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Guru-nirnaya-dipika - Of Krishna Balaram Swami

Madhava - Mon, 03 Oct 2005 05:16:05 +0530
Skimming through Krishna Balaram Swami's Guru-nirnaya-dipika (PDF), one must admit that he certainly seems to have done his homework in gathering an extensive array of references. At the same time, as mentioned, most of the references are virtually impossible to track down, given that even no Sanskrit text is offered, only the translation.

Some of the translations of the texts with specific references lead one to suspect the accuracy of the rest. Take for example the following:

Srila Rupa Goswami says in his Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu (1.1.22) = (The Nectar of Devotion):

"The only reason to remain unauthorized to initiate, install deities, or perform any sacrifices is a devotee's taking a low birth. This low birth is the symptom of his past acquired sinful deeds."

Now, take the original BRS 1.1.22 for comparison:

durjAtir eva savanAyogyatve kAraNam matam |
durjAty-ArambhakaM pApaM yat syAt prArabdham eva tat ||

A low birth makes one unfit for the Soma-sacrifice. The cause of a low birth is understood to be sin that has already surfaced (prArabdha).

Now, of course we'll find in the Monier-Williams that savana may also be translated as "any oblation or sacrificial rite", although a secondary meaning. Sri Jiva, Sri Mukunda and Sri Visvanath all specify savana as soma-yAga in their commentaries. That notwithstanding, there is a marked difference in what is said in the original and what is offered as the translation, in that "initiate, install deities" and so forth is nowhere to be seen.

Then the author cites:

Srila Jiva Goswami, the back-bone of Gaudiya Vaisnavism states in his Durgama-Sangamani (1.16)

"Even though born in a Brahmana dynasty and are not of low birth, still they remain unqualified to perform any purificatory ceremonies like initiation or fire sacrifices. They have to wait until their purificatory thread ceremony of Brahmana initiation to perform such services. Similarly, those born in untouchable low class families have their impurities removed by initiation into Bhakti-yoga. However, due to spiritual regulation, just as a Brahmana's son has to wait for his thread ceremony (Brahmana's initiation), the lowborn devotee, although initiated, has to take another birth to perform such purificatory functions. Regardless of the scriptural statement, `A low born becomes purified by embracing spiritual life', means he is considered pure, but not entitled to perform purificatory ceremonies like initiation or deity installation."

Given that Durgama-sangamini is the name of Sri Jiva's tika on Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, and that there are no commentaries whatsoever on 1.1.16, this must have been accidentally misattributed and referring to either 1.1.21 or 1.1.22. While Sri Jiva does speak in his commentaries on both the abovementioned verses on being born as a brahmin by semen (brAhmaNANAM zaukre janmani...), there is no mention whatsoever of "initiation or fire sacrifices". The same is the case in his presentation of Sri Visvanatha's tika.

An overall study of the material presented, without regard for the accuracy of translations, portrays a very clear image of the kind of guru the texts speak of. Operative words are performing "purificatory rituals", "religious ceremonies" and so forth.

I do not believe it is being disputed that the performance of traditional samskaras, such as jata-karma, vivaha or antyesthi, are best left in the domain of ritually pure brahmins. The virakta sadhus whom I know tell me to stay afar from such events.

The question is whether someone becomes disqualified from performing devotional activities on account of a low birth. I do not consider vaiSNava-dIkSA to be in the category of customary varnAzrama-dharma any more than I consider the chanting of harinAma to be a pious ritual. I therefore do not see why the two domains ought to be artificially blended together.

Certainly, if there happens to be a ritually pure brahmin from a high dynasty just around the corner, who is fit to be both the vyavaharik guru (as in varnAzrama-dharma etc.) and the paramarthik guru, then all the better. Yet, if one discovers more in the way of opportunities for progress on the path of rAga-bhakti at the feet of a guru who isn't of a high brahmin dynasty, I do not consider this even bordering a dilemma in any kind of sensible theological framework.

Enough said, I should really be working on Madhurya Kadambini instead of exploring this issue. Some interesting deliberations on the matter in Swami BG Narasingha's Krishna-talk.