīmatī Rādhāraṇī’s servitors under the shelter of Lalitā Devī and Rūpa Mañjarī, and he has given us the hope that one day we will be accepted into the group of Śrī Caitanya’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 kṛṣṇa-nāma 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.