Question: How many misconceptions does it take to make one a sahajiyā?
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: That depends on where you draw the line. Misconceptions may result in one being a sahajiyā, or misconceptions may result in one being apa–sampradāyika, or one’s institution becoming an apa–sampradāya (devoid of proper siddhānta). Misconceptions may also just result in one making little to no spiritual advancement, but not necessarily becoming a sahajiyā or apa–sampradāyika.
Generally speaking, someone with sahajiyā influences is not necessarily a sahajiyā. You really have to go over the edge before you rate being a full-on sahajiyā. In the estimation of some devotees, you’re not really a sahajiyā until you are a guy who wears a sāri, who puts a nose-ring and dances around thinking he has become a sakhī of Rādhā. No doubt, that is the extreme, but we might draw the line before things get that bizarre! There are many sahajiyā tendencies and misconceptions that can be weeded out long before getting to the stage of being a sakhī–bekhi. In contemporary times, we find that some individuals, and even whole sections within in our sampradāya, have adopted some sahajiyā influences (misconceptions), but they may not be full-blown sahajiyās. But yes, in some cases they are!
There are instances where we might think that controversy over philosophy is irreconcilable, or that both parties may be right. This, however, is hardly ever the case. One side of the argument is usually right, and the other side is wrong — but both parties usually stick to their guns, and there seems to be no ultimate conclusion, when actually there is.
A good example of this would be the so-called ‘jīva issue’. Did the jīva fall to this material world from the līlā of Kṛṣṇa or from Vaikuṇṭha? Śāstra and all previous ācāryas say, “NO!” but the issue is still unresolved among certain practitioners of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. Śāstra and all previous ācāryas confirm that the jīva comes to this material world from the taṭasthā (marginal plane), and not from Vaikuṇṭha or the līlā of Kṛṣṇa. You or your friends may think differently — that the jīva does fall from the spiritual world and if so, then you are under a misconception…but you are not necessarily a sahajiyā. In fact, even the sahajiyās got the origin of the jīva right. So you are not a sahajiyā for thinking that the jīva falls from līlā, but you are leaning in the direction of becoming apa–sampradāyika.
An example of a misconception that has a certain prominence among sahajiyā circles (but has no śāstrika reference, nor any reference from the previous ācāryas) is the recent argument over the identity of Śukadeva Gosvāmī being (or not being) the pet parrot of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Śāstra and previous ācāryas make no mention of Śukadeva being Rādhā’s pet parrot, yet this story is cheered on by certain Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. If you happen to be one of them then, yes — you are adopting sahajiyā misconceptions, but you may, or may not, be a sahajiyā. It all depends on where the line is drawn. If Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was drawing the line then you’re probably a sahajiyā, apa–sampradāyika, or both!
I tend to be more lenient and simply point out that such misconceptions stem from the sahajiyā community, that they are contaminated, and that proper adjustment would be prudent for bona-fide members of the sampradāya. However, even with such a lenient stance, I still get death threats!
If you want to know where you stand and you want to find out if you are influenced by misconceptions, then take the quick quiz below and see how you size up. Are your conceptions bona-fide? Are they influenced by sahajiyā ideology, apa–sampradāyika, or are they a bit of a New Age mix? The answers are YES or NO, and in some cases multiple choice. YOU decide where to draw the line…
1) Was Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu a sannyāsī before entering the gṛhastha āśrama? YES or NO
2) Is the guru omniscient? YES or NO
3) Did the jīva fall from the līlā of Kṛṣṇa? YES or NO
4) Was Śukadeva Gosvāmī the pet parrot of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī? YES or NO
5) Is Prahlāda Mahārāja important for attaining the ultimate goal of life? YES or NO
6) Is approaching higher Vaiṣṇavas the only qualification for hearing higher līlās? YES or NO
7) Can one become a dīkṣā disciple of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada via the Ṛtvik system of initiation? YES or NO
8) Who gave Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda the title “Bhaktivedānta”? A: Keśava Mahārāja, B: Śrīdhara Mahārāja, C: Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura
9) What did Mahāprabhu authorize as the highest platform of prema–bhakti? A: Vipralambha B: Sambhoga
10) Was inaugerating the saṅkīrtana movement the primary function of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu? YES or NO
11) Must the guru appear in a particular institution? YES or NO
12) Is gopī–bhāva quintessential to the order of sannyāsa. YES or NO
13) Did Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura reject Vipina Vihārī Gosvāmī as a sahajiyā? YES or NO
14) Is Advaita Ācārya’s position critical to one’s progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness? YES or NO
15) Is Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda the sampradāya–ācārya for the next 10,000 years? YES or NO
16) Did Srila A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda give his disciples the rāga–mārga mantra and the mādhurya-rasa mantra? YES or NO
17) Is the devotion of Gadādhara Paṇḍita categorically superior to that of Śrī Nityanānda Prabhu? YES or NO
18) Did Srila A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda teach his disciples rāgānuga–bhakti? YES or NO
19) Was the devotion of Sanātana Gosvāmī superior to that of Mādhavendra Purī? YES or NO
20) Do previous ācāryas promote society consciousness? YES or NO
21) Does one have to be in a particular mission/society to be a true disciple of his guru? YES or NO