Web         Gaudiya Discussions
Gaudiya Discussions Archive » PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY
Discussions on the doctrines of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Please place practical questions under the Miscellaneous forum and set this aside for the more theoretical side of it.

The Ultimate Goal of Gaudiya Vaishnavism - Notes on Swami Tripurari's newsletter

Madhava - Sun, 27 Jun 2004 00:43:52 +0530
The following are notes on Swami Tripurari's recent Sanga-newsletter entitled The Ultimate Goal of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, available online in its entirety here.

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
He [Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati] also discontinued or de-emphasized some age-old practices that he felt had been corrupted by time. Among these was the practice of siddha-pranali, which in brief involves the guru telling you your siddha-deha or giving a prototype of your siddha-deha (depending on how the practice is understood) at initiation.

Revealing the siddha-deha of a disciple is not fundamentally bound with the act of mantra-dIkSA. Indeed, it is often seen that the initiate is bestowed mantra-dIkSA and taught in the ways of arcana, and only later on receives information about the details of his siddha-svarUpa and the svarUpas of his guru-praNAlI. There is no rule that would oblige the guru to reveal the ekAdaza-bhAva of the initiate at the time of mantra-dIkSA. Rather, the guru will reveal such information whenever he considers it to be in the best interest of the initiate.

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
The siddha-pranali practice in some form can be traced to an eternal associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Gopala Guru Goswami). However, questions remain about this practice as to whether the guru should tell the disciple the siddha-deha at initiation or only after the disciple attains an advanced stage of bhakti and as to whether this practice need be done at all.

Indeed the question remains, if we do not examine the practices of the saints of the past. However, if we are daring enough to for example study the writings of Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura in the 15th chapter of his Harinama-cintamani, we will come to note that the guru will certainly impart such information to a disciple who has developed a great interest in serving Radha and Krishna in allegiance to the vraja-vadhus. In his presentation of the paJca-daza, or the five steps of rAgAnugA-sAdhana, the phase of zravaNa-daza, where one hears of the mAdhuryamayI-lIlA, is first, followed by varaNa-daza, which Bhaktivinoda identifies this stage with the revelation of the aspirant's ekAdaza-bhAva and subsequent engagement in acts of bhajana with an appropriate mood and aspiration.

Since the subsequent stages presented are various stages of Asakti, bhAva and so forth, it seems evident that the stage of varana-daza arises prior to them. The five stages of the smaraNa-daza, namely smaraNa, dhAraNA, dhyAna, anusmRti and samAdhi, which follow varaNA-daza, are explained in Sri Jiva's Bhakti-sandarbha (278); they are successive stages of smaraNa from the very initial steps of distracted remembrance to the natural flow of remembrance and complete absorption. If this sAdhana of smaraNa was prescribed to the advanced stages of bhakti, at which the practitioner's mind is naturally drawn to thoughts of Sri Krishna and His pastimes, it would have been redundant to speak of the initial stages of smaraNa at which one's recollective capacity is still rather feeble.

In contrast to this, the following pada from Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati is presented:

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
Sri-dayita-das, kirtanete as, koro uccaih-svare hari-nama rava'
kirtana-prabhave, smarana svabhave, se kale bhajana-nirjana sambhava

"This humble servant of Radha and her beloved Krsna always hopes for kirtana, and he begs all to loudly sing the names of Lord Hari. The transcendental power of congregational chanting automatically awakens remembrance of the Lord and his divine pastimes in relation to one's own eternal spiritual form (siddha-deha). Only at that time does it become possible to go off to a solitary place and engage in the confidential worship of their Lordships."

Though it is known that Bhaktisiddhanta was certainly a revolutionary in his age, we sometimes feel that his followers turn his statements into something more radical than they originally were. For example, in this case, he only states, "By the influence of kIrtana, smaraNa naturally awakens, and at that time solitary bhajana commences (or becomes possible)." The text itself speaks nothing of siddha-deha, nor is the word "only" present in the pada. The fact that kIrtana and smaraNa are a joint venture is well known to all gauDIyas who oblige themselves as the followers of Sri Jiva Gosvamin: nAma-kIrtanAparityAgena smaraNaM kuryA.

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
Thus Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura taught that one's siddha-deha awakens automatically when one is in a purified stage of consciousness. The guru might see tendencies in a disciple as he or she advances and at an appropriate time suggest a scripturally based prototype for meditation, but in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's opinion, actual experience of one's siddha-deha comes naturally at an advanced stage of bhakti, whether the guru gave the disciple a prototype of his siddha-deha beforehand or not.

Though this was not suggested in the pada Swami quoted, certainly the full experience of one's siddha-deha is attained only in a purified state of consciousness. However, many gauDIyas prefer to hear of the specific goal they seek to attain prior to its attainment, and therefore they meticulously study the scenario of the lIlA, its various participants, the leading lovers Sri Radha and Sri Krishna, and they also inquire into the specifics of their own natures as participants of the lIlA so as to be well prepared when the time of total revelation arrives.

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's opinion on this issue was opposed by many in the Gaudiya orthodoxy, especially certain gurus in family lines that had for decades made their living by selling people so-called siddha-dehas.

Statements such as the one above make one wonder how well Swami, who is usually known for his balanced and insightful writings, has read his books of history. Certainly some family-gurus had made a business out of their occupation as a guru, but it is doubtful that their business was as much involved in selling siddha-dehas as it was in performing various rituals and granting initiations to the local populace. Much is made out of the idea of "selling siddha-dehas" also in connection with the bAbAjIs; one cannot fail but wonder whether the concept of guru-dakSiNA, introduced for example in the second vilAsa of Hari-bhakti-vilasa, is altogether alien to them. Observing the level of facilities present in the Gaudiya Matha and its offshoots, one may come to wonder whether there is a double standard of critique in place here.

Commenting on two alternate translations of the bAhya antara ihAra dui ta' sAdhana -verse (Caitanya-caritamrita, 2.22.156), the other being literal and the other containing Bhaktivedanta Swami's interpretation, Swami comments:
In this case, although Srila Prabhupada's translation differs from others, it faithfully follows Thakura Bhaktivinoda's translation of the verse. Indeed, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discusses this verse when writing about bhava-bhakti. He writes that one's siddha-deha is awakened or realized when one attains bhava-bhakti, and at that time one truly serves Krsna in one's siddha-deha as well as in one's sadhaka-deha (practitioner's body).

I have not seen Bhaktivinoda's translation of the verse (translation from Bengali to what?), but I would be genuinely surprised if a scholar of his caliber were to interpret this verse as a description of activites at the stage of bhAva-bhakti, while it obviously is but the famous sevA sAdhaka-rUpena siddha-rUpena cAtra hi -verse of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu rephrased, which is even quoted right after the Bengali-verse. This verse, I hope I need not to remind, appears in the sAdhana-bhakti-laharI of the first division of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, which is distinct from and followed by the bhAva-bhakti-laharI. Indeed, this has been observed by Swami:

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
The controversy is that ("In addition to the previous points,") Rupa Goswami's verse, from which Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami's verse above is derived, appears in Sri Rupa's discussion of sadhana-bhakti, not bhava-bhakti. However, the devotional stage of asakti is also within sadhana-bhakti. Thus the siddha-deha is directly cultivated in the final stage of sadhana-bhakti and then more fully in bhava-bhakti. This is the realization of Thakura Bhaktivinoda. His is no doubt an interpretation of when it is appropriate to engage in such meditation, but there is no statement in scripture that directly says otherwise.

Later on in the newsletter it is said that in Bhajana-rahasya, Bhaktivinoda only brings up the issue of siddha-deha in the context of bhAva-bhakti, and in that context issues a warning for not prematurely meditating on the siddha-deha. So which is it, Asakti, bhAva, or both, or neither of the two, when one may begin such a practice? In this context, we may wish to take a closer look at the concept of smaraNa-daza, which follows zravaNa-daza and varaNa-daza, during which one learns of and develops a firm determination to attain the siddha-deha that has been described. The five stages of smaraNa (BhS 278) are as follows (translation elaborated on the basis of Jiva's examples of the stages):

tad idaM smaraNaM paJca-vidham | yat kiJcid anusandhAnaM smaraNam | sarvataz cittam AkRSya sAmAnyAkAreNa mano-dhAraNaM dhAraNA | vizeSato rUpAdi-vicintanaM dhyAnam | amRta-dhArAvad avicchinnaM tad dhruvAnusmRtiH | dhyeya-mAtra-sphuraNaM samAdhir iti |

1) smaraNa - casual remembrance, in which the mind is sometimes drawn to think of the object of meditation;
2) dhAraNa - remembrance, in which the mind is always attracted to thinking of the object of meditation in a general way;
3) dhyAna - remembrance, in which the mind is brought to specific meditations on the form and so forth of Hari;
4) dhruvAnusmRti - remembrance, in which the form, pastimes etc. naturally flow into the awareness of the meditator, and he is unable to let go of them;
5) samAdhi - the stage at which nothing but the object of meditation remains, and the meditator is practically dead for the outside world;

Let us now consider the aforementioned stages in the context of descriptions of ruci, Asakti and bhAva as Visvanatha documents them in his Madhurya-kadambini.

Ruci (fifth chapter) - A specific taste, having attained which one does not feel the slightest fatique even if constantly engaged in activities such as zravaNa, kIrtana and smaraNa; ruci is characterized by constant engagement in the acts of devotion, doing which the mind is naturally always absorbed in the object of the devotional deeds.
Asakti (sixth chapter) - At the stage of Asakti, Hari seems almost directly visible in one's meditations; at this stage, the mind is spontaneously and constantly absorbed in thoughts of Hari.
BhAva (seventh chapter) - Bhava is the extremely ripe stage of Asakti; at this stage, the natural, spontaneous (svarasikI) flow of pastimes begins to incessantly swell within the heart, becoming the sole reality of one's experiences, and in the end his ahantA (self-conception) enters wholly into the siddha-deha.

Bhaktivinoda's Apana-daza, or the stage of attainment, is clearly the latter stage of the bhAva-stage. However, the initial stage of smaraNa (which comes about after zravaNa-varaNa-daza) does not exactly seem to correspond to the intensity of ruci, what to speak of Asakti. This analysis casts suspicion over the interpretations of the necessary qualification for zravaNa-varaNa-daza.

Swami says:

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
Thakura Bhaktivinoda's treatment of this subject is well-documented in his Bhajana Rahasya. He discusses the siddha-deha in some detail only when he speaks of bhava-bhakti. Otherwise, he makes it clear that premature so-called meditation on one's siddha-deha can be counterproductive.

It is peculiar how Bhajana-rahasya is so often cited in this connection, while the 15th chapter of Harinama-cintamani, which treats the subject matter more elaborately and discusses specifically the issue of hearing of ekAdaza-bhAva, is almost altogether neglected. The often-cited verse from this section of Bhajana-rahasya reads as follows:

adhikAra na labhiyA siddha deha bhAve
viparyaya buddhi janme zaktira abhAve

"One who thinks of his siddha form without having attained the qualifications will understand everything incorrectly because of the lack of spiritual power."

As far as I am aware, the context does not specify the necessary qualification, so we are in fact not left with only Bhaktivinoda's interpretation of the issue, but with our interpretation of what Bhaktivinoda might mean here. Aside the adhikAra, what is the meaning of the words zaktira abhAve, in the absence of power? That is again left for us to interpret. In his Caitanya-sikshamritam, Bhaktivinoda speaks of zakti-saJcAra, or the infusion of potency from guru to disciple, in connection with the ceremony of initiation. We do not have enough grounds to draw a parallel between the two, but we may nevertheless deduct from this a general principle: when things are done with the best wishes of the guru, then the spiritual potency necessary for all success is present.

Thus, instead of devising an universal standard to be followed by one and all, it appears that the safe and sound path is the one laid out by one's guru, and when that path is followed, all auspiciousness will come to follow. Let us not, therefore, unnecessarily try to meddle with the affairs of traditions other than our own, subjecting their practices to our critique -- unless they are in direct contradiction with our foundational scriptures, the writings of the Gosvamins.

In legitimizing his position by referring to Bhaktivinoda's interpretation (which factually is only his interpretation of Bhaktivinoda's interpretation), Swami says:

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
His is no doubt an interpretation of when it is appropriate to engage in such meditation, but there is no statement in scripture that directly says otherwise.

Would centuries of accepted and adopted practice, which has brought about many siddha-mahAtmas, count for something? Speaking of mahAtmas, earlier on Swami mentioned:

QUOTE(Swami @ Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004)
Bhaktivinoda Thakura took his vows of renunciation (babaji vesa) from Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji and his writings and realizations received the blessings of Jagannatha dasa Babaji. Both are venerated as saints in the orthodox community. So where does it end? Will critics protesting the innovations of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta distance themselves from Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji and Jagannatha dasa Babaji as well, or will they come to understand the underlying harmony of the teachings of all these great souls? We hope that they will.

We would do well to observe that neither Gaura Kishora das Babaji nor Jagannatha das Babaji were raised in vacuum. Prior to his meeting Bhaktivinoda Gaura Kishora spent 30 years wandering about and associating with several perfected saints, like Sri Svarupa Dasa Babaji of Jagannatha Puri and Sri Caitanya Dasa Babaji of Kuliya. Gaura Kishora received guidance in matters of bhajana from Sri Bhagavan Dasa Babaji of Kalna, a disciple of Siddha Sri Krishna Dasa Babaji. Gaura Kishora also received babaji-vesa from Sri Bhagavan Dasa. Now, the method of bhajana currently embraced in Vrindavan is commonly traced back to Siddha Sri Krishna Das Babaji of Govardhan, who was widely revered among the community of contemporary bhajaAnandis. While Gaura Kishora was not that prominent a person in the society of his times, Jagannatha das Babaji certainly was . Interestingly, there are many disciplic successions traced back through Jagannath das Babaji where the same methods and practices of sAdhana as those of the "siddha-praNAlI-wallas" are practiced.

Additionally, Bhaktivinoda himself initiated a good number of disciples, to whom he also bestowed ekAdaza-bhAva. If we truly wanted to know the view of Bhaktivinoda in this regard, we would do well to do a study of his initiated disciples unto whom he passed on his guru-praNAlI and siddha-praNAlI, traced back to Jahnava Thakurani through Bhaktivinoda's dIkSA-guru, Vipina Vihari Goswami of Baghna Pada.

While Swami mentions that the writings and realizations of Bhaktivinoda received the blessings of Jagannatha das Babaji, he does not mention that the methods of bhajan Bhaktivinoda embraced were to a grand extent derived from the Baghna Pada Goswamis. Now, there are again numerous disciplic successions traced through Vipina Vihari Goswami, in which the ways of the "siddha-praNAlI-wallas" are adopted. Without commenting one way or the other on the matter, we may want to ponder whether Bhaktivinoda himself had attained the stages of Asakti or bhAva when he received siddha-praNAlI from his dIkSA-guru.

Swami, Sanga Newsletter - June 21st 2004 - His interpretation that higher things come at more advanced stages makes common sense, as it is one thing to speak to a disciple in a general way and encourage his or her affinity for a particular sentiment and quite another to attempt to cultivate in depth a sentiment that one has not yet attained.

The question on what is a higher thing is thought-provoking. Are the details of Krishna's personality higher? And then, are the details of Radha's personality even higher? And then, are the details of Rupa Manjari's personality even still higher? And even if we hear of all this, are we disqualified from hearing of our own personality, are its details still higher? What is high? The standard of Sri Jiva Gosvamin, as stated in his comments on the vikrIditam-verse cited in his Bhakti-sandarbha (338), is that confidentiality is considered in accordance with partial touching or complete touching of the limbs of the lovers engaged in the lIlA. Certainly knowledge of one's siddha-deha as a erotically disinclined maidservant of Sri Radha would not be considered a possible inciter of sexual desires in the aspirant.

It is rarely seen that a guru would try to forcibly educate the disciple in depth in a sentiment that one has not yet attained. It is only natural that the guru will teach as the disciple inquires. As for the specific idea of revealing ekAdaza-bhAva is concerned, one may take it that a conception for which to aspire for is given, and that the ideal of aspiring for a particular identity in the service of mAdhurya-lIlA is clarified. The sense of belonging to and being irreversibly connected with the realm of lIlA can act as a great boost of inspiration for the aspirant, creating a deep saMskAra within his heart.

Please pardon me the length and incoherent structure of these notes. They are indeed just that, notes to a friend that grew a bit beyond what I had originally intended.

Recommended reading: The 15th chapter of Harinama-cintamani, transl. Jagadananda.
Tamal Baran das - Sun, 27 Jun 2004 04:33:15 +0530
Dear Madhava,

Thank you for this really in depth critical examination of Tripurari Maharajas new Sanga.
I will honestly write, that I am disappointed with his recent writings, because he is usually very moderate person in his evaluations, explanations and answers.
Anyway, that is just my opinion. Iskcon and GM people have their own ideas anyway.
Madhava - Sun, 27 Jun 2004 04:45:32 +0530
He is a very moderate and thoughtful person. It's just that on issues such as the one at hand, he can only go so far outside the general Gaudiya Matha framework without having people get on his case, and with the ingredients you have in Gaudiya Math on such issues, particularly history-wise, I believe Swami is cooking the best kichari you get in that group, and he seems to be doing a good job in keeping the sour ingredients of directly bashing others out of the preparation as far as possible.
Tamal Baran das - Sun, 27 Jun 2004 17:18:26 +0530
I definitely agree that he is the best ˝˝cook˝˝ in Iskcon and GM regarding that. Very refined man indeed.

Thanks for making me full member, Madhava.
Jagat - Sun, 27 Jun 2004 18:13:36 +0530
It seems that Bipin Bihari also spent quite a bit of time studying Vaishnava shastra with Bhagavan Das Babaji, as he was living there in Kalna for a couple of years. Baghna Para is between Kalna and Nabadwip. Within walking distance, really.