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During a morning walk on June 7, 1976, an exchange took place between Shrila Prabhupada and his disciples on the subject of siddha-pranali, which was prompted by Prabhupada's concern about the so-called "L.A. gopi-bhava club" that I mentioned in my last text. Below I'll quote a short excerpt from that conversation.
Prabhupada: Then everything will be finished. Preaching will be finished. In this sahajiya party, then preaching will be finished. Siddha-pranali.
Tamala Krishna: What does that mean, Shrila Prabhupada, siddha-pranali?
Prabhupada: Siddha-pranali is nonsense. They have manufactured a siddha-pranali.
Here we see Shrila Prabhupada, "Siddha-pranali is nonsense." But he also said, "They have manufactured a siddha-pranali." Could this mean that there is a bona fide siddha-pranali method of initiation that is not
manufactured by sahajiyas, but is authorized by the Gaudiya Vaishnava acaryas?
In Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Harinama Cintamani, a method of cultivation of the ekadasa-bhava (eleven features of the siddha-deha or spiritual body of a manjari assistant of Shrimati Radharani) is described. In brief, it consists of the chanting, hearing and remembrance of the gopal and kama-gayatri mantra (i.e. the last 2 of the 7 lines of gayatri that we receive) through the 5 stages of development from sravana-dasa to prapana-dasa. As this chanting, hearing and remembering develops, the spiritual master helps the disciple to focus his mind on his eternal name, form, age, dress, relationship with Krishna, group of associates, order given by the group leader, service, ambition, mood of a maidservant and residence. These are the ekadasa-bhava. The cultivation of ekadasa-bhava is what is meant by the term siddha-pranali.
So, again we must return to the question: since Shrila Prabhupada did not teach his followers this siddha-pranali process of ekadashi-bhava raganuga cultivation, must devotees go elsewhere to learn about it if they want to attain perfection in devotional service?
In Chapter Thirty-one of the Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Shrila Prabhupada writes the following.
"Lord Krishna is worshiped by the gayatri mantra, and the specific mantra by which He is worshiped is called kama-gayatri. Vedic literatures explain that that sound vibration which can elevate one from mental concoction is called gayatri. The kama-gayatri mantra is composed of 24 1/2 syllables thus:
klim kama-devaya vidmahe puspa-banaya dhimahi tanno 'nangah pracodayat
This kama-gayatri is received from the spiritual master when the disciple is advanced in chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In other words this kama-gayatri mantra and samskara, or reformation of a perfect brahmana, are offered by the spiritual master when he sees that his disciple is advanced in spiritual knowledge. Even then, the kama-gayatri is not uttered under certain circumstances. In any case, the chanting of Hare Krishna is sufficient to elevate one to the highest spiritual platform."
We see from Lord Gauranga's Shri Shri Siksastakam that the elevation to the highest stage of vipralambha-seva (service to Krishna in the mood of conjugal separation as expressed in the 8th verse) is the natural
effect of chanting, hearing and remembering Krishna's holy name in sankirtana. There is no mention in the Siksastakam of meditation upon the kama-gayatri. The only method given in Siksastakam is sankirtana.
That does not mean that Lord Gauranga never wanted Gaudiya Vaishnava spiritual masters to teach ekadasa-bhava cultivation. But the teachings of the guru are like the medical treatment given by doctor to his patients: the treatment is adjusted according to the nature of the patient's condition. What is good for one, may not be good for another. However, the method of sankirtana is good in all cases, because it is
the yuga-dharma. Though second-initiates do chant kama-gayatri, we all depend primarily upon the sankirtana chanting of the Nityananda Mantra, Gauranga Mantra and the Hare Krishna Mahamantra to help us in our japa and kama-gayatri dhyana. For spiritual progress, gostyanandis primarily depend upon the special mercy that Gauranga and Krishna bestows through sankirtana.
The ekadasa-bhava process of raganuga cultivation explained in Harinama Cintamani is particularly meant for bhajananandis. There's no doubt of that, because in this explanation Shrila Haridasa Thakura states that devotees who accept this method of cultivation must be chanting 196 rounds daily. That helps us understand why Shrila Prabhupada said in the morning walk referred to above that if devotees attempt
the siddha-pranali method, "Preaching will be finished." Who will find time to preach if he chants 196 rounds a day? Moreover, who CAN chant 196 rounds a day? Therefore, if devotees attempt to perform bhajananandi ekadasa-bhava cultivation, they will just manufacture a siddha-pranali, being unable to practice it as it is described in the Harinama Cintamani. As explained in my previous text, we are a gostyanandi movement. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati forbade his disciples to practice the bhajananandi method of nirjana-bhajana, not because nirjana-bhajana is unheard-of in our sampradaya, but because he saw that people are now too fallen to practice it properly. Therefore Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati established in his Shri Gaudiya Math the proper format of gostyanandi raganuga cultivation for the modern age.
But though the format is different, the essence of gostyanandi and bhajananandi raganuga-sadhana is the same.
In Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's Ragavarta-candrika (which contains a description of raganuga-sadhana), the essence of raganuga bhakti is explained thusly:
prathamatah krishnam smaran iti smaranasyatra
raganugayam mukhyetvam ragasya manodharmatvat
"As raga (attachment to Krishna) is the occupation of the mind, so also simultaneously must be smarana (remembering Krishna); therefore smarana is the main limb of sadhana for the practioner of raganuga-bhakti." The idea here is that there can be no raganuga-bhakti without remembering Krishna. Therefore in essence raganuga-bhakti means the cultivation of remembrance of Krishna.
One who is a Prabhupada-anuga is certainly a raganuga-bhakta. Is not Shrila Prabhupada an eternal resident of Vrndavana? So if we aspire to follow Shrila Prabhupada in his service to Krishna, there is no doubt that this is raganuga-bhakti. If we remember Shrila Prabhupada's instructions and example in devotional service, that is smaranam, the essential limb of raganuga-bhakti. Shrila Prabhupada's instruction to us is the same as Gauranga Mahaprabhu's to Lord Nityananda and Shrila Haridasa Thakura: prati ghare ghere jai kara aei bhiksa bolo krishna bhaja krishna kare krishnasiksa--"Go from door to door and beg everyone you see to chant Gauranga's & Krishna's holy name, worship Nitai-Gauranga and Krishna and hear the philosophy of Krishna consciousness."
By executing this instruction, one is accepted into Lord Gauranga's lila in the mood of dasya-rasa. In this mood, one remembers one's own spiritual master as an eternal associate of Mahaprabhu who is handing His order to us: pratah shriman-navadvipe dvi-netram dvi-bhujam gurum varabhaya-pradam santam smaret tan-nama-purvakam--"In the morning (before engaging in Krishna's service) one should remember the spiritual maste as being situated in Navadvipa-dhama, having two eyes and two arms, as being peaceful, and as bestowing all benediction and fearlessness upon chanting his name." And thus by the grace of Shri Shri Guru and Gouranga, the devotee who always remembers their order gets the adhikari (privilege) to enter in Radha-Krishna nitya-lila in Shri Vrndavana-dhama.
Someone may reply, "Yes, but the adhikari that comes by sankirtana must come through the siddha-pranali method by which the spiritual master reveals the eternal identity of his disciple in Vraja-lila. Then the disciple cultivates the remembrance of that identity under the direction of the spiritual master, as advanced devotees are doing in Radhakunda even today."
No doubt everything depends upon the mercy of the spiritual master. But in the spiritual master gives the mercy as per guidelines ofShrila Prabhupada and the previous acharyas. Shrila Prabhupada never even slightly indicated that his disciples should take to the babaji style of siddha-pranali at any stage. Prabhupada did not give siddha-pranali to Shriman Jayananda Prabhu when he was dying of cancer, or tell him to take a bhajan-kutir in Radhakunda, although Jayananda's purity was so highly respected by Prabhupada that Prabhupada ordered that his disappearance date be made a feast day on the Vaishnava calendar.
Shrila Prabhupada even once gave babaji-vesa (the white robes of a bhajananandi) to a disciple who was told by a doctor that he only had 6 months to live. But in this case also, Shrila Prabhupada gave no siddha-pranali, though he told this disciple to stay in Mayapura in a grass hut, eat only rice and chant the Hare Krishna mantra all day. This boy gave up his babaji dress and returned to material life when another doctor told him he would not die so soon. In Prabhupada's last days of earthly pastimes, Bhakti Caru Maharaja asked him how his disciples would realize their relationship with Krishna in Prabhupada's physical absence. Prabhupada replied that when his disciples were ready, he would reveal everything from the transcendental platform.
Was Shrila Prabhupada neglectful of siddha-pranali while he was with us because he had so many other preparatory things to accomplish? Was it because his own disciples were not yet ready for siddha-pranali? No-- Shrila Prabhupada was simply following in the footsteps of his own spiritual master.
It is said that Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati told his disciples that their siddha-pranali mantra was "trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena KIRTANIYA SADA HARI". And it is said that when Shrila
Gaura Kisora das Babaji, when asked by someone to reveal their svarupa, replied, "Your svarupa will be revealed in the syllables of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra."
Now, to be fair, it has also been said that during his lifetime Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura revealed the svarupa of one or perhaps a few of his disciples. But we should not forget that Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta had thousands of disciples whom he did not speak to about their siddha-svarupa. Was that because they were not qualified to be instructed in this most confidential subject? Well, one of them is Shrila Prabhupada. So what does siddha-pranali have to do with Shrila Prabhupada's position and accomplishments? In a word: nothing.
As explained in the last text on this subject, the gostyanandi devotee is helped by Krishna's special mercy, because Krishna is so especially pleased by the preacher. By preaching constantly under the order of Shri Shri Guru and Gouranga, one keeps constantly in the state of smaranam, remembering Krishna. By constant rememberance of Krishna one always associates with Krishna. And by association with Krishna on
the liberated platform, one receives his spiritual form as given by Krishna.
Krishna is not different from His holy name. As one starts to chant, he is liberated from material contact, and the more one is liberated from material contact, the more his chanting engenders loving rememberance
Krishna, and the more one lovingly remembers Krishna, the more do the qualities of Krishna manifest within that devotee (krishna bhakte krsnere guna sakala sancari, from C.c. Madhya 22.75), including the quality of
satcidananda vigraha (spiritual form). So we should simply depend upon our service to the holy name in the sankirtana movement for all success.
One of the main reasons for the breakdown of the Gaudiya Math after Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's disappearance was the loss of faith in this very point--that by simply by preaching the glories of the holy name, all spiritual qualities would manifest in the disciple. Some devotees deviated by taking to the siddha-pranali method. This again showed the same influence of the manufactured siddha-pranali tendency, which was forbidden by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta.
So these stories just show how careful we must be to "don't to try to add something new", as Shrila Prabhupada so often warned. This so-called siddha-pranali method is not approved by the acharyas, so it is
therefore quite fruitless to try to practice it, even if we think there is a qualified Vaishnava-guru who can initiate us into it. Shrila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji compared this raganuga-bhakti or siddha-pranali attempt to a woman who goes into the maternity ward of a hospital, lays in a bed and moans as if she's about to give birth--though she is not even pregnant. She can "practice" all she likes, but she will never give birth that way.
Siddha-pranali ("Path of Perfection") is often equated with manjari-sadhana, which is first mentioned by Krishnadasa Kaviraja in his commentary on Krishna Karnamrta by Bilvamangal. The detailed paddhati was written by Dhyancand Goswami, the successor of Gopal Guru Goswami, who got it from Vakresvara Pandit who received it from Swarupa Damodara. Also it is mentioned in the 1st chapter of Jaiva Dharma wherein Sannyasi Thakur got siddha-pranali from Paramahamsa Babaji Mahashoy. So siddha-pranali per se is not bogus, although suitable candidates to execute it may be few nowadays. The siddha-pranali recommended directly by Lord Gauranga is chanting the holy names (iha haite sarva-siddhi haibe sabara; Cb Madhya 23.78).
When Shrila Prabhupada warns us to be careful of siddha-pranali, it appears that he refers to that process which is based on an interpretation of the sloka of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.295, quoted as Cc. Madhya 22.158) that is deviant in two ways. The deviant siddha-pranali originates with Rupa Kaviraja, a wayward disciple of Hemalata Thakurani, Shrinivasa Acarya's daughter. The first deviation is to prematurely imagine one's eternally perfect spiritual form (siddha-rupa). Shrila Prabhupada writes, "They [the deviants] imagine that they have become associates of the Lord simply by thinking of themselves like that.." (NOD) According to our acaryas, realization of our siddha-rupa develops when our hearts become purified. The second deviation is their proposal that the word vraja-loka (residents of Vrndavana) refers exclusively to the residents of Vrndavana in krishna-lila, such as Shri Rupa-manjari, and not to residents of Vrndavana in their
gaura-lila, such as Shrila Rupa Gosvami. Thus they wrongly interpret seva sadhaka-rupena, siddha-rupena catra hi to mean that we should imitate the gopis' activities both as our external sadhana and our internal meditation. One can see such men in saris, jewelery, etc., not worshiping guru or Tulasi, yet making a show of imitating the behavior of the gopis-even though they are not yet purified of basic material desires. Shrila Prabhupada states succinctly (in NOD), "Their external behavior is not at all according to regulative principles.''
In Hari-nama-cintamani (and also in Jaiva Dharma), final chapter of Bhajana Pranali, the bonafide authorized process of siddha-pranali by the nama-tattva-vit guru is described in detail. Please read it for furthur
This is the authorized process of bhajana or siddha-pranali or babaji-diksha or manjari-svarupa which Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada gave to thirteen of his disciples as described in the following extracts from Shripada Bhakti Vikasa Swami's upcoming book Lion Guru:
"He gave thirteen babaji initiation. Jotisekhara recalls some of their names: Bhaktisvarupa Puri Goswami; Tirtha Goswami; Bhaktisaranga Maharaja, etc. They were so absorbed in bhajan that even when it was time for eating they were unaware.
"Sarasvati Thakura gave trija (third birth), or manjari-svarupa (siddha- svarupa), to thirteen of his disciples; not all at once, but at different times, according to the rules given in Sat-Kriya-Sara-Dipika - a book by
Gopal Bhatta Goswami, which describes the different rituals for Vaishnava rites. Their samadhis were also made according to Sat-Kriya-Sara-Dipika. Some of the samadhis are at Mayapur, and some at the Radha Damodar temple in Vrndavan.
"Some were grhasthas and some were tyagis. Since that time, in our line (Sarasvati Thakura's line), no one has given this trija.
"One interesting point is that Sarasvati Thakura gave babaji initiation even though he externally kept himself in the position of a sannyasi in the varnasrama system. Traditionally a sannyasi cannot give babaji initiation,
as a babaji is considered above a sannyasi, above varna and asrama. Becoming a babaji means initiation into the life of a paramahamsa. However, Sarasvati Thakura could do this, because although externally he played the role of a sannyasi, he was an actual paramahamsa, enabling him to give paramahamsa babaji initiation also. Those who became babajis gave up their brahmana thread and didn't strictly follow all the rules and regulations of the sastras, governing behavior according to varna and asrama.
"He warned his babaji disciples not to tell their manjari svarupa to others. They would stay in the Mathas, in the three dhamas of Vrndavan, Navadvip, and Puri, and attend all the temple functions, such as lectures and
kirtanas, but they themselves would not give lectures in the temple. They would go for bhiksa (begging for alms) and go outside for nagar sankirtan. They wouldn't go for preaching and most of their time would be spent in bhajan. Sometimes they would help with the Deity worship, or arcana. One babaji, named Radha Govinda Brijabasi, the father of Ananta Vasudeva, it would seem he lived in the Math in Vrndavan, Puri."