Following in the Footsteps
by Giriraj Swami
What follows is meant to answer the questions of concerned devotees. It is not meant to advocate the practice of raganuga sadhana.
The main source of reference has been Srila Prabhupada’s books. Only in two cases were quotes form other acaryas, namely, Srila Visvanath Cakravati Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, added to supplement Srila Prabhupada’s statements.
We pray that a deeper understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings will help us proceed in devotional service and preach with greater enthusiasm and appreciation.
"Everyone should praise another’s service to the Lord and not be proud of his own service. This is the way of Vaisnava thinking. Everyone should be allowed to render service to the Lord to the best of his ability and everyone should appreciate the service of others. Since everyone is a servant, everyone is on the same platform and is allowed to serve the Lord according to his ability." (SB)
Introduction: Our Parampara.
"The primary purpose for the Lords descent is explained by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta."
(Cc Adi 4.14-16,21-22,27-28,33)
"I shall now speak of the main reason of the Lords incarnation. The Lords desire to appear was born from two reasons:
He wanted to taste the sweet essence of the mellows of love of God and He wanted to propagate devotional service in the world on the platform of spontaneous attraction.
Thus He is known as supremely jubilant and as the most merciful of all.
‘If one cherishes pure loving devotion to Me, thinking of Me as his son, his friend or his beloved, regarding himself as great and considering Me as his equal or inferior, I become subordinate to him. Taking these pure devotees with Me, I shall descend and sport in various wonderful ways, unknown even in Vaikuntha. I shall broadcast such pastimes by which even I am amazed. Then by hearing about the pure love of the residents of Vraja, devotees will worship Me on the path of spontaneous love, abandoning all rituals of religiosity and fruitive activity.’ "
Srila Prabhupada explains: "The real purpose of Lord Krsna’s appearance was to stage a dramatic performance of His transcendental pastimes at Vrajabhumi, thus exhibiting the highest limit of transcendental mellows in the exchanges of reciprocal love between the living entity and the Supreme Lord. These reciprocal exchanges of mellows are called raga-bhakti, or devotional service to the Lord in transcendental rapture. Lord Krsna is causelessly merciful and He wants to bestow upon us this privilege of raga-bhakti."
(Cc Adi 4.16p)
Srila Rupa Gosvami addressed Lord Caitanya as the most munificent because he came to give krsna-prema. Specifically what kind of prema did he come to give? Srila Rupa Gosvami explains: "May that Lord, who is known as the son of Srimati Sacidevi, be transcendentally situated in innermost core of your heart. Responded with the radiance of molton gold, He has descended in the age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation as ever offered before: the most elevated mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love."
(Cc Adi 3.4)
How did He do it? Although in special cases Lord Caitanya gave this prema directly, for the conditioned souls in the general He gave the method by which they could attain it. In particular he gave the method to Srila Rupa Gosvami to elaborate and broadcast to the world, which he and his followers have done through books like Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu and through their personal examples. "When will Srila Rupa Gosvami, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya, give me the shelter under his lotus feet?"
(Sri Rupa Pranama)
Now the same mission has come to us by disciplic succession through Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura:
madhuryojjvala premadhya sri rupanuga bhaktida
sri gaura karuna sakti vigrahaya sri namo stu te
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto you, the personified energy of Sri Caitanya’s mercy, who deliver devotional service which is enriched with conjugal love of Radha and Krsna, coming exactly in the line of revelation of Srila Rupa Gosvami."
Srila Prabhupada’s ultimate mission cannot be other than the ultimate mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhant Saraswati, Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Sri Krsna Himself -- to bestow the privilege of raga-bhakti and the mellow of conjugal love through the mercy of the parampara.
"Our society, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, has formed to execute the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura."
(Cc concluding words)
What actually is raganuga-bhakti? Srila Rupa Gosvami defines it:
vraja vasi janadisu
ya sa raganugocyate
"Devotional service in spontaneous love is vividly expressed and manifested by the inhabitants of Vrndavana. Devotional service that accords with their devotional service is called raganuga-bhakti, or devotional service following in the wake of spontaneous loving service."
(Cc Mad 22.154, Brs 1.2.270)
As raganuga-bhakti follows ragatmika, we should also know ragatmika’s definition:
iste svarasiki ragah
tanmayi ya bhaved bhaktih
"When one becomes the attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his natural inclination to love is fully absorbed in thoughts of the Lord. That is called transcendental attachment, and devotional service according to that attachment is called ragatmika, or spontaneous devotional service
(Cc Mad 150, Brs 1.2.272)
Thus raganuga-bhakti begins from the stage of practice (sadhana) and continues up to perfection (sadhya). "There are two processes of practical devotional service (sadhana-bhakti). One is regulative devotional service (vaidhi-bhakti), and other is spontaneous devotional service (raganuga-bhakti)."
(Cc Mad 22.108)
"Flawless execution of regulative principles exhibit is exhibited in the Vaikuntha planets. By strictly executing these principles one can be elevated to the Vaikuntha planets. But spontaneous pure loving service is found in Krsnaloka alone."
(Cc Adi 4.22p)
"If one develops spontaneous love for Krsna as exhibited in the activities of those who live in Vrajabhumi, one attains the platform of raganuga-bhakti. One who has attained this spontaneous love is eligible for elevation to the platform enjoyed by the inhabitants of Vrajabhumi. In Vrajabhumi there are no regulative principal set forth for Krsna’s service."
(Cc Mad 8.221p)
What makes one eligible for raganuga-bhakti?
srute dhir yad apeksate
natra sastram na yuktim ca
"When an advanced realized devotee hears about the affairs of the devotees of Vrndavan -- in the mellows of santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya -- he becomes inclined in that way, and his intelligence becomes attracted. Indeed, he begins to covet that particular type of devotion. When such, covetousness is awakened, one’s intelligence no longer depends on the instruction of sastra, revealed scripture, logic or argument."
(Cc Mad 22.155, Brs 1.2.292)
Transcendental covetousness (lobha) makes one eligible. Thus raganuga-bhakti begins with hearing the descriptions of Krsna’s pastimes.
"Special natural appreciation of the description of a particular pastime of Godhead indicates the constitutional position of a living entity."
(Cc Adi 4.34p)
"Devotional service which consists of raga [deep attachment] is called ragatmika, spontaneous loving service. If a devotee covets such a position, he is considered to be most fortunate."
(Cc Mad 22.152)
"Spontaneous love for Krsna can be developed only by the special mercy of Krsna or His pure devotee."
"If one does not come to the platform of spontaneous service in the beginning, he must adopt regulative service. This regulative service is called vaidhi bhakti."
(Cc Mad 22.109)
When transcendental covetousness (lobha) awakens, one becomes eligible for raganuga-sadhana. Such greed is extremely rare:
kriyatam yadi kuto pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam
janma-koti-sukrtair na labhyate
"Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price -- that is, intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay."
(Cc Mad 8.70)
By hearing about Krsna’s pastimes with ragatmika devotees and by hearing of the processes of raganuga-bhakti, one who does not possess intense greed may perceive the need to develop it. Thus he will try to associate with devotees who have such greed and hear from them about the ragatmikas’ loving affairs with Krsna and about the raganuga devotees’ intense greed and spiritual practices. From hearing one may become attracted to accept a particular mood of service. Then naturally one will be encouraged to hear and remember pastimes conducive to that mood.
"In the neophyte stage one should always engage in hearing krsna-katha. This is called sravana-dasa, the stage of hearing. By constantly hearing the transcendental holy name of Krsna and hearing of His transcendental form, qualities and pastimes, one can attain to the stage of acceptance called varana-dasa. When one obtains this stage, he becomes attached to the hearing of krsna-katha. When one is able to chant in ecstasy, he obtains the stage of smarana-vastha, the stage of remembering. Recollection, absorption, meditation, constant remembrance and trance are the five items of progressive krsna-smarana."
krsnam smaran janam casya
prestham nija samihitam
kuryad vasam vraje sada
"The devotee should always think of Krsna within himself, and one should choose a very dear devotee who is a servitor of Krsna in Vrndavana. One should constantly engage in topics about that servitor and his loving relationship to Krsna, and one should live in Vrndavana. However, if one is physically unable to go to Vrndavana, he should mentally live there."
(Cc Mad 22.160, Brs 1.2.294)
"Anyone who desires to be Krsna conscious in motherly affection or parental affection should contemplate the bodily features of mother Yasoda. It is not that one should desire to become like Yasoda, for this is Mayavada. Either in parental affection or conjugal love, friendship or servitorship -- in any way -- we must follow in the footsteps of the inhabitants of Vrndavana, not try to become like them. Therefore this description is provided here. Advanced devotees must cherish this description, always thinking of mother Yasoda’s features -- how she was dressed, how she was working and perspiring, how beautifully the flowers were arranged in her hair, and so on. One should take advantage of the full description provided here by thinking of mother Yasoda in maternal affection for Krsna."
"After smarana-dasa or samadhi has fully developed, the soul comes to understand his original constitutional position. At that time he can perfectly and clearly understand his eternal relationship with Krsna. That is called sampatti-dasa, the perfection of life."
"In the transcendental realm of Vraja [Vraja-dhama] one should serve the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, with a feeling similar to that of His associates, and one should place himself under the direct guidance of a particular associate of Krsna and should follow in his footsteps. This method is applicable both in the state of sadhana [spiritual practices executed while in the stage of bondage], and in the stage of sadhya [God realization], when one is a siddha-purusa, or spiritually perfect soul."
siddha-rupena catra hi
"The advanced devotee who is inclined to spontaneous loving service should follow the activities of a particular associate of Krsna in Vrndavana. He should execute service externally as a regulative devotee as well as internally from his self-realized position. Thus he should perform devotional service both externally and internally."
(Cc Mad 22.158, Brs 1.2.295)
Externally, as a sadhaka, one should follow the associate as he appears in Lord Caitanya’s mission, as Rupa Goswami for example, and as has seen one’s own spiritual master, and internally, from one’s self-realized position, one should followed the same associate as he serves in krsna-lila, as Rupa Manjari for example. Srila Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura sees his spiritual master internally as follows:
ya yalibhir yuktir apeksaniya
vande guroh sri-caranavindam
"The spiritual master is very dear because he is expert in assisting the gopis, who at different times made different tasteful arrangements for the perfection of Radha and Krsna’s conjugal loving affairs within the groves of Vrndavana. I offer my most humble obeisances at the lotus feet of such a spiritual master.
"Srila Rupa Gosvami says that learned acaryas recommend that we follow the regulative principles even after the development of spontaneous love for Krsna. According to the regulative principles, there are nine departmental activities, as described above, and one should specifically engage himself in the type of devotional service for which he has a natural aptitude. For example, one person may have a particular interest in hearing, another may have a particular interest in chanting, and another may have a particular interest in serving in the temple. In this way, everyone should act according to his particular taste."
The association of advanced and like-minded devotees is essential for spiritual advancement.
asvado rasikaih saha
sadhau sangah svato vare
"One should taste the meaning of Srimad-Bhagavatam in the association of pure devotees, and one should associate with the devotees who are more advanced than oneself and endowed with a similar type of affection for the Lord."
(Cc Mad 22.131, Brs 1.2.91)
"By associating with the devotees of Lord Krsna, one develops a sense of Krsna conciousness and thus becomes inclined toward the loving service of the Lord. By such association only can a conditioned soul achieve a taste for transcendental love and thus revive his eternal relation with Godhead in a specific manifestation and in terms of the specific transcendental mellow (rasa) that one has eternally inherent in him."
(Cc Adi 1.35p)
"Special natural appreciation of the descriptions of a particular pastime of Godhead indicates the constitutional position of a living entity."
(Cc Adi 4.34p)
About associating with likeminded devotees, Srila Prabhupada writes:
"A devotee should make friendship with persons who are on an equal level with himself or who have the same understanding that he does. He should make friendship with other devotees so that by discussing among themselves they may elevate one another on the path of spiritual understanding. This is called ista-gosthi. In Bhagavad-gita there is a reference to bodhayantah parasparam, ‘discussing among themselves’. Generally pure devotees utilize their valuable time in chanting and discussing various activities of Lord Krsna or Lord Caitanya amongst themselves. Friendship should be cemented between persons with mutual interests and understanding. Such persons are said to be sva-jati ‘of the same caste’ ".
About associating with more advanced devotees, Srila Prabhupada writes:
"The advanced devotee is accustomed to chanting and takes pleasure in it. Such an advanced devotee is called madhyama-bhagavata, which indicates that he has attained the intermediate stage between the neophyte and the perfect devotee. Generally a devotee in the intermediate stage becomes a preacher. A neophyte devotee or an ordinary person should worship the madhyama-bhagavata who is a via-medium."
(Cc Mad 16.72p)
"A neophyte and intermediate devotee should be very eager to hear from a maha-bhagavata. The neophyte and intermediate devotee can gradually rise to the platform of uttama-adhikari and become first class devotees".
(Cc Mad 16.74p)
"The second-class devotee, even though he cannot support his position with sastric reference, can gradually become first-class devotee by studying the sastras and associating with a first-class devotee. However, if the second-class devotee does not advance himself by associating with a first-class devotee, he makes no progress."
(Cc Mad 22.71p)
Of course, one may associate by transcendental sound (vani) or physical presence (vapu).
One should always take guidance from the spiritual master and more advanced Vaisnavas. Srila Rupa Goswami states that various aspects of vaidhi-bhakti also apply to raganuga-bhakti (Brs 1.2.296) including submission to the spiritual master. Without submission to the guidance of guru, one is not able to follow the residents of Vrndavana.
"The association of a bona fide spiritual master like the sage Maitreya can be of absolute help in achieving transcendental attachment for the direct service of the Lord."
"The five relationships in the material world are perverted reflections of the original pure sentiments, which should be understood and perfected in relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead under the guidance of a bona-fide spiritual master."
(Cc Adi 1.56p)
As raga-marga continues from the stage of practice to the stage of perfection, ones activities in raga-bhakti will develop as one progresses. In the beginning everyone hears, and through hearing, one may develop transcendental covetousness (lobha) for following in the footsteps of certain residents of Vrndavana. When such covetousness awakens, one will naturally want to hear more and more about their loving affairs with Krsna. As long as one has such lobha or sraddha, he is eligible to hear the pastimes of Krsna, even if some anarthas are present. In fact, hearing the pastimes of Krsna with eagerness is the best way to cleanse the heart of material contamination.
srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt statam
"Sri Krsna, the personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted."
Srila Prabhupada further explains: "The eagerness to hear about God is the first qualification of a devotee eligible for entering the Kingdom of God. The Lord is reciprocally respondent to His devotees. When He sees that a devotee is completely sincere in getting admittance to the transcendental service of the Lord and thus becomes eager to hear about Him, the Lord acts in such a way that the devotee may easily go back to Him. If one is engaged in hearing the glories of the Lord, gradually he realizes his real position. By the grace of God, the devotee gets sufficient strength to defend himself, and gradually all disturbing elements are eliminated from his mind."
vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh
sraddhanvito ‘nusrnuyad atha varnayed yah
bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam
hrd rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah
"Anyone who faithfully hears or describes the Lord’s playful affairs with the young gopis of Vrndavana will attain the Lord’s pure devotional service. Thus he will quickly become sober and conquer lust, the disease of the heart."
Srila Prabhupada explains: "If a person hears from the right source of the pastimes of Krsna, who is Visnu Himself, and the gopis, who are expansions of His energy, then he will be relieved from the most dangerous type of disease, namely lust. Sukadeva Goswami has used the word sraddhanvito for one who is trained in spiritual life. Sraddha, or faith, is the beginning. One who has developed his faith in Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead can both describe and hear. Sukadeva also uses the word anusrnuyat. Anusrnuyat means that ones must hear from an authorized person who is in the disciplic succession and is always engaged in Krsna consciousness. When a person wants to hear in this way, the effect will be sure. By hearing rasa-lila, one will be elevated to the highest position of spiritual life. He will be completely freed from the lusty desire of sex life".
(Krsna Ch 3)
Still, while hearing the intimate pastimes of Krsna with the gopis, the conditioned soul should be careful. Otherwise if material association comes to mind he may become implicated and commit offences. "One mundane rogue once said that when Vaisnavas chant the name ‘Radha, Radha’ he simply remembers a barber’s wife named Radha.
This is a practical example. If one is not liberated and listens to a relation of the rasa dance, he may remember his mundane activities and illicit connections with some woman whose name may also be Radha." (Cc Mad 8.255p) Instead of becoming purified, he may become "putrified," as Srila Prabhupada said in one conversation. So one should proceed very carefully, taking superior guidance as needed. "The conditioned soul should hear rasa-lila from an authorized spiritual master and be trained by him."
(Krsna Ch 32)
But if one has strong faith and greed (sraddha) and hears from the right source (anusrnuyat), he’ll be "freed from the lusty desires of sex life and be elevated to the highest level of spiritual understanding."
(Krsna Ch 32)
How can one develop such faith and eagerness to hear about Krsna’s pastimes?
svan mahat-sevaya viprah
"O twice-born sages, by serving those devotees who are completely freed from all vice, great service is done. By such service, one gains affinity for hearing the messages of Vasudeva. Purport: The servants of God come to propagate God consciousness. By serving the servants of the Lord, one gradually gets the quality of such servants, and thus one becomes qualified to hear the glories of the Lord. The eagerness to hear about God is the first qualification of a devotee eligible for entering the Kingdom of God."
By serving the mission of Guru and Gauranga one gets the qualification. When one becomes eager to gain admittance to the service of the Lord and to hear about the service of the Lord’s dear devotees, one will naturally pray to be blessed with the mood of service one covets. Such prayer is also possible even in the early stages of sadhana. Srila Prabhupada has given us songs like the Tulasi Kirtana, where every day we pray, "I beg you to make me a follower of the cowherd damsels of Vraja." He also gave us the sannyasa mantra, which is specifically for attaining gopi-bhava. And when one disciple in the early days asked Srila Prabhupada,
"Does Krsna have only 16,000 wives in the spiritual world?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "Oh you want to become Krsna’s wife? You can pray like that."
In fact, submissive prayers for perfection (lalasamayi vijnapti) is one of the sixty-four items of regulative devotional service. "In the Narada pancaratra there is a statement of submission accompanied by the desire for perfection. The devotee says "My dear Lord, when shall that day come when You will ask me to fan Your body, and according to your pleasure, You will say, "You just fan Me in this way." In the same Narada pancaratra, there is another expression of submission, wherein the devotees says, ‘My dear Lord, O lotus eyed one, when will that day come when on the bank of the Yamuna, I shall become just like a madman and continue to chant Your holy name while incessant tears flow from my eyes?’ One should feelingly pray and become eager to render his particular type of service to the Lord. This is the teaching of all great devotees, especially Lord Caitanya."
Nalini Kanta: If you are a neophyte in the offensive stage of bhakti, and you feel some specific desire for Krsna, is that sahajiya?
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is wanted. (conversation remembered by Nalini Kanta)
"Another secret of success is that when one is very much sexually agitated, he should think of Lord Krsna’s pastimes with the gopis and he will forget his sex urge."
(SP letter 11.11.1968)
Although one may be eager and qualified to hear (sravana-dasa) from the beginning stage of sraddha, one will not be able to progress to acceptance (varana) or remembrance (smarana) until one develops transcendental greed (lobha) with anartha-nivrtti. "We must always remember that such eagerness to follow in the footsteps of the denizens of Vraja (Vrndavana) is not possible unless one is freed from material contamination. In following the regulative principles of devotional service, there is a stage called anartha-nivrtti, which means that disappearance of all material contamination."
Traces of anarthas, however, do not disqualify the devotee from eagerness to follow the residents of Vrndavana. With anartha-nivrtti material contamination almost disappears. Although nistha comes after anartha-nivrtti, even in nistha some anarthas remain.
bhaktir bhavati naisthiki
"By regular attendance in classes on the Bhagavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact."
"Bhajana, devotional service is possible when one is freed from these anarthas, unwanted things. Tato nistha rucis tatah athasaktis tato bhavas tatha premabhyudancati sadhankanam ayam premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah. So these are the different steps of sraddha. Actually, devotional service means increasing your faith more and more. And these are the steps. The first step is that you must associate with devotees and then take to bhajana -- whether you are freed from all the anarthas, all the unwanted things. If all the unwanted things are vanquished, then you’ll have firm faith. Bhaktir bhavati naisthiki. Not that I am completely freed from all sinful activities, but prayesu, say, fifty percent, sixty percent is gone. At that time, nasta-prayesu abhadresu. How does it come to take place? Nityam bhagavata-sevaya."
Nasta-prayesu abhadresu means "All that is inauspicious is almost destroyed" and one thus becomes "fixed in the devotional service of the Lord" (bhaktir bhavati naisthiki).
Madhurya Kadambini explains that anarthas are completely eradicated only at prema:
"Each of the anarthas has five grades of anartha-nivrtti (nullification): limited or partial (eka-desa-vartini), pervasive (bahu-desa-vartini), almost complete (prayiki), complete (purna), and absolute (atyantiki). Thus the nullification of anarthas arising from aparadha is as follows. From the start of devotional activities (bhajana-kriya) the nullification is partial according to the nyaya: the town burned, the cloth is torn. (According to gramo-dagdhah pato bhagah logic, when we hear that the town is burned, we can imagine that some of it must still be existing, or if a cloth is torn, the pieces are still existing.) By continued practice, with the appearance of nistha, the eradication is more pervasive. With the appearance of rati, or bhava, the eradication is almost complete. With the appearance of prema, the eradication is complete. With attainment of the Lord’s association, the eradication of anarthas is absolute, with no possibility of their reappearance."
(Madhurya Kamdambini p27)
Often Srila Prabhupada explains anartha-nivrtti as following the regulative principles and giving up sinful habits. "By bhajana-kriya one attains freedom from the contamination of materialistic life. He no longer goes to a restaurant or hotel to taste so- called palatable dishes made with meat and onions, nor does he care to smoke or drink tea or coffee. He not only refrains from illicit sex, but avoids sex life entirely. Nor is he interested in wasting his time in speculating or gambling. In this way it is understood that one is becoming cleansed of unwanted things (anartha nivrtti)."
As one advances from steadiness (nistha), to taste (ruci), and attachment (asakti), one’s practices in raganuga also develop. In other words, not all practices require the same degree of advancement. When actual greed (lobha) comes in full force, it quickly brings one to attachment, where real raganuga-sadhana begins. At this stage of ecstatic love (bhava), one realizes one’s eternal spiritual form (svarupa) and service to Krsna. Then one can meditate on one’s service to Radha and Krsna in Their eternal eightfold daily pastimes (astakaliya-lila). After achieving svarupa-siddhi in the present body, one enters the Lord’s pastimes and attains vastu-siddhi. Thus different developments take place in different stages of advancement.
"Devotional life is divided into two stages – sadhana-bhakti and bhava-bhakti. Sadhana-bhakti refers to the development of devotional service through the regulative principles. The basic principle for the execution of devotional service is faith. Above that, there is association with devotees, and after that there is initiation by a bona fide spiritual master. After initiation, when one follows the regulative principles of devotional service, one becomes freed from all unwanted things. In this way one becomes firmly fixed and gradually develops a taste for devotional service. The more the taste grows, the more one desires to render service to the Lord. In this way one becomes attached to a particular mellow in the Lord’s service -- santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya. As a result of such attachment, bhava develops. Bhava-bhakti is the platform of purified goodness. By such purified goodness, one’s heart melts in devotional service. Bhava-bhakti is the first seed of love of Godhead. This emotional stage is there before one attains pure love. When that emotional stage intensifies it is called prema-bhakti, or transcendental love of Godhead."
(Cc Mad 23.13p)
"Madhurya-rati is the highest form of prema, and an individual soul even in the stage of raganuga-bhakti in the wake of the ragatmika-bhakti considers herself as a maid called manjari, under the guidance of the way of services rendered by the dearest Rupa Manjari and Rati Manjari and others who, in their turn, are subservient to Sri Lalita, Visakha, Citra, Indulekha, Campakalata, Rangadevi, Tungavidya, and Sudevi -- eight sakhis who are direct expansions of Sri Radhika. They are all engaged in the aprakrta (transcendental) services of their beloved Sri Krsna for His absolute pleasure and of none else. Their cent percent satisfaction lies in the absolute pleasure of their beloved alone. Hence a sadhaka in raganuga-bhakti may be a man or woman in this physical world but develops the aprakrta body of a gopi, called a manjari, if his or her raga is awakened in the wake of the Vraja-gopi. Sri Rupa Manjari guides the handmaid in the hold of Sri Lalita sakhi, who in turn engages the handmaid in the specialized services of Sri Radha-Krsna."
(Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati lecture, quoted in Sri Caitanya’s Teachings)
"Who, then, will not reside at Radha-kunda and, in a spiritual a body surcharged with ecstatic devotional feelings (aparakrta-bhava) render loving service to the divine couple Sri Sri Radha-Govinda who perform Their astakaliya-lila, Their eternal eightfold daily pastimes. Indeed, those who execute their devotional service on the banks of Radha-kunda are the most fortunate people in the universe."
"Living entities who are eager to return home to the transcendental kingdom of God, by means of attaining their spiritual a bodies (siddha-deha) should live at Radha-kunda, take a shelter of the confidential serving maids of Sri Radha and under their direction engage constantly in Her service. If one is thus constantly engaged during his lifetime, after giving up the body, he will return back to Godhead to serve Sri Radha in the same way as he contemplated during his life on the banks of Radha-kunda."
"Therefore one should accept the mood of the gopis in their service. In such a transcendental mood, one should always think of the pastimes of Radha and Krsna. After thinking of Radha and Krsna and Their pastimes for a long time and after getting completely free from material contamination, one is transferred to the spiritual world. There the devotee attains an opportunity to serve Radha and Krsna as one of the gopis."
(Cc Mad 8.228-229)
"Unless one follows in the footsteps of the gopis, one cannot attain the service of the lotus feet of Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja."
(Cc Mad 8.230)
DOUBT: If a devotee develops attraction for raga-marga, may he not feel proud, thinking himself superior to others?
No devotee should feel proud. Lord Caitanya instructed Ragunatha dasa, "Do not expect honor, but offer all respects to others. Always chanting the holy name of Lord Krsna, and within your mind render service to Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana."
(Cc Ant 6.237)
But we should remember that interest in raganuga-bhakti begins in the stage of sadhana, where some influence of anarthas is still present. What to speak of the stage of practice, even in the stage of ecstatic love (bhava) some scent of anarthas may remain. So we should be careful and not deride devotees.
"A devotee who has unflinching faith and devotion to the Lord, even if found to be accidentally deviated from pure devotional characteristics, should still be counted among the pure. A little fault in the midst of volumes of devotional service is not to be counted as a fault."
If one is actually absorbed in raganuga-bhakti, he will think of the devotees he wants to emulate. He will meditate on Srila Prabhupada’s preaching and think, "In comparison, what have I done?" He will meditate on Raghunatha dasa’s longing and think, "In comparison, what do I feel?" Thinking of those great personalities in whose footsteps he wants to follow, he will feel humble.
Even thinking of more advanced contemporaries will make him feel humble. Thus the devotee aspiring for raganuga may think, "Oh, my Godbrother is so pure, much more than me. And he is so devoted to Srila Prabhupada, doing so much service. Surely he has Prabhupada’s mercy."
DOUBT: When our philosophy and practices include raga-bhakti, especially following in the footsteps of the gopis, why did Srila Prabhupada criticize some devotees in 1976 for trying to concentrate on the gopis?
For one thing, they were impelled by babajis at Radha-kunda and Srila Prabhupada never wanted us influenced by unauthorized babajis. They were not being guided by their guru. Another thing is they were not preaching and not doing sankirtan. Generally they were just not ready and Srila Prabhupada apprehended they were not able even to follow the regulative principles.
"I have received information that some of our devotees are mixing with the babajis in Vrndavana. This has produced so many problems amongst our men and women who visit Vrndavana. Here in Los Angeles, we have found that there is a group of about forty devotees who privately meet and discuss the intimate pastimes artificially, thinking that they can enter into the understanding of the gopis prematurely."
(SP letter 7.6.1976)
Tamala Krsna: One thing I’ve noticed about the people involved with this is that they don’t go out on sankirtana. Everyone I’ve seen……
Prabhupada: Then everything will be finished. Preaching will be finished. In this sahajiya party, then preaching will be finished. They have learnt it from these Radha-kunda babajis.
Tamala Krsna: From Radha-kunda babajis?
Prabhupada: Babajis, yes.
Tamala Krsna: There’s a statement somewhere in one of your books that when one attains the highest platform ……
Prabhupada: Then where is that highest platform?
Tamala Krsna: Yes, there’s no question of it.
Ramesvara: One must go through stages.
Prabhupada: Yes. One has to come to the highest stage. It is not forbidden. That may be ideal, but not for the neophytes. You must…… One who does not know ABCD, what will he know about M.A. degrees? That they do not know. They think that they have already passed M.A. degree. That is their fault… First of all, be qualified. Where is their qualification? You are after illicit sex and bidi and you want to be associated with the gopis….Unless they follow the regulative principles, there is no place for them in the temple. Let them go out….They want to utilize the love affairs of Krsna and the gopis for their own debauchery. That is sahajiya.
Ramesvara: Srila Prabhupada, some devotees, sometimes they feel that in ISKCON we’re talking so much about the business of how to spread Krsna consciousness, but we’re not talking enough about Krsna’s pastimes, krsna-katha, they say. So that’s another reason why they want to read all these pastimes.
Prabhupada: Then let them read. What kind of krsna-katha? The krsna-katha test is as soon as he’ll get the taste, he’ll lose this taste (for sense gratification)… The books are there for reading. By reading, you become purified."
(Morning walk, LA 7.6.1976)
We should not conclude that just because some ISKCON devotees were not ready at a particular point in time, no ISKCON devotee will ever be ready.
"We cannot apply the nagna-matrka-nyaya formula. This states that if one’s mother was naked in her childhood, she should continue to remain naked, even though she has become a mother of so many children. If a person is actually benedicted by the mercy of the Lord, he can immediately become a topmost devotee of the Lord. The logic of nagna-matrka states that if a person is not elevated on such and such a date, he cannot become an exalted devotee overnight, as it were. This particular instance offers evidence to contradict that theory. This was all made possible by the causeless mercy of the Lord. The Lord is omnipotent, all powerful and almighty, and He can act as He likes."
(Cc M. 12.68p)
"When all of the devotees saw the mercy of the Lord upon the two brothers, they were very gladdened, and they began to chant the holy name of the Lord, ‘Hari, Hari!’ When Vaisnava sees that another Vaisnava is the recipient of the Lord’s mercy, he becomes very happy. Vaisnavas are not envious."
(Cc Mad 1.218p)
"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy is so powerful that it acts automatically. If a person renders loving service to Krsna, it never goes in vain. It is recorded in a spiritual account and in due time it will fructify. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has particularly bestowed upon all fallen souls in this age the most potent method of devotional service, and whoever takes to it through the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is immediately elevated to the transcendental position. A student of Krsna conciousness must receive Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy, then his devotional service will quickly succeed. Devotees of Krsna must persistently seek the favor and mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to become fit to return home, back to Godhead.
We should have full faith in the words and the mercy of Srila Prabhupada. If we engage faithfully in Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement under Srila Prabhupada’s guidance, why should we not be blessed to make advancement in Krsna consciousness?
What is a sahajiya?
Sahajiyas are materialistic devotees who take everything cheaply. Srila Prabhupada has described certain common characteristics of sahajiyas:
"Tapasya is required. If you think that very easily, ‘Without tapasya, I can get it simply by imagination,’ then you become sahajiya, to take things very easily."
"The scripture known as Bramha-yamala states as follows: ‘If someone wants to pose himself as a great devotee without following the authorities of the revealed scriptures, then his activities will never help him to make progress in devotional service. Instead, he will simply create disturbances for the sincere students of devotional service.’ Those who do not strictly follow the principles of revealed scriptures generally called sahajiyas -- those who have imagined everything to be cheap, who have their own concocted ideas, and do not follow the scriptural injunctions. Such persons are simply creating disturbances in the discharge of devotional service."
"In Vrndavana there are prakrta-sahajiyas who say that writing books or even touching books is taboo. For them, devotional service means being relieved from these activities. Whenever they are asked to hear a recitation of Vedic literature, they refuse, saying, ‘What business do we have reading or hearing transcendental literatures? They are meant for neophytes.’ They pose themselves to be too elevated to exert energy for reading, writing and hearing. However, pure devotees under the guidance of Sri Rupa Gosvami reject this sahajiya philosophy."
(Cc M. 19.132p)
"Bona fide devotional service is based on the conclusions of Vedic literature. It is not based on the type of sentiments exhibited by the prakrta-sahajiyas. The prakrta-sahajiyas do not consult the Vedic literatures, and they are debauchees, woman hunters and smokers of ganja. Sometimes they give a theatrical performance and cry for the Lord with tears is in their eyes. Of course, all scriptural conclusions are washed off by these tears. The prakrta-sahajiyas do not realize that they are violating the orders of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who specifically said that to understand Vrndavana and the pastimes of Vrndavana, one must have sufficient knowledge of the sastras (Vedic Literatures)."
"They differentiate the absolute activities of the Absolute. That is called sahajiya. The sahajiyas will never read Bhagavad-gita. [Sarcastic:] Because they have been elevated to the mellows of conjugal love. Therefore they have no interest in Bhagavad-gita. Or when you discuss Srimad-Bhagavatam on the philosophical point, janmady asya, they also do not attend."
"There are many sahajiyas who decry the activities of the six Gosvamis -- Srila Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunatha dasa, Bhatta Raghunatha, Jiva and Gopala Bhatta Gosvamis -- who are the personal associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and who enlightened society by writing books on devotional service. Similarly, Narottama dasa Thakura and other great acaryas like Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya and others accepted many thousands of disciples to induce them to render devotional service. However, there is a class of sahajiyas, who think that these activities are opposed to the principles of devotional service. Indeed, they consider such activities simply another phase of materialism. Thus opposing the principles of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they commit offenses at His lotus feet."
"Ignorant sahajiyas call themselves vaisnava-dasa-anudasa, which means the servant of the servant of the Vaisnavas. However they are opposed to addressing a pure Vaisnava as Prabhupada. In other words, they are envious of a bona fide spiritual master who is addressed as Prahupada, and they commit offences by considering a bona fide spiritual master an ordinary human being or a member of a certain caste."
"The prakrta-sahajiyas sometimes criticize pure devotees by calling them philosophers, learned scholars, knowers of the truth, or minute observers, but not devotees."
(Cc Ant 20.28p)
"We therefore see that devotees known as sahajiya, who make everything very easy, do not associate with advanced devotees. Such persons, in the name of devotional service, are addicted to all kinds of sinful acts -- illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and meat eating. There are many so-called devotees passing themselves off as devotees while engaging in these sinful activities."
"Even in a sacred place like Vrndavana, India, unintelligent men pass off this rectal and genital business as spiritual activity. Such people are called sahajiya. According to their philosophy, through sexual indulgence one can elevate oneself to the spiritual platform."
"A class of so-called devotees known as sahajiyas try to imitate the Lord’s pastimes, although they have no understanding of the amorous love in His expansions of pleasure potency. Their superficial imitation can create havoc on the path for the advancement of one’s spiritual relationship with the Lord. Material sexual indulgence can never be equated with spiritual love, which is in unadulterated goodness. The activities of the sahajiyas simply lower oneself deeper into the material contamination of the senses and mind. Krsna’s transcendental pastimes display eternal servitorship to Adhoksaja, the Supreme Lord, who is beyond all conception through material senses. Materialistic conditioned souls do not understand the transcendental exchanges of love, but they like to indulge in sense gratification in the name of devotional service. The activities of the Supreme Lord can never be understood by irresponsible persons who think the pastimes of Radha and Krsna to be ordinary affairs."
(Cc Adi 4.34p)
"We shall wait for the fortunate moment when we shall be able to understand what are the pastimes or loving affairs between Radha and Krsna. Otherwise, if we take them as ordinary boy and girls reciprocating their loving feelings, we will misunderstand. Then there will be the production of prakrta-sahajiya. Prakrta-sahajiya means taking things very easily. They thought that Radha-Krsna is just like a boy and girl’s lusty affairs. And in this way they took sex life as religion."
"Krsna’s embracing Radharani or His dancing with the cowherd girls in the rasa dance are generally not understood by ordinary men because they consider these pastimes in the light of mundane lust. They incorrectly think that Krsna is like themselves and that He embraces the gopis just as an ordinary man embraces a young girl. Some people thus become interested in Krsna because they think that His religion allows indulgence in sex. This is not krsna-bhakti, love of Krsna, but prakrta-sahajiya -- materialistic lust."
"The sahajiyas do not follow the instructions. They imitate only. Krsna Has made rasa-lila, so why not we also make rasa-lila?"
"We should be careful about the so-called siddha-pranali. The siddha-pranali process is followed by a class of men who are not very authorized and who have manufactured their own way of devotional service. They imagine that they have become associates of the Lord simply by thinking of themselves like that. This external behavior is not at all according to the regulative principles. The so-called siddha-pranali process is followed by the prakrta-sahajiya, a pseudosect of so-called Vaisnavas."
"You will find many so-called bhaktas crying, falling down on the ground. But immediately after, he is smoking bidi. Why is this going on? Because they do not follow the injunction of Srila Rupa Gosvami. Chanting, dancing very loudly, and after the performance is finished -- I have seen it -- ‘Can you give me a bidi?’ You see? ‘My throat is now dried up.’ So this is utpata. Srila Rupa Gosvami has described this kind of so-called devotional attitude is simply disturbance. They imitate."
"The regulative principles are designed to take us gradually to the platform of spontaneous love of Krsna, which is the perfection of human life. Those who think they have already attained such perfection and give up the regulative principles are called sahajiya, or those who take things cheaply and simply imitate. This early rising, holding classes, and going out regularly for sankirtana, worshipping the deity are the very substance of devotional life."
(SP letter 29.4.1974)
What about taking help from other books and other Vaisnavas?
Although Srila Prabhupada has given us the most essential of the teachings of the previous acaryas in his books, he also wanted us to read the books of the previous acaryas:
Pramahamsa: Srila Prabhupada, I remember once I heard a tape where you told us that we should try not to read the books of the previous acaryas.
Amogha: That we should try not to read Bhaktivinoda’s books or earlier books of other, all acaryas. So I was just wondering……
Prabhupada: I never said that.
Amogha: You didn’t say that? Oh.
Prabhupada: How is that?
Amogha: I thought you said that we shouldn not read the previous acaryas books.
Prabhupada: No, you should read.
Amogha: We should.
Prabhupada: It is misunderstanding.
Paramahamsa: I think maybe he was thinking that there were some things about some of the Gaudiya Matha books.
Pramahamsa: And sometimes you said that better not to.….. better to read your books.
Amogha: When the devotees went to India this year, they said that Acutananda Swami very… chastised them that, "You should never……. If I catch any of you buying Bhaktisiddhanta’s books from Gaudiya Math, then I will take it away," something like this.
Paramahamsa: Yeah, that was, the reason was because of, he didn’t want the devotees going to Gaudiya Matha. But there’s nothing wrong with the idea of studying the previous acaryas’ books.
Prabhupada: No. Who said? That is wrong. We are following previous acaryas. I never said that.
Paramahamsa: All of your commentaries are coming form the previous acaryas.
Jayadharma: But that wouldn’t mean that we should keep all the previous acaryas’ books and only read them.
Prabhupada: That is already there. You first assimilate what you have got. You simply pile up books and do not read them -- what is the use?
Jayadharma: First of all we must read all your books.
So Srila Prabhupada wants us to read the books of the previous acaryas after we have studied his.
Although we cannot say that the previous acaryas are in ISKCON, still Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami, Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami and others are our siksa-gurus and Srila Prabhupada wanted us to know their books and follow their instructions, pray to them for their mercy and develop our love for them.
"All Gaudiya Vaisnavas who are followers of the Caitanya cult are subordinate to Svarupa Damodar Gosvami. The parampara system is very strictly observed by Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal secretary was Svarupa Damodar Gosvami. The next group of devotees was the six Gosvamis, then Kaviraja Gosvami. It is necessary to observe the parampara system of the Caitanya cult. There are many offenses one can commit while serving the Lord, and these are described in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Hari-bhakti-vilasa and other books."
"Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, Sri Bhatta Raghunatha, Sri Jiva Gosvami, Sri Gopal Bhatta Gosvami and Sri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami -- these are my six instructing spiritual masters, and therefore I offer millions of respectful obeisances unto their lotus feet."
(Cc Adi 1.36-37)
"By accepting the six Gosvamis as his instructing spiritual masters, the author specifically makes it clear that one should not be recognized as a Gaudiya Vaisnava if he is not obedient to them."
(Cc Adi 1.37p)
"Srila Sanatana Gosvami is the ideal spiritual master, for he delivers one the shelter of the lotus feet of Madana-mohana. Even though one may be unable to travel on the field of Vrndavana due to the forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he can get an adequate opportunity to stay in Vrndavana and derive all spiritual benefits by the mercy of Sanatana Gosvami."
(Cc Adi 1.47p)
"Sri Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu, the teacher of the science of devotional service, wrote several books, of which the Brhad-bhagavatamrta is very famous; anyone who wants to know about the subject matters of devotees, devotional service and Krsna, must read this book."
(Cc Adi 5.203p)
"Actually going to Vrndavana involves taking shelter of the six Gosvamis by reading Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Vidagdha-madhava, Lalita-madhava and the other books that they have given."
(Cc Adi 8.31)
"Anyone desiring to become expert in the service Sri Sri Radha and Krsna should always aspire to be under the guidance of Svarupa Damodar Goswami, Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami and Raghunatha dasa Gosvamis."
(Cc Adi 5.202)
"One should not give up the worship of Radha and Krsna to worship Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. By worshipping either Radha-Krsna or Lord Caitanya alone, one cannot become advanced. One should try not to supersede the instructions of the six Gosvamis, for they are acaryas and very dear to Lord Caitanya. Therefore Naraottama dasa Thakura sings:
rupa-raghunatha-pade haibe akuti
kabe hama bujhaba se yugala-piriti
One must be a submissive student of the six Gosvamis, from Srila Rupa Gosvami to Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. Not following their instructions but imagining how to worship Gaurasundara and Radha-Krsna is a great offense, as a result of which one clears a path to hell."
(Cc Adi 8.32p)
"If a devotee seeks shelter at the lotus feet of the six Gosvamis, the merciful Gosvamis will certainly give the Lord’s servitor all protection. If we adhere to the lotus feet of the six Gosvamis and pray for their mercy, all impediments will be annihilated, and the transcendental devotional desire to serve the Supreme Lord will be fulfilled."
(Cc Ant 1.4p)
"When one develops his love for the six Gosvamis, he can understand the conjugal love between Radha and Krsna."
(Cc Adi 7.17p)
" ‘When I am eager to understand the literature given by the Gosvamis, then I shall be able to understand the loving affairs of Radha and Krsna.’ Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in order to bestow upon human society the benediction of the science of Krsna. The most exalted of all the activities of the Lord are His pastimes of conjugal love with the gopis. Therefore, to understand the mission of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and follow in His footsteps, one must very seriously follow in the footsteps of the six Gosvamis -- Sri Rupa, Sanatana, Bhatta Raghunatha, Sri Jiva, Gopala Bhatta and Dasa Raghunatha."
"Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has given us a transcendental literature entitled Krsna-bhavanamrta, which is full of Krsna’s pastimes. Devotees can remain absorbed in Krsna-thought, by reading such books."
"A sincere devotee must, therefore, be prepared to hear the Vedic literature like the Upanisads, Vedanta and other literatures left by the previous authorities or Gosvamis for the benefit of his progress. Without hearing such literatures, one cannot make actual progress."
(Lecture, L.A. 4.12.1968)
Just as we accept the previous acaryas as siksa-gurus, anyone who explains purely the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas can also be accepted as siksa-guru. "A siksa-guru is anyone who can give spiritual advancement. You can take instruction from my books, and if you are unable to understand any portion of the books, then you can get it explained by any senior devotee. Any senior devotee can be an instructor in spiritual subject matters."
(SP letter 7.7.1974)
"It is not that after we become initiated we become perfect. No. It requires teaching. So if we take instruction from them, all senior Godbrothers may be treated as guru, there is no harm. Actually, you only have one spiritual master, who initiates you, just as you have only one father. But every Vaisnava should be treated as Prabhu, master, higher than me, and in this sense, if I learn from him, he may be regarded as guru. It is not that I disobey my real spiritual master and call someone else as spiritual master. That is wrong. It is only I can call spiritual master someone who is teaching me purely what my initiating spiritual master has taught."
(SP letter 20.11.1971)
"The initiating and instructing spiritual masters are equal and identical manifestations of Krsna, although they have different dealings. Their function is to guide the conditioned souls back home, back to Godhead. Therefore Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami accepted Nityananda Prabhu and the six Gosvamis in the category of guru."
(Cc Adi 1.34p)
What if an acarya says something different from Srila Prabhupada?
We should try to reconcile apparent differences. For example, Jiva Gosvami apparently differed from other authorities on the issue of parakiya-rasa and svakiya-rasa in Krsna’s pastimes with the gopis. But Srila Prabhupada and other acaryas have reconciled the difference by explaining that internally Jiva Gosvami always followed Rupa Gosvami but externally made adjustments for the sake of preaching: "According to another accusation, Srila Jiva Gosvami did not approve of the principle of the parakiya-rasa of Vrajadhama and therefore supported svakiya-rasa, showing that Radha and Krsna are eternally married. Actually, when Jiva Gosvami was alive, some of his followers disliked the parakiya-rasa of the gopis. Therefore Srila Jiva Gosvami, for their spiritual benefit, supported svakiya-rasa, for he could understand that sahajiyas would otherwise exploit the parakiya-rasa, as they are actually doing at the present. Srila Jiva Gosvami was never opposed to the transcendental parakiya-rasa, nor has any other Vaisnava disapproved of it. Srila Jiva Gosvami strictly followed his predecessor gurus and Vaisnavas, Srila Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami, and Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami accepted him as one of his instructing gurus."
(Cc Adi 10.85p)
"Arjuna was perplexed because Asvatthama was to be killed as well as spared according to different scriptures cited by different persons. Contradictory orders of different persons are impossible to carry out. This dilemma was present before Arjuna, and the solution was awarded by Krsna. A compromise was selected by Arjuna by his sharp intelligence, and he separated the jewel from the head of Asvatthama. Thus the humiliated Asvatthama was simultaneously killed and not killed by the intelligence of Lord Krsna and Arjuna."
"The word manisaya (‘by intelligence’) is of special significance. Priyavrata might argue that Lord Brahma was requesting him to accept family life and the responsibility for ruling a kingdom, although Narada Muni had advised him not to enter household life and be entangled in material affairs. Whom to accept would be a puzzle for Priyavrata because both Lord Brahma and Narada Muni are authorities. Under the circumstances, the use of the world manisaya is very appropriate, for it indicates that since both Narada Muni and Lord Brahma are authorized to give instruction, Priyavrata should neglect neither of them but should use his intelligence to follow the advice of both."
Srila Prabhupada himself says things different from himself in different places. But Srila Prabhupada explains that the statements are not actually contradictory because different statements apply to different audiences or different circumstances.
Madhudvisa: In the Eighteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, in one of your purports, you say that a sannyasi should never discourage a young man from getting married. But on the other hand, we understand that a sannyasi should encourage young men to remain brahmacari. So it seems to me like there’s some kind of contradiction.
Prabhupada: According to time and circumstance. Just like Krsna says, nityatam kuru karma tvam : "Always be engaged in your prescribed work." And at last He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. So now you adjust. That is not a contradiction. It is just suitable to the time and circumstance.
Madhudvisa: But is there some conclusion?
Prabhupada: The real aim is that you have to become the eternal servant of Krsna.
(Conversation, Mayapur. 9.3.1976)
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur instructs that if one cannot reconcile such apparent contradictions, one should remain neutral and not take sides. Otherwise one may commit offenses.
Srila Prabhupada also confirms that there is no reason why acaryas cannot differ on some points. "As for your question about santa-rasa and the opinions of Rupa Gosvami and Sridhara Swami. I don’t remember. You can send me the appropriate passages. There is no reason why acaryas cannot differ on certain points."
(SP letter 19.2.1972)
Still the basic conclusions will always be the same. "Regarding Sridhara Swami’s article: I do not know what sort of article it is, but whatever it may be, the writer’s name should be Swami B.R. Sridhara. Besides that, there is no need of giving any short introductory note at the present moment. Whomever sends an article for publication in our paper, and if we publish such article it is to be understood that the version of such article is not different from ours."
(SP letter 30.1.1970)
In other words, even without seeing Sridhara Maharaja’s article, he understood that their versions would agree.
The conclusions are the same because the source is the same. "Disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion. Arjuna was a disciple of Krishna and Brahma was also a disciple of Krishna. Thus there was no disagreement in the conclusions."
(SP letter 31.10.1969)
"Disciplic succession does not mean one has to be directly a disciple of a particular person. Arjuna accepted Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we also accept the same truth under the disciplic succession of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another."
(SP letter 25.1.1969)
"There is no difference of our sampradaya-siddhanta. We are selling books of many of our Godbrothers, just like Bon Maharaja, Nitai dasa Brahmacari, Prof.Sannyal, Bhakti Pradipa Tirtha, Raga Caitanya Prabhu, etc."
(SP letter 8.2.1969)
We have not got to learn anything from any outsider beyond the jurisdiction of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy. Our philosophy is established on the sound ground of the conclusion arrived at by Vyasadeva down to Jiva Goswami, Visvanatha Cakravarti, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, etc."
(SP letter 27.5.1970)
"I also thank you very much for your appreciation of my books and letters and for my speaking in the meetings. They are not my words, as I have repeatedly informed you that I am simply the bearer of the message from Lord Caitanya through the disciplic succession and I do not make any addition or subtraction."
(SP letter 10.1.1970)
"The words are ambrosial because they are not my personal words; they are instructions of my predecessors and I am just trying to administer them to my best knowledge. That is the way of the parampara system."
(SP letter 17.4.1970)
"When we speak of the fundamental principles of Gurudeva or Acaryadeva, we speak of something that is of universal application. There does not arise any question of discriminiating my Guru from yours or anyone else’s. The Guru or Acaryadeva delivers the message of the absolute world. Therefore, if the Absolute Truth is one, about which we think there is no difference of opinion, the Guru also cannot be two."
(The Universal Teacher)
"Anyone who is a bona fide preacher in the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu must be respectful to the real devotees of Lord Caitanya. One should not be envious, considering one preacher to be very great and another to be very lowly. This is a material distinction and has no place on the platform of spiritual activities."
(Cc Adi 10.7p)
The spiritual master can be present wherever the disciple wants. A spiritual master is the principle, not the body."
(SP letter 28.5.1968)
Then is Srila Prabhupada just one of the acaryas in the line? No. Srila Prabhupada obviously was especially empowered by Lord Caitanya and the disciplic succession to explain and adapt the principles of Krsna consciousness for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga, to preach and introduce those principles and practices throughout the world, and to establish ISKCON to continue the same mission. Furthermore, he is the founder-acarya of ISKCON, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur says the founder-acarya is the principal siksa-guru in the line. Even apart from Srila Prabhupada’s special position.
"We have to pick up from the authority of the acarya in whatever sampradaya we belong to." (SP letter 12.4.68) And, "Everyone should be particular to his particular disciplic succession or sampradaya’s regulative principles."
(SP letter 13.2.69)
In any case, being followers of Srila Prabhupada, we will always accept Srila Prabhupada’s version.
In the absence of direct personal instruction from the spiritual master, how do I know whether to try for raganuga-bhakti?
In the beginning we should hear constantly and attentively, whether in vaidhi or raganuga-bhakti. The question of raganuga-bhakti arises only if we manifest a spontaneous attraction to hearing a particular subject. The real question is, how do we know whether or not we should perform any specific activity in devotional service?
"Any matter, however important, should be confirmed by some authority."
As our standard authorities are sadhu, sastra and guru, we should consult and confirm with them. But different devotees and scriptures give different instructions. And the same spiritual master also may give different instructions in different contexts. So how do we know which instruction is appropriate for us?
We have to be sincere and intelligent.
"A devotee knows his position and he is intelligent enough to deal with others accordingly."
"The devotee should know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform."
"If he is sincere in his devotional service he is helped by Krsna Himself within the heart."
"Krsna guides the devotee in what to do first and what to do next."
Yasomatinandana: In other words, first one should understand Bhagavad-gita. Then gradually the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Then ultimately Caitanya-caritamrta. Without that, simply taking Caitanya-caritamrta….
Prabhupada: Yes. Bhagavad-gita is the entrance. Then Bhagavata is graduate and Caitanya-caritamrta….. This is the step by step. But if one is sincere everything becomes revealed. He does not commit mistake.
And we should judge by the result. By reading or hearing certain topics, are we becoming purified or "putrefied?" If we are not ready, we will become "putrefied," and for some time we should leave such topics. But if we have real faith and eagerness, we will become purified:
"If one is a sincere and pure devotee, the material lust in his heart is completely vanquished as he discusses the lusty feelings between the gopis and Krsna, and he makes quick progress in spiritual life."
(Cc Adi 4.30p)
"Neophytes will be able to understand these affairs only after being elevated by regulated devotional service under the expert guidance of the spiritual master. Then they too will be competent to hear of the love affairs of Radha and Krsna."
(Cc Adi 4.35p)
"A person who actually understands what the rasa-lila is will certainly hate to indulge in mundane sex life."
(Cc Adi 4.30p)
"Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura comments in this connection, ‘Any person seriously inclined to hear about the pastimes of Krsna’s rasa dance, as mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam, with great faith and a transcendental, spiritually inspired mind, is immediately freed from the natural lusty desires found within the heart of a materialistic man. When a pure Vaisnava speaks on Srimad-Bhagavatam, and another pure Vaisnava hears Srimad-Bhagavatam from such a realized soul, both of them live in the transcendental world, where the contamination of the modes of material nature cannot touch them. Freed from the contamination of the modes of nature the speaker and hearer are fixed in a transcendental mentality, knowing that their position on the transcendental platform is to serve the Supreme Lord. The class known as prakrta-sahajiya, who consider the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna something like the behavior between a man and a woman in the material field, artificially think that hearing the rasa-lila will help them by diminishing the lusty desires of their diseased hearts. But because they do not follow the regulative principles but instead violate even ordinary morals, their contemplation of rasa-lila is a futile attempt, which sometimes results in their imitating the dealings of the gopis and Lord Krsna.’ "
(Cc Ant. 5.46)
As the same subject may react differently on different persons (or on the same person at different times), we should proceed cautiously. We should confirm with sadhu, sastra and the guru within the heart, and thus progress step by step.
Of course, if possible one should take direct personal instruction from one’s spiritual master.
If I take to raganuga-bhakti, will I have to decrease my preaching?
Almost all of the great acaryas in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Rupa Goswami acted simultaneously as preachers and raganuga-bhaktas.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was one of the greatest preachers, yet he prays, "When will I utter Krsna, Krsna, Krsna, with words choked up and shivering body? When will I tremble all over, lose bodily color, tears pouring from my eyes, when, oh when will that day be mine?"
(Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas, BBT. 1989, p48)
And Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, who was also one of the first Gaudiya book distributors, prays, "With the permission of all the sakhis headed by Lalita and Visakha, I will serve the lotus feet of Radha and Krsna. Narottama dasa, the servant of the servant of Sri Krsna Caitanya Prabhu, longs for this service to the divine couple."
(Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas, BBT, 1989, p68)
And on the way to America, just before he was to begin his biggest preaching, Srila Prabhupada wrote the following: "Running and frolicking in the many forests of Vraja, I will roll on the ground in spiritual ecstasy. Oh, when will that day be mine? Because I have a great longing I called to You. I am Your eternal servant, and therefore I desire Your association so much."
(Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krsna)
"To acquire strong feelings of separation is the teaching of Lord Caitanya and His direct disciplic succession of Gosvamis. When we are not in physical contact with Krsna, we can associate with Him like the gopis, through feelings of separation. Devotional service to Krsna in feelings of separation elevates the devotee to the highest perfectional level, to the level of the gopis…. Spiritual masters should enrich the devotees to the highest devotional perfection."
Raganuga-sadhakas who strongly desire the highest perfection in Krsna consciousness will be prepared to give their lives to preach and get the mercy of Guru and Gauranga. As Srila Prabhupada said, "The way to develop the love of the gopis is to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world."
So entering raganuga-sadhana does not mean becoming a bhajananandi. One can remain a ghostyanandi and by following the previous acaryas, actually become a better preacher.
"By sincere efforts to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam one realizes his constitutional relationship with the Lord in the transcendental humor of servitude, friendship, parental affection or conjugal love, and by such self-realization one becomes situated in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Not only were the pure devotees like Narada self-realized souls, but they were engaged in preaching work automatically by spiritual impetus, and thus, they delivered many poor souls."
"Oh! It is not that the gopis are boycotted. The policy should be that because people may not understand the gopis – they may think they are ordinary girls – we should be careful how we present the gopis. It does not mean that we shall not even utter the word gopis, that we have taken a vow to boycott the gopis. No. They are worshipful devotees. How can we avoid them?"
"One who has not been attracted by the transcendental beauty of rasa will certainly be dragged down into material attraction, thus to act in material contamination and progress to the darkest region of hellish life. But by understanding the conjugal love of Radha and Krsna ones is freed from the grip of attraction to material so-called love between man and woman. Similarly if one understands the pure parental love of Nanda and Yasoda for Krsna, he will be saved from being dragged into material parental affection. If one accepts Krsna as the supreme friend, the attraction of material friendship will be finished for him, and he will not be dismayed by so-called friendship with mundane wranglers. If he is attracted by servitorship to Krsna, he will no longer have to serve the material body in the degraded status of material existence with the false hope of becoming master in the future. Similarly, one who sees the greatness of Krsna in neutrality will certainly never again seek the so-called relief of impersonalism or voidist philosophy. If one is not attracted by the transcendental nature of Krsna, one is sure to be attracted to material enjoyment, thus to become implicated in the clinging network of virtuous and sinful activities and continue material existence by transmigrating from one material body to another. Only in Krsna consciousness can one achieve the highest perfection of life."
(Cc Adi 4.35p)
"Vaidhi-bhakti, that is apprenticeship. Real bhakti, para-bhakti, that is raganuga-bhakti. This raganuga-bhakti, we have to come after surpassing the vaidhi-bhakti. In the material, if we do not try to make further and further progress in devotional service, if we are simply sticking to the sastric regulation process and do not try to go beyond that….
"Sastric process is also regulation, that is required. Without sastric process you cannot go to that platform. But if we stick to the sastric process only and do not try to improve ourself…. The sastric process is kanistha-adhikara, lowest stage of devotional service. Such devotee can fall down at any moment. Because he’s on the prakrta stage. And prakrta means this gunamayi, prakrti. It is very strong. So any devotee can fall down if he remains prakrta-bhakta. So he has to raise himself above this in the madhyama-adhikara. My Guru Maharaja used to say, licking up the bottle of honey. That is not real honey. You have to open the bottle of honey and lick up the real honey. Then you’ll get taste. That is advancement of spiritual knowledge. Satam prasangan mama virya-samvido bhavanti hrtkarna-rasayanah kathah. Therefore, if we do not associate with the advanced devotees, uttama-adhikari, if we simply want to remain in the lowest stage of devotional service, then we are not making progress.
"So long we are up to the adhoksaja knowledge, that is regulative principles. We have to follow the regulative principles strictly. Without vaidhi-bhakti, you cannot reach to the platform of raga-bhakti, although that is our aim. Raganuga, raga-bhakti is executed, following the footprints of the devotees in Vrndavana. That is called raga-bhakti. Krsna’s personal associates. Not to become directly Krsna’s personal associate, but following the footprints of Krsna’s eternal associates, we can come to the stage of raga-bhakti. That is called para-bhakti. That para-bhakti is required. So this Krsna consciousness movement is gradually developing up to the stage of raga-bhakti or para-bhakti. Then life is successful."
(Lecture, 12.11.72. VRN)
"May Tulasi be kind upon you and introduce you to Krsna, to be one of the assistant maidservant gopis in Vrndavana."
(SP letter 28.5.1971)
Although we may be far from the goal, we pray to the Vaisnavas for their mercy: "My path is very difficult. I am blind, and my feet are slipping again and again. Therefore, may the saints help me by granting me the stick of their mercy as my support."
(Cc Ant 1.2)
nijanurupe prabhur eka-rupe
tatana rupe svavilasa-rupe
"Srila Rupa Gosvami, whose dear friend was Svarupa Damodara, was the exact replica of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he was very, very dear to the Lord. Being the embodiment of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic love, Rupa Gosvami was naturally very beautiful. He very carefully followed the principles enunciated by the Lord, and he was a competent person to explain properly the pastimes of Lord Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu expanded His mercy to Srila Rupa Gosvami just so he could render service by writing transcendental literatures."
FOLLOWING THE FOUNDER – AND PREVIOUS ACARYAS
Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-acarya of ISKCON, has ordered us to follow the previous acaryas.
As such, we should appreciate Srila Prabhupada not only as the Founder-acarya of ISKCON, but also as the representative and servant of the previous acaryas and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If we fail to see Srila Prabhupada as the most obedient servant of the acaryas and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we may develop a sentimental or fanatical conception of Srila Prabhupada as an independent authority, minimize and offend the previous acaryas, and blunder in our own spiritual lives and decisions. "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism."
As we are coming in the disciplic succession from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Rupa Goswami, we should act to protect the teachings of Sri Caitanya and Sri Rupa which have come to us through the disciplic successions, through Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and ultimately Srila Prabhupada.
In all decisions we should carefully consider the authoritative statements of sadhu, sastra and guru and never go against them.
If we are not sufficiently aware of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, practices and etiquette, we may make decisions which actually contradict higher authorities. So we should know our predecessors and follow them – as Srila Prabhupada wanted.
Our society, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, has formed to execute the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
(Cc Concluding words)
Amogha: I thought you said that we should not read the previous acaryas’ books.
Prabhupada: You should read.
Paramahamsa: There’s nothing wrong with the idea of studying the previous acaryas’ books.
Prabhupada: No. Who said? That is wrong. We are following the previous acaryas.
The path of bhakti is not at all difficult if we follow in the footsteps of previous acaryas and authorities, but those who are too materially contaminated by the modes of material nature cannot follow them.
In the Skanda Purana it is advised that a devotee follow the past acaryas and saintly persons, because by such following one can achieve the desired results, with no chance of lamenting in his progress. The scripture known as Brahma-yamala states as follows: "If someone wants to pose himself as a great devotee without following the authorities of the revealed scriptures, his activities will never help him to make progress in devotional service. Instead, he will simply create disturbance for the sincere students of devotional service."
Srila Rupa Gosvami said:
aikantiki harer bhaktir
Devotional service performed without reference to the Vedas, Puranas, Pancaratras, etc, must be considered sentimentalism, and it causes nothing but disturbance to society." There are different grades of Vaisnavas (kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari, uttama-adhikari), but to be a madhyama-adhikari preacher one must be a learned scholar.
(Cc Adi 7.102p)
"The real import of the scriptures is revealed to one who has unflinching faith in both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the spiritual master." Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura advises, sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, hrdaye kariya aikya. The meaning of this instruction is that one must consider the instructions of the sadhu, the revealed scriptures and the spiritual master in order to understand the real purpose of spiritual life. Neither a sadhu (saintly person or Vaisnava) nor a bona fide spiritual master says anything that is beyond the scope of the sanction of the revealed scriptures. Thus the statements of the revealed scriptures correspond to those of the bona fide spiritual master and saintly persons. One must therefore act with reference to these three important sources of understanding.
(Cc Adi 7.48p)
Sadhu should present the sastra as it is. He should understand the sastra as it is. And guru means who is following sadhu and sastra. He is guru. Therefore Narottama dasa Thakura says that sadhu, sastra, these things should be confirmed by the spitirual master, and we should follow these principles, sadhu sastra guru vakya, hrdaye kariya aikya. We should confirm one thing by the other, the other by another. In this way we have to make our conclusion.
(SP lecture, 17.01.71. ALL)
Narottama dasa Thakura says, sadhu sastra guru vakya. That is our guidance. If you say Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a sadhu or a devotee, so His words and the words of the scriptures are the same. The sadhu will speak only on the authority of sastra. And sastra means the description given by the sadhu. They are correlative. And guru means who follows the sadhu and the sastra. So these are very instructive.
(SP lecture, 12.09.69. LON)
The bhakti path is followed by the most learned scholars, such as the Gosvamis, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramanujacarya. These are the actual followers of the bhakti path. Regardless of whether or not one is educated or aristocratic, one must follow in their footsteps. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: one must follow the path of the mahajanas who have taken to the path of devotional service (susilah sadhavo yatra narayana-parayanah) for these great personalities are the perfect persons.
"Those who follow social customs and behaviour forget to follow the path chalked out by the mahajanas: thus they are offenders at the feet of the mahajanas."
(Cc Mad 17.185p)
"It is therefore our duty to follow the path of the mahajanas, the authorities. Whatever they say should be accepted as the Supreme Truth."
(Cc Mad 25.56)
We have to follow the footsteps of the mahajanas in the disciplic succession. Then our attempt will be successful. Sri-krsna-caitanya-vani – amrtera dhara: ‘Whatever is spoken by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is an incessant flow of nectar.’ Whoever accepts His words as reality can understand the essence of the Absolute Truth…. A person who is awakened to Krsna consciousness can understand the real religious path chalked both by the Lord and His pure devotees. Sri Madhavendra Puri was a real mahajana because he understood the Absolute Truth properly and throughout his life behaved like a pure devotee. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu approved the method of Sri Madhavendra Puri…. To select our mahajanas in the Gaudiya-sampradaya, we have to follow in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His representatives. His next representative is Sri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, and the next are the six Gosvamis – Sri Rupa, Sri Sanatana, Bhatta Raghunatha, Sri Jiva, Gopala Bhatta and Dasa Raghunatha. Sometimes people cannot actually understand how a mahajana follows other mahajanas. In this way people are inclined to fall from devotional service.
If one is seriously interested in Krsna conscious activities, he must be ready to follow the rules and regulations laid down by the acaryas, and he must understand their conclusions. The sastra says: dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhavam mahajano yena gatah sa panthah (Mahabharata. Vana Parva 313.117) It is very difficult to understand the secret of Krsna consciousness, but one who advances by the instruction of the previous acaryas and follows in the footsteps of his predecessors in the line of disciplic succession will have success. Others will not. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says in this connection, chadiya vaisnava-seva nistara payeche keba: "Unless one serves the spiritual masters and acaryas, one cannot be liberated." Elsewhere he says:
ei chaya gosani yanra-mui tanra dasa
tan-sabara pada-renu mora panca-grasa
I simply accept a person who follows in the footsteps of the six Gosvamis, and the dust of such a person’s lotus feet is my foodstuff."
(Cc Adi 8.7p)
So we are Brahma sampradaya, disciplic succession from Brahma. Therefore we shall accept Brahma’s statement. We may not know, but we follow the footsteps of acaryas. Brahma says this. Brahma’s disciple, Narada, says like that. Narada’s disciple, Vyasa, says like that. Vyasa’s disciple, Madhvacarya, says like that. In this way, Isvara Puri says like that. His disciple, Catianya Mahaprabhu, says like that. His disciples, Gosvamis, Sad-gosvamis, they say like that. In this way, we receive knowledge by parampara, by step by step in the disciplic succession. Therefore our knowledge is perfect.
(SP lecture, 26.07.71. NY)
sri rupa-raghunatha-pade yara asa
caitanya-caritamrta kahe krsnadasa
This is the process. He does not say that "I’ve understood Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu directly." No. That is not understanding. That is foolishness. You cannot understand what is Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore repeatedly he says; rupa-rabhunatha-pade…. "I, Krsnadasa Kaviraja, am always under the subordination of the Gosvamis." This is parampara system. Similarly, Narottama dasa Thakura also says, ei chay gosai jar – mui tar das. "I am servant of that person who has accepted the six Gosvamis as his master. I am not going to be servant of any other person who does not accept the way and means of…." Therefore we offer our prayers to our spiritual master, rupanuga varayate, because he follows Rupa Gosvami. Not that one has become more than Rupa Gosvami or more than…. No. Tadera carana-sebi-bhakta-sane bas. This is the parampara system.
(SP lecture, 8.12.73. LA)
Therefore you have to follow strictly the principles of Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami. Then you become rupanuga Vaisnavas. And Narottama dasa Thakura says one who is following the principles of Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, tar mui dasa, I accept him as spiritual master.
(SP lecture, 18.01.72. VRN)
You’ll find in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, wherever Srila Rupa Gosvami had stated something, immediately he has given reference from the sastras. He did not manufacture anything which is against the sastras. That is rupanuga, rupanuga Vaisnava. So in order to see God, in order to serve God, we have to follow. Sri Narottama dasa Thakura has said, rupa-raghunatha-pade hoibe akuti, kabe hama bujhabo se yugala-piriti. Unless one becomes very, very much eager to follow the path… Ei chay gosair tar mui das. Narottama dasa Thakura says that, "Anyone who accepts these six Gosvamis as authority, spiritual masters, I am his servant." Therefore we Gaudiya Vaisnavas, we are known as rupanuga Vaisnava, following the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami.
(SP lecture, 6.11.72. VRN)
So there are so many descriptions of the Gosvamis. Because they received the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they were able to lessen the burden of this material world. If you simply study these eight verses of the Gosvamis… vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau. In Vrndavana they lived and set the examples. And if you follow their footsteps, your life will be successful.
(SP lecture, 17.03.74. VRN)
We have to be guided by the acaryas. Acaryavan puruso veda. One who follows the principles of acaryas, he knows the things as they are. That is the verdict. In the Bhagavad-gita also we find: acaryopasanam. We have to follow the footprints, footsteps, of the acaryas, because they can give us right direction. And one who does not follow the acaryas and creates and manufactures his mental concoction, his version will not be accepted.
(SP lecture, 11.11.74. BOM)
Vaisnava should follow his previous mahajana, authority. That is Vaisnavism. We don’t manufacture ideas. We don’t commit such rascaldom. We simply accept the behaviour or the activities of previous acaryas. There is no difficulty. There is no difficulty.
(SP lecture. 17.08.73. LON)
If you follow the authorities, then you understand. Dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam. It is very difficult to understand what is religion, what is the process of religion. People are very much puzzled. But if we follow the great personalities… Svayambhur sambhuh manuh kumarah kapilo manuh. If we follow their footsteps, really we understand.
(SP lecture, 17.08.73. LON)
Saddharmaprccha. You learn about devotional service, but devotional service should be executed by following mahajana. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. Therefore we are rupanugas. We follow the footsteps of Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Sadhu-marganugamanam. Narottama dasa Thakura says: sadhu sastra guru vakya, hrdaye kariya aikya. You must learn from guru, from sastra, what is actually pure devotional service. Just like Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. One should read thoroughly this Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu to understand the science of devotion. Sadhu-sastra. And the sastra means it is enunciated by sadhu, Rupa Gosvami. He’s approved sadhu, you can read his book. Then you’ll be benefited.
(SP lecture, 17.01.71. ALL)
Sadhu means saintly person. Sastra means revealed scriptures. Sadhu, sastra and guru, spiritual master. So we must follow the footprints of saintly persons, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. That is the way. We have to follow great superior personalities, just like sad-gosvami. Narottama dasa Thakura says, ei chaya gosani vara tara mui dasa. "I become servant, servant of disciple, of such a person who follows the footprints of the Six Gosvamis." Ei chai gosani yara. Anyone who is following the footsteps of the gosvamis. Rupa Gosvami… vaco-vegam krodha-vegam udaro-vegam upastha-vegam jihva-vegam mano-vegam etan vegan yo visaheta dhirah prthivim sa sisyat.
One should follow the principles of saintly persons, scriptures and the spiritual master. In this way one is sure to attain success in life.
Srila Narottama dasa Thakur says, sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, cittete kariya aikya. One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and sastra. The actual centre is sastra, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. Sastra is the centre for all. Unfortunately, at the present moment, people do not refer to sastras.
(Cc M. 20.352p)
Sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya cittete kariya aikya. Yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya vartate kama-karatah. If you do not follow the standard knowledge of perfect sastra, then Krsna says, na sa siddhim avapnoti. He never gets siddhi. Siddhaye, to become perfect. So unless we follow the injunction of the sastra, then there is no possibility of siddhi. Na sa siddhim avapnoti na sukham na param gatim. Neither perfection, neither happiness in this life, and what to speak of next life? These things are not possible if we do not follow standard knowledge.
So this Krsna consciousness movement is giving chance to everyone to hear from the authoritative sources, from sadhu-sastra-guru. These are authorities. Sadhu means who speaks on the basis of sastra. Guru means who speaks on the basis of sastra. And sastra means the statement of authorities. Just like Bhagavad-gita. It is sastra because it is spoken by the supreme guru, Krsna. So who is guru? Who is spiritual master? He does not manufacture any rules and regulation. He refers to sastra. Therefore Narottama dasa Thakur says, sadhu sastra guru vakya, cittete kariya aikya. If you want to know who is a spiritual master, if you know sho is a saintly person, then you should keep in the middle the sastra, the scriptures, and you will corroborate the saintly person, the spiritual master, and the sastra, if they are abiding one another.
(SP lecture. 12.09.69. LON)
Guru means he must be abiding by the rules and regulation of the sastra. Sadhu means one who is obeying the rules and regulation of sastra. Sastra must be the medium. Sadhu-guru-sastra. Without sastra nothing is acceptable. Nobody can transgress the rules and regulation of sastra, and what to speak of guru. Guru is acarya. One who knows the rules and regulation of the sastra and teaches his disciple according to the sastra is called acarya.
(SP lecture. 27.09.76. VRN)
Guru means who speaks on the basis of sastra. Otherwise he’s not guru. And sastra means the opinion of the great authorities, just like Vyasadeva, Parasara Muni, Narada Muni, modern acaryas.
(SP lecture. 27.09.76 VRN)
Therefore, for real knowledge, we have to consult the scriptures, sastra. Sadhu-sastra-guru. Sadhu means pious, religious, honest person, whose character is spotless. Sastra means scriptures, and guru means spiritual master. They are on equal level. Why? Because the medium is scripture. Guru is considered to be liberated because he follows the scripture.
(SP lecture. 24.11.66. NY)
Vasudeva is always ready to help us provided we want to take help from Him. And He not only is helping internally; externally also He’s sending His representative to teach us. And there is sastra. Just like this Srimad-Bhagavatam. Sadhu, sastra, guru. Guru is there, sastra is there, saintly persons are there. You take advantage. And the Lord is there within yourself. So why don’t you take? This is intelligence.
(SP lecture, 06.09.76. VRN)
If one simply follows in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya and the Gosvamis, certainly he will achieve the ultimate goal of life, the lotus feet of Krsna.
(Cc Adi 17.33)
Yasoda-nandana vraja-jana-ranjana. Krsna’s only business is satisfying the vraja-janas, and their only business is satisfying Krsna. This is the reciprocation of love. Yamuna-tira-vana-cari: Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, wanders on the banks of the Yamuna to please the gopis, the cowherd boys, the birds, the bees, and the cows and calves. These are not ordinary birds, bees, cows, calves, or men; they have all reached the summit of self-realization and thus, after many, many lives, have attained a position whereby they can play with Krsna. This Krsna consciousness movement can enable everyone to go to Krsnaloka and become Krsna’s associate as a friend, servant, father, or mother. Krsna is agreeable to take any of these positions in relation to His devotee. How he does so is all described in our book Teachings of Lord Caitanya. To realize our relationship with Krsna, we have but to follow in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya and His chief associates, the six Gosvamis – Sri Rupa, Sanatana, Sri Jiva, Gopala, Raghunatha dasa, and Raghunatha Bhatta.
(SSR. Ch. 8)
ISKCON is one branch of the Caitanya tree and Srila Prabhupada is the Founder-acarya of that branch. The branch, however, is not independent. It his nourished by its connection with the trunk, with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We should not confuse the position of Srila Prabhupada, who is the Founder-acarya of ISKCON, with the position of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the sampradaya-acarya.
If we do not acknowledge Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the original tree and gardener and conceive of ISKCON as independent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His representatives and other followers, will be deprived of water as some branches were after Lord Caitanya’s disappearance.
"Some branches did not accept the original trunk that vitalized and maintained the entire tree. When they thus became ungrateful, the original trunk was angry at them. Thus Lord Caitanya did not sprinkle upon them the water of His mercy, and they gradually withered and died."
(Cc Adi 12.68-69)
"Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as a gardener, poured water on the root of the bhakti tree and thus nourished all its trunks and branches. But nevertheless, under the spell of maya, the most unfortunate condition of a living entity, some of the branches, not accepting the gardener who poured water on them, considered the trunk the only cause of the great bhakti-kalpa-taru. In other words, the branches or descendants of Advaita Acarya who considered Advaita Acarya the original cause of the devotional creeper, and who thus neglected or disobeyed the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, deprived themselves of the effect of being watered, and thus dried up and died. It is further to be understood that not only the misguided descendants of Advaita Acarya but anyone who has no connection with Caitanya Mahaprabhu – even if he is independently a great sannyasi, learned scholar or ascetic – is like a dead branch of a tree."
(Cc Adi 12.73p)
Srila Prabhupada himself admits that ISKCON is a branch of the tree: "Our International Society for Krsna Consciousness is one of the branches of the Caitanya tree."
(Cc Adi 9.18p)
And as all the branches connected to the tree have the same purpose – pure devotional service to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu – we should not make material distinctions between them:
"This tree of devotional service is not of this material world. It grows in the spiritual world, where there is no distinction between one part of the body and another. It is something like a tree of sugar, for whichever part of such a tree one tastes, it is always sweet. The tree of bhakti has varieties of branches, leaves and fruits, but they are all meant for the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
(Cc Adi 9.25p)
"Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami sets the example by offering obeisances to all the preacher devotees of Lord Caitanya without distinction as to higher and lower. Anyone who is a bona fide preacher of the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu must be respectful to the real devotees of Lord Caitanya. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami therefore offers equal respect to all the preachers of the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who are compared to the branches of the tree."
(Cc Adi 10.7p)
In fact, all should work cooperatively and selflessly to serve Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
"I am the only gardener. How many places can I go? How many fruits can I pick and distribute?" (Cc Adi 9.34) "Here Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu indicates that the distribution of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra should be performed by combined forces. Although He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He laments, ‘How can I act alone? How can I alone pick the fruit and distribute it all over the world?’ This indicates that all classes of devotees should combine to distribute the Hare Krsna maha-mantra without consideration of the time, place or situation."
(Cc Adi 9.34p)
As any branch is actually successful when it bears fruit, we should know what fruit the branches of the Caitanya tree are meant to give. Srila Prabhupada explains:
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu produced so many fruits of devotional service that they must be distributed all over the world; otherwise how could He alone relish and taste each and every fruit? The original reason that Lord Sri Krsna descended as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was to understand Srimati Radharani’s love for Krsna and to taste that love. The fruits of the tree of devotional service were innumerable, and therefore He wanted to distribute them unrestrictedly to everyone. Srila Rupa Gosvami therefore writes:
anarpita-carim carat karunayavartinah kalau
samarpavitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam
sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah
There were many precious incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but none were so generous, kind and magnanimous as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, for He distributed the most confidential aspect of devotional service, namely the conjugal love of Radha and Krsna. Therefore Sri Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada desires that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu live perpetually in the hearts of all devotees, for thus they can understand and relish the loving affairs of Srimati Radharani and Krsna."
(Cc Adi 9.37p)
As Srila Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to be recognized as one of the branches of the tree by others, so we should also be ready to recognize other branches. We should see that we all come from the same root and that we are all being watered by the same gardener. And we should never think of ourselves as separate or independent. Although there may be many branches, each with its founder-acarya, all are connected to the original tree and gardener – Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu – and follow the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, especially as it comes through Srila Rupa Gosvami.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura are especially glorified as rupanuga devotees, followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami.
namo bhaktivinodaya sac-cid-ananda-namine
gaura-sakti-svarupaya rupanuga-varaya te
I offer my respectful obeisances unto Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda, who is the transcendental energy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is a strict follower of the Gosvamis, headed by Sri Rupa."
sri-gaura-karuna-sakti-vigrahaya namo ‘stu te
I offer my respectful obeisances unto you (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura), the personified energy of Sri Caitanya’s mercy, who deliver devotional service which is enriched with conjugal love of Radha and Krsna, coming exactly in the line of revelation of Srila Rupa Gosvami."
namas te gaura-vani-sri-murtaye dina-tarine
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto you, who are the personified teachings of Lord Caitanya. You do not tolerate any statement which is against the teachings of devotional of devotional service enunciated by Srila Rupa Gosvami."
Srila Prabhupada, following Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, is also rupanuga, and we, as followers of Srila Prabhupada, are also meant to be rupanuga followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Therefore we must seriously try to understand their teachings and follow in their footsteps.
SRILA PRABHUPADA’S FINAL INSTRUCTION: COOPERATE
Several devotees in our Society have expressed either concern or doubt about ISKCON leaders hearing from His Holiness Narayana Maharaja. Perhaps they are not aware of Srila Prabhupada’s final instructions about the Gaudiya Matha or of his special relationship with His Holiness Kesava Maharaja, Narayana Maharaja’s guru. And perhaps they also are not aware of all the faithful service rendered to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON by Narayana Maharaja, who is not Prabhupada’s Godbrother, or of the attitude with which Narayana Maharaja is approached by the ISKCON leaders.
One argument offered against hearing from Narayana Maharaja is that Srila Prabhupada instructed us not to associate with his Godbrothers. Srila Prabhupada has made statements about his Godbrothers like: "We shall be very careful and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we should be very careful about them."
(SP letter 28.4.1974)
But why did Srila Prabhupada make such statements? Is it an absolute principle that we should not associate or is it a specific response to particular circumstances? It cannot be an absolute principle because on numerous occasions Srila Prabhupada either permitted or encouraged his disciples to meet or approach his Godbrothers: "Please offer my obeisances to Srimad Narayana Maharaja. I have not heard from him in a long time. Please request him to find out a large piece of land perhaps with a house, between Mathura and Vrndavana, for purchasing."
(SP letter 26.7.1970)
"We have gotten an invitation from Bangladesh from my Godbrother, His Holiness Bhakti Sambandha Turya Swami Maharaja, Sri Gaudiya Matha, P.O. Bordia, District Bordia, District Jessore. If possible you can make some program for Tamala Krsna Goswami’s party to go there."
(SP letter 25.3.1973)
"I am very glad to know that Ananda Prabhu is staying with you. Please offer my dandavats. He is my old Godbrother, sincere Vaisnava. Please treat him like your father. Do remain in full cooperation."
(SP letter 6.5.1973)
On various occasions Srila Prabhupada accepted invitations to Gaudiya Mathas and went with disciples.
It seems obvious Srila Prabhupada’s negative statements about associating with his Godbrothers were specific responses to particular circumstances. What circumstances? Perhaps Srila Prabhupada was responding to certain Godbrothers speaking enviously of him, weakening disciples’ faith in him, taking disciples away from ISKCON. "I am in due receipt of your letter about Bon Maharaja. So I have issued orders that all my disciples should avoid all of my Godbrothers." (SP letter 9.11.1975) "I am greatly surprised for Bon Maharaja’s initiating you in spite of his knowing that you are already initiated by me. So it is a deliberate transgression of Vaisnava etiquette and otherwise a deliberate insult to me." (SP letter 26.3.1968) "Two of my other disciples still are at Vrndavana at my place at Radha Damodara temple, and Bon Maharaja is still after them to deviate their faith upon me." (SP letter 7.2.1969) "So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately, because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially Madhava Maharaja and Tirtha Maharaja and Bon Maharaja, but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on."
(SP letter 28.4.1974)
While sometimes Srila Prabhupada criticized, at other times he expressed appreciation. "Thakura Bhaktivinoda also wanted to beget a child to preach the philosophy and teachings of Lord Caitanya to the fullest extent. By his prayers to the Lord he had as his child Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, who at the present moment is preaching the philosophy of Lord Caitanya throughout the entire world through his bona fide disciples."
"Even amongst our Godbrothers we have misunderstandings, but none of us is astray from the service of Krsna. My Guru Maharaja ordered us to execute his mission combinedly. Unfortunately we are now separated, but none of us has stopped preaching Krsna consciousness. Even if there is misunderstanding among the Godbrothers of my Guru Maharaja, none of them deviated from the transcendental loving service of Krsna. The idea is that provocation and misunderstanding may remain between one man and another but our staunch faith in Krsna consciousness may not allow any material disruption. Please therefore try to be sympathetic with any person, even if they differ. The only qualification we have to scrutinize is if one is acting in Krsna consciousness as far as one is able to do it."
(SP letter 18.11.1967)
And although Srila Prabhupada criticized some Godbrothers, he did not criticize all. Srila Prabhupada said about His Holiness Kesava Maharaja specifically: "So I am feeling very much obliged to my, this Godbrother, that he carried out the wish of my spiritual master and forced me to accept the sannyasa order. This Godbrother, His Holiness Kesava Maharaja, is no more. He has entered Krsna’s abode…. So I did not want to accept this sannyasa order, but this Godbrother forced me. ‘You must.’ Apayayan mam, he forcefully made me drink this medicine… The Vaisnavas, the spiritual master, they forcefully say, ‘You drink this medicine.’ You see. Apayayan mam anabhipsu andham sri-kesava-bhakti-prajnana-nama. So this my Godbrother, his name is Kesava, Bhakti Prajnana Kesava. Krpambudhi. He did this favour upon me because he was an ocean of mercy. The Vaisnavas, the representatives of the Lord, they are so kind. They bring the ocean of mercy for distributing to the suffering humanity. Krpambudhir yas tam aham prapadye. So I am offering my respectful obeisances unto His Holiness, because he forcefully made me adopt this sannyasa order. He is no more in this world. He has entered Krsna’s abode. So I am offering respectful obeisances along with my disciples."
We see that Srila Prabhupada is offering his obeisances along with his disciples. He is deliberately teaching and showing us how to respect and appreciate a Godbrother of his. "We are writing like this, ‘Resolved that we the undersigned members and devotees of International Society for Krsna Consciousness Incorporated, in a condolence meeting under the presidency of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, today the 21st of October, 1968, at our Seattle branch, express our profound bereavement on hearing the passing of His Divine Grace Om Visnupad Sri Srimad B.P. Kesava Gosvami Maharaja with the following verse composed on this occasion by our spiritual master.’ This verse I have already explained to you. So I wish that you all sign this and I’ll send it tomorrow by airmail."
(Condolence lecture, 21.10.1968. SEA; quoted FWSP, p213-215)
In his last days in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada instructed that the policy of non-cooperation with the Gaudiya Matha was changed and that we should cooperate. "The war is over." He formed the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust specifically to "bring unity amongst the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, especially the followers of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura." And he named two of his Godbrothers as Trustees, His Holiness Madhava Maharaja and His Holiness Madhusudana Maharaja.
Bhavananda: Prabhupada has formed a trust, the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust, and its purpose is to develop Gauda-mandala-bhumi. Prabhupada’s one idea is to build this darsana-mandapa at the yoga-pitha. And another is to finish Sridhara Maharaja’s darsana-mandapa at his…., like that, to develop the different…., to encourage cooperation between the different Godbrothers in the temples. The members of the trust are myself and Tamala Krsna Maharaja and Giriraja, Svarupa Damodara, myself, Madhava Maharaja and Madhusudana Maharaja. Prabhupada named those members.
Prabhupada: How do you think the idea?
Jayapataka: All of your ideas, Srila Prabhupada, are perfect. I am not someone to offer opinion. But if you ask, I think that actually, especially the yoga-pitha, natha-mandira, that’s a very dynamic idea, and in general it must do good.
Prabhupada: We want cooperation.
Tamala Krsna: No more non-cooperation.
Jayapataka: Even Devananda Gaudiya Matha, they had invited us for the disappearance day of Kesava Maharaja, but I wasn’t present at the time. So generally now they’re inviting us, and everyone seems to have the desire for more and more cooperation. Madhava Maharaja had talked with one, this leader of the Jana Sangha, now the Janata party constituent, who’s Professor Bharati, Haripada Bharati. He’s a big orator in the Vidhan sabha. So he’s very pro-ISKCON and pro-Hindu. So he’s coming out to Mayapura on the 20th and putting on a public meeting. It’s being organized by the local Hindus. And in that time he’ll be also visiting our temple. So he was told by Madhava Maharaja, who happened to meet him somewhere, that he should give us full support also.
(Conversation, 10.10.1977. VRN)
Previously Srila Prabhupada had written, "You should not write anything to Madhava Maharaja’s camp. Their policy has been all along to suppress me and take credit for himself…. So there is no possibility of cooperation with them. Rather you should avoid strictly meeting with them." (SP letter 8.6.1974) Now Srila Prabhupada was inviting the same Madhava Maharaja to sit as a Trustee on his Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust and attend meetings with five of his disciples. Why this change in policy?
Throughout his life, Srila Prabhupada actually wanted cooperation with his Godbrothers, knowing that such cooperation would better spread the mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and please his Guru Maharaja.
"So far as I am concerned, I am always for cooperation. If we can cooperate, we can do tremendous service for Lord Caitanya in the matter of propagating the mission of Lord Caitanya very nicely. I am prepared to cooperate in every way."
(SP letter 12.4.1968)
"I am prepared to cooperate with the Gaudiya Mission wholeheartedly. So if you can negotiate about our amalgamation on a cooperative basis, it will be great service to Srila Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati]."
(SP letter 5.9.1969)
"I am very much obliged to you that you write to say, ‘It is clear to me that you are great powerful acarya in the Vaisnava world at present.’ So, actually if you are feeling like that let us work conjointly. There is great prospect for preaching Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s message all over the world and in India also. At least in India we can preach very vigorously if we combine together."
(SP letter 9.11.1976)
As another example of cooperation, Srila Prabhupada invited one of the Gaudiya Mathas in Mayapur to cooperate. He thought that the devotees of the Gaudiya Matha could preach in the villages where we would have difficulty, because they knew the local languages and customs. Seeing that the devotees in the Matha were engaged mainly to collect for maintenance, Srila Prabhupada offered that we would meet the expense of the Matha while their men would accompany us for preaching. Although what we have to offer each other may vary, the principle of cooperation remains.
Thus Srila Prabhupada functioned simultaneously in two ways in relation to his Godbrothers: he tried for cooperation with them and at the same time gave protection to his disciples. Srila Prabhupada, foreseeing his departure, had to devolve his various services and responsibilities to his disciples, and he had faith that at least some of them would rise to meet the challenge. As neophytes, he wanted to protect us from his Godbrothers; as preachers, he wanted to cooperate. Neophytes have weak faith and can be easily bewildered by apparent contradictions and criticisms; preachers have strong faith which cannot be shaken. Neophytes know only their own spiritual masters and Krsna; preachers can distinguish between devotees, innocent persons, and envious persons, as well as different grades of devotees, and can deal in the appropriate way with each:
"In order to intelligently apply the sixfold loving reciprocations, one must select proper persons with careful discrimination."
krsneti yasya giri tam manasadriyeta
diksasti cet pranatibhis ca bhajantam isam
susrusaya bhajana-vijnam ananyam anya
"One should mentally honour the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krsna, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [diksa] and is engaged in worshipping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others."
From the examples given in the purport, we can understand that the principles enunciated in the verse are to be applied to devotees in general and not just within ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada himself expressed concern when proper respect was not offered to him or his disciples from persons outside ISKCON. So the principle of offering respect according to the status of devotee must be applied even to persons outside one’s own institution.
As Srila Prabhupada knew that some of us would have to act on the platform of preachers, he gave us the service of forging cooperation amongst Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Thus, although how they respond and deal with us will vary from person to person, and we may have to adjust our approach or response according to their way of dealing, Srila Prabhupada’s instruction is that we should cooperate.
Still another concern expressed about hearing from Narayana Maharaja is that his mood is different from Prabhupada’s. But is it? Srila Prabhupada’s mood and mission were vast; they included all aspects of Krsna consciousness. So although Narayana Maharaja may give more emphasis to one aspect of Krsna consciousness than Srila Prabhupada did in person, we cannot say his mood is different from Prabhupada’s. Rather, his mood is included in Prabhupada’s. The onus is on the devotees who hear from Narayana Maharaja to keep the aspects of Krsna consciousness emphasized by him in the proper perspective. And concerned devotees should see whether the leaders who hear from Narayana Maharaja are deviating from Prabhupada’s mood. They may find in fact that their appreciation of Srila Prabhupada’s mood and service to Srila Prabhupada’s mission are increasing.
Srila Prabhupada formed the International Society for Krsna Consciousness for us and others to become Krsna conscious. And his books tell us how to become Krsna conscious: "The cultivation of Krsna consciousness is possible where great devotees live together and constantly engage in hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord. In a holy place like Vrndavana, there are many devotees constantly engaged in chanting and hearing the glories of the Lord. If one gets a chance to hear from pure devotees in such a place, allowing the constant flow of the river of nectar to come from the mouths of pure devotees, then the cultivation of Krsna consciousness becomes very easy…. In the association of pure devotees, one becomes attached to hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord. In this way one can cultivate Krsna consciousness, and as soon as this cultivation is advanced, one can become faithful to the Lord, devoted to the Lord and attached to the Lord, and thus one can very quickly attain full Krsna consciousness."
And one who hears nicely can preach nicely.
Touring India and holding preaching programs with Srila Prabhupada, we came to a new place. Acyutananda asked Srila Prabhupada, "What will be our business here?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "Our business will be to cry for Krsna." And when Srila Prabhupada visited Atlanta and the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai during the heyday of book distribution, a disciple asked, "Srila Prabhupada, what will please you most?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "If you love Krsna."
"There are many societies and associations of pure devotees, and if someone with just a little faith begins to associate with such societies, his advancement to pure devotional service is rapid."
(NOD Ch 19, p.14)
Another concern expressed by some devotees is that the same problems arose from association with His Holiness Sridhara Maharaja may arise again with Narayana Maharaja. But here again the onus lies on the devotees who hear from Narayana Maharaja. Many of the devotees who approached Sridhara Maharaja were disaffected with ISKCON and ISKCON’s leaders. They went to Sridhara Maharaja to express their dissatisfaction and to get his views on ISKCON’s management. But if the leaders who hear from Narayana Maharaja do not approach him with grievances about ISKCON or to get directions for ISKCON’s management, the same problems will not recur. Actually the leaders who go to Narayana Maharaja do not go out of frustration with ISKCON’s management, nor to get managerial direction for ISKCON. They go to hear Krsna-katha based strictly on sadhu, sastra and guru, specifically in the line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Rupa Gosvami. In fact, whenever ISKCON devotees approach Narayana Maharaja with lack of faith in ISKCON, Narayana Maharaja always acts to increase their faith in ISKCON, ISKCON’s leasders, and ultimately Srila Prabhupada. He acts in the mood of service to Srila Prabhupada, and in obedience to Srila Prabhupada’s last instruction to Narayana Maharaja to help us after he left.
In Srila Prabhupada’s last days, Narayana Maharaja came to meet Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada began, "Srila Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] said that we should preach in Europe, America. That was his desire. And his other desire was that we all work together jointly to preach."
"Yes, that is right," said Narayana Maharaja.
"I didn’t waste a single moment," said Srila Prabhupada. "I tried my best, and it has been successful to some extent." Srila Prabhupada’s voice was choked with emotion. "If we can work conjointly," he continued, "then as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, prthivite… Sankirtana has great possibilities. My life is coming to and end. It is my desire that you all forgive me for my mistakes."
"Whatever instructions you give me," said Narayana Maharaja, "I will follow them with absolute sincerity. I consider you my guru."
Narayana Maharaja said that what Srila Prabhupada had created should be protected, and, it was everyone’s duty to do so. He pledged to help in whatever way he could.
Regarding Srila Prabhupada’s asking his Godbrothers for forgiveness, Narayana Maharaja said, "We never thought that you did anything wrong. On the other hand, you bless us. We need it. You never did any wrong. If someone is offended by your actions, that is his fault…."
After a pause, Narayana Maharaja spoke again, this time referring to Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, "They should be told that they should never get motivated by their own self-interest," he said. "They should make your mission successful."
Srila Prabhupada turned his head slowly, looking over the devotees as they gathered in even more closely. Then slowly he lifted his hand, as if to call them all to attention, and said, "Do not fight among yourselves. I have given direction in my books."
(SPL Vol.6, p.399-401)
Narayana Maharaja remembers his final instructions from Srila Prabhupada: "Perhaps one day before the last, he took my hand in his and tried to call me on his bed, but I did pranama to that bed. I wanted to sit lower. He told me, I have some things to talk with you. I have brought so many disciples from western countries; they are ignorant. I am thinking I will not live more days. So leaving them, I’m going. But I want to make them good, qualified disciples. So after my going from this world, you should help them.
"He also said, I’m requesting you to please forgive me for the offences I have unwillingly done to you and all the senior Vaisnavas and disciples of Prabhupada. By chance, unwillingly, I told my disciples and preached some things I should not have. Sometimes I said that they are not actually doing pracara – they are like karmis – we are doing pracara. They are kanistha-adhikaris. But my objective was not to say so, but only to make my disciples enthusiastic. Actually I’ve done wrong. But I’ve done it for preaching, to make them qualified. So you should forgive me. And tell others also I’ve done this, you should excuse me.
"I said, I think this is no offence, so no question of excusing. You have done a marvellous thing which was never done. You have gone to so many countries, America, England, Germany, Japan, and you have preached and brought so many qualified disciples, including ladies. And you have reminded us of prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama / sarvatra pracara hoibe mora nama. So you have done miracle, and in so little time. Everywhere you have spread Back to Godhead, spread the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, spread Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. So you have done this for Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We are all indebted to you. So no question of forgiving or excusing. But I will carry your order to the senior Vaisnavas and they will be pleased. As I was speaking, tears were coming in his eyes. So sincerely he was saying.
"Then he told me that I’m giving you one more service. After my going you will do my viraha mahotsava. With your guidance they will do. Also, you will give me samadhi, and you should do what you want, as you can. I know you know all the systems in our sampradaya because you have been rendering service to your spiritual master for a long time. And I have faith in you, that you will do it well. So you should do my samadhi and my viraha mahotsava.
"All the prominent Vaisnavas, especially Gaudiya Vaisnavas and Gosvamis of Vrndavana, were called in that viraha sabha. They came and expressed their ideas about Swamiji and everyone praised Swamiji and his mission, his preaching throughout the whole world in no time and very qualified disciples coming. Also they praised one thing, that his disciples have so faith in their Gurudeva. They can do anything for their Gurudeva. So guru-nistha is there. I also always feel that this is why they are still now following the footprints of Swamiji."
(ITV Interview, Mathura, 26.10.1993)
(Bhakti Caru Swami confirms that in Bengali Srila Prabhupada asked Narayana Maharaja to help us after his disappearance.)
Taking into consideration Srila Prabhupada’s final instructions about the Gaudiya Matha and to Narayana Maharaja and his relationship with Kesava Maharaja and Narayana Maharaja, I do not think that meeting Narayana Maharaja, offering respects, exchanging feelings of affection, inquiring, exchanging invitations, and accepting and offering help constitute a violation of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. Rather they represent an attempt to fulfil them.
Thus the principle of meeting, cooperating and helping cannot be denied. It is eternal, desirable and authorized.
"I advise all to preach the teachings of Rupa-Raghunatha with all energy and resources. Our ultimate goal shall be to become the dust of the lotus feet of Sri Sri Rupa and Raghunatha Gosvamis. You should all work conjointly with a view to serve the Absolute Personality of Godhead. You should live somehow or other without any quarrel in this mortal world only for the service of Godhead… We have no other desire whatsoever.
"If we have undaunted faith we shall achieve all perfection. Therefore you should preach with fearlessness and with utmost energy the message of Rupa and Raghunatha under the guidance of the followers of Sri Rupa."
-- Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati