Monday, May 11, 2009

Raganuga.Com Audio Archives

The audio archives of the now retired Raganuga.Com are available for download at The Internet Archive:

The download area contains all materials hosted under the lectures (patha) and songs (kirtana) sections of the site. Most of the materials come from Advaitadas's old source tapes I once cleaned up and uploaded.

The kirtana are recordings of songs primarily from Radha-kunda from over the decades. The patha are Advaitadas's translations of lectures by Pandit Ananta Das Babaji and Pandit Vaishnava Pada Das Babaji.


Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5, the media can be freely downloaded and shared. A special mention goes to The Internet Archive for their hosting service.

Total download size in MP3 (VBR) format is 1.9 GB. The files are available for download individually in several formats (MP3 64kbps, MP3 VBR, Ogg Vorbis) and in a single zip file.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Avoiding Six Kinds of Vaishnava-aparadha

How do the scriptures define Vaishnava-aparadha, the mad elephant we are told to keep away from the garden of our hearts? In the 265th anuccheda of his Bhakti-sandarbha, in explaining the ten offenses against the holy name, Sri Jiva quotes a verse from the Skanda Purana, delineating varieties of unbefitting acts in relation with a Vaishnava.

satAM nindA ity anena hiMsAdInAM vacanAgocaratvaM darzitam | nindAdayas tu yathA skAnde zrI-mArkaNDeya-bhagIratha-saMvAde –

nindAM kurvanti ye mUDhA vaiSNavAnAM mahAtmanAm |
patanti pitRbhiH sArdhaM mahAraurava-saMjJite ||
hanti nindanti vai dveSTi vaiSNavAn nAbhinandati |
krudhyate yAti no harSaM darzane patanAni SaT || iti |

“Defamation of the saints, as violence and so forth, as well as verbal, is now presented. Blasphemy and so forth are presented in the Skanda in the discourse of Sri Markandeya and Bhagiratha:

‘The fools who defame Vaishnava-mahatmas fall into a place known as Maharaurava along with their ancestors. The six degrading acts against Vaishnava are (1) killing him, (2)  blaspheming him, (3) being envious of, or hating him, (4) not glorifying him, (5) being angry at him, and (6) not being happy upon seeing him.’”

According to Jiva it is also not acceptable to witness one, or several among the aforementioned degrading acts of defamation. The place known as Maharaurava is described in the fifth skandha of the Bhagavata (5.26.12) as follows:

evam eva mahArauravo yatra nipatitaM puruSaM kravyAdA nAma ruravas taM kravyeNa ghAtayanti yaH kevalaM dehambharaH ||

“Thus certainly a person who is exclusively absorbed in nourishing his body will be thrown to Maharaurava, where blood-thirsty hounds will devour his flesh and torment him.”

That said, let us examine the six kinds of degrading deeds.

1.To kill. This is obviously a heinous act bound to destroy the creeper of devotion. Under this heading, any and all acts of physical violence are also included.

2. To blaspheme. All verbal acts of defamation come under this category. Calling a Vaishnava names, speaking harshly to him or about him, speaking lies of him and so forth are considered blasphemy.

3. To be envious or hateful. To be envious of a Vaishnava, to wish for his demise or suffering and to act towards this goal, and other thoughts, speech and deeds prompted by a feeling of malice towards a Vaishnava come under this heading.

4. To not glorify. All Vaishnavas are worthy of respect. To not respect a Vaishnava in accordance with his qualification, or to refuse from recognizing a particular good quality or deed of a Vaishnava, is unbefitting. Everyone is to be given all the respect they deserve, regardless of their having different opinions from ours.

5. To be angry. Whatever a Vaishnava does, we are not to display an outburst of anger towards him. It is permitted to display anger towards someone who is hateful towards the bhaktas, but this, too, is to be done in a civil, constructive way for the rectification of the wrong-doer.

6. To not be happy upon seeing. Whoever has accepted the holy names of Krishna is a blessing to the world. To not feel happiness upon meeting a soul who has chosen to approach the Lord, regardless of his defects, is inappropriate.

Now I would like to bring this down to a practical level and examine the implications of the above unbefitting acts or attitudes when we evaluate the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the doctrinal differences between various teachers, and so forth, in our discussions. Let me condense it into two sentences.

Regardless of what anyone has said or done, we should not (1) assault him or his followers, (2) call him names or speak of him harshly, or (3) wish anything bad for him. We should (4) justly give him all the credit he is due and praise his achievements, (5) avoid anger towards him as a person, and (6) be happy upon seeing or hearing of him or his followers, remembering that despite all differences, they also chant the all-auspicious names of Krishna.

I believe if we keep this in mind, we can live our devotional lives with a feeling of safety in the heart.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Q&A: What books should a new western traditonal Gaudiya Vaishnava read?

Q: Can someone tell me which translations that are in English of Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrta does a traditional Gaudiya Vaishnava use? I realize that many disciples of Ananta das Babaji came from Iskcon and so still have the translations of BVSP to use, but what translations would be recommended for the brand new generation of GV's? Also, what is actually the recommendation of which books to read? Is it these three mentioned and in addition a book similar to Bhaktirasamrta Sindhu, or some other book that outlines the preliminary stages to the devotional path?

A: There is still a long way to go until we have carefully translated, definitive translations of all the core Gaudiya Vaishnava texts. The current selection of translations on the market often calls for a number of footnotes on the credits and shortcomings of the works to go along with the recommendation.

Below is a list of titles I consider essential reading for a Gaudiya Vaishnava, who wishes to be well acquainted with the theological foundations of his tradition – alphabetically listed. Notes on currently available editions, whether partial or complete, have been included.

Bhagavad-gita with Vishwanath Chakravarti’s and Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s commentaries – A classic text outlining the philosophical foundations of all Vaishnava-traditions.

Availability: Bhanu Swami has recently published an edition of Vishwanath Chakravarti’s commentary. BV Narayana Maharaja has published an edition with Vishwanath Chakravati’s and Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s commentaries. Of the two, the latter includes anvaya (“word-for-word”), as does A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s, whose well-known edition includes a commentary of his own, using Baladeva’s tika as the foundation. Aside this, there are many contemporary commentaries.

Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu with the commentaries of Jiva Goswami and Viswanath Chakravarti – The definitive work on devotion in practice and the nature of the perfection sought for.

Availability: David Habermann has published a complete edition in cooperation with Srivatsa Goswami of Chaitanya Prema Samsthan. Some notes from the commentaries have been included. B.V. Narayana Maharaja has published an edition of Vishwanath Chakravarti’s Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu-bindu, a summary of Rupa’s work, which is also very useful.

Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti-sandarbha – A thorough and systematic delineation of the theology of devotion in practice.

Availability: Kusakratha Das has presented a complete translation of the text. Satya Narayana Das of Jiva Institute has recently published the first volume (of three) of the text, including Devanagari-text, transliteration and translation, making a vast improvement over Kusakratha’s edition that is regrettably not a very accurate representation of the original.

Sanatana Goswami’s Brihad-bhagavatamrita with his own commentary, an exploration of bhakti-siddhanta in the form of a narrative, supplemented with Rupa Goswami’s Laghu-bhagavatamrita, a concice thesis of the above.

Availability: Gopiparanadhana Das and BBT have presented a fine edition of the text in three volumes, including a translation of most of the tika, re-worded for smoother reading. Other translations, without a commentary, float around as e-texts. Kusakratha Das has published an edition of Laghu-bhagavatamrita that is being re-published.

Vrindavan Das Thakur’s Chaitanya Bhagavata – A voluminous biography narrating Sri Chaitanya’s years in Navadvipa.

Availability: Bhumipati Das and Pundarika Vidyanidhi Das are publishing a multi-volume edition of the work with the original text and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s commentary. Sarvabhavana Das has published a one-volume edition. BV Puri Maharaja has published an edition that appears to be a polished version of an early draft of Sarvabhavana’s work.

Krishnadas Kaviraja’s Chaitanya Caritamrita – A wonderful blend of biographical narrative and philosophy, focusing on Sri Chaitanya’s later years.

Availability: Edward Dimock has published an edition of Chaitanya Caritamrita with aid from Radha Govindanath’s famous commentary in his translation. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami has published an edition with his own commentaries, drawing from Bhaktivinoda’s and Bhaktisiddhanta’s. Unlike Dimock’s, his multi-volume edition includes both the original Bengali text as well as synonyms. Dimock’s edition appears to be a more literal representation of the original.

Dhyanachandra Goswami’s Gaura-govindarchana-smarana-paddhati – An outline of the specific practices a sadhaka is to undertake in the course of his day-to-day bhajan.

Availability: Haricarana Das has translated the work. It was once available as an e-text, and is currently being re-edited and published in cooperation with the Blazing Sapphire Press.

Krishnadas Kaviraja’s Govinda-lilamrita – A voluminous narration describing the eight-fold daily pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

Availability: Advaitadas has published an edition with Rasbihari Lal & Sons. While the language of the translation could flow better, it is a fair representation of the original. Gadadhara Prana Das has also published an edition, and while his language certainly flows colorful, it would benefit from splitting elaborations into footnotes.

Gopala Bhatta Goswami’s Hari-bhakti-vilasa with Sanatana Goswami’s commentary – On matters of sadachar and rules for worship.

Availability: Rasbihari Lal & Sons are currently publishing a five-volume edition of the work with the first two volumes (ch. 1-10) currently available. While certainly helpful, the works could benefit from a translator who would translate directly from Sanskrit. Bhrigumuni Das has published a work called “Dearest to Vishnu”, a faithful presentation of chapters 12-16 dealing with Ekadashi.

Vishwanath Chakravarti’s Madhurya Kadambini – A comprehensive work outlining the course of a sadhaka’s progress towards the perfection.

Availability: Sri Krishna Chaitanya Shastra Mandir has published an edition including the original Sanskrit text and Ananta Das Babaji Maharaja’s elaborate commentary. Sarvabhavana Das and Dina Bandhu Das have both published translations of the text.

Narottama Das Thakur’s Prema-bhakti-chandrika – A beautiful outline of all that’s essential on the path of bhakti.

Availability: Sri Krishna Chaitanya Shastra Mandir has published an edition including Ananta Das Babaji Maharaja’s elaborate commentary, the English edition is currently available in manuscript form. Isvara Das has published an edition that could benefit from more accuracy. The included Bengali script is riddled with mistakes.

Srimad Bhagavatam with Sanatana Goswami’s, Jiva Goswami’s and Vishwanath Chakravarti’s commentaries – The vast garden in which the seed of our tradition of bhakti-rasa was planted.

Availability: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami has published translations of cantos 1-10/1 with the original Sanskrit text, transliteration and synonyms. His followers have published cantos 10/2-12 in the same style, often including translations of passages from earlier tikas in their commentary. Gita Press has published a complete translation of the text, which is, a few blunders aside, generally fine. Bhanu Swami has recently translated Vishwanath Chakravarti’s commentaries on the 10th canto.

Rupa Goswami’s Upadeshamrita from Stava-mala – A concise, yet essential work offering instructions to a sadhaka who seeks progress in his practices.

Availability: BV Narayana Maharaja has presented a translation of the work with three commentaries, by Radha Ramana Das Goswami, Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. While the translations at times drift a bit aside from the original, the edition is useful.

Rupa Goswami’s Ujjvala-nilamani– The post-graduate study of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, an extensive study of the nuances of madhura-bhakti-rasa.

Availability: Puri Maharaj of Gaudiya Math has published an edition which is far from being definitive, but helpful nonetheless. BV Narayana Maharaja is rumored to be preparing an elaborate edition with a commentary.

Raghunath Das Goswami’s Vilapa-kusumanjali– The zenith of aspirations on the path of raga, a heart crying out for Sri Radha’s service.

Availability: Ananta Das Babaji Maharaja has published an edition with elaborate commentaries, currently available in manuscript form. Availability is generally restricted, on the author’s request, to initiated traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

Additionally, there is a rich tradition of Pada-kavya in our tradition – thousands and thousands of poems have been written over the centuries by early and modern pada-kavis alike, compositions that are instrumental in entering the world of bhakti-rasa.

Availability: BBT has published a song-book called Songs of Vaishnava Acharyas, Dasarath Suta Das has published a song-book called More Songs of Vaishnava Acharyas. BV Narayana Maharaja has published a song-book called Gaudiya Giti Guccha. Countless individual padas have been translated and are available online.

There are dozens of other titles that could justifiably be included in this list, such as select short works from Rupa Goswami's Stava-mala and Raghunath Das Goswami's Stavavali, or from among Baladeva's voluminous works.

To ensure that there is no room for misunderstandings or misinterpretations, consultation with devotees familiar with the works is recommended, and basic knowledge of Bengali and Sanskrit languages is very helpful. The Gaudiya Grantha Mandira offers a large repository of Sanskrit texts that may be used to supplement editions without the original text included.

* * * * * * *

Q: But I notice that a good number of the works you mentioned are works done by and commented by IGM figures, such as the referral you gave for Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. In some cases, I guess not only the commentaries, but also the verse translation may not be considered accurate by a Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnava. In the case of the various bonafide siddha pranali lines, do they use translations of these texts that are made by people in their own lineage, but are in Hindi or Bengali? In that case, it shouldn't be too hard for an English translation to come fairly soon.

A: The Gaudiya tradition is very cross-lineage in its approach as far as general themes such as these are concerned. I haven't heard anyone expressing concerns over reading translations from those outside one's own parampara. In fact, it is quite common that one may have an instructing guru from a different lineage - this was the case with my Param-guru, whose first siksha-guru, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Das Babaji, was from Shyamananda-parivar, and whose vesh-guru, Pandit Advaita Das Babaji, was of Advaita-parivar. The stress on diksha-parampara must not be taken out of proportion and context.

Yes - accuracy is a great concern with many, if not most, translations currently available on the market. So much so that I personally refuse to accept any scriptural references as evidence unless accompanied by the original text. How many times have I come across "evidence" that was practically unrecognizable as a translation of the original!

Practically all important Gaudiya Vaishnava texts have been translated to Bengali, most are available in Hindi as well. Goofs in translations, however, are not the privilege of ISKCON and Gaudiya Math publications - as long as one does not familiarize himself with the original language of the text, one will have to live with a degree of uncertainty over the exact and precise meaning of the text.

To accurately translate Sanskrit-texts, I do not consider a mere translation from a Hindi or Bengali translation to be adequate. The translation must be verified against the original Sanskrit, so much can change in translations of translations. The original translator may have found some passages hard to understand, or may have felt a need to explain something more elaborately than the original for ease of reading. The translator of translation, then, will in his turn do the same - how far will the text evolve from the original?

Many works published from ISKCON and Gaudiya Math contain translations or commentaries that we would not consider accurate or tasteful. Regardless, they are helpful, and have therefore been mentioned. I rarely read contemporary commentaries from IGM-sources, aside occasional peeks as a matter of curiosity, or if the work contains a substantial amount of references from earlier sources.

It is a fact that these works should all be soon translated into English, and indeed wiht some volunteer effort, it could easily be accomplished. Sadly, few have come forward to offer their services, even if in return for limited financial compensation. Our society in the West is still in a budding state, and resources for abundant financing of such projects just aren't there.

Q&A: Discussing one's bhajan with others

Q: Is it all right to discuss one's bhajan with others? Perhaps one may have an exceptional dream or a realization during bhajan – to whom may one speak of it, and to whom not?

A: We sometimes come across Vaisnavas who are fond of liberally sharing of their experiences, gained in dreams and in wakefulness all the same. However, visions and dreams with special spiritual significance are private matters one should cherish within the chamber of the heart. By airing them out in the public, their impact on the self fades and vanishes over time.

As recommended in Hari-bhakti-vilasa:

svapne vAkSi-samakSaM vA Azcaryam atiharSadam /
akasmAd yadi jAyeta na khyAtavyaM guror vinA //2.143//

"In dreams, or before one's eyes, if an astonishing, thrilling event suddenly occurs, it is not to be told of to others aside the guru."

If there are senior Vaisnavas in whom we have deep faith, and whom we regard essentially in the capacity of a guru, dreams and other special events may be disclosed to them as well.

However, only one who has digested and well internalized the experience may share it with others. Even then, they are to be shared with the faithful alone – with those who will respect and find deep inspiration in the same. Revealing heart's matters before the faithless is wholly improper. If this warning is not paid heed to, we gradually lose the impact of the experience, and additionally risk becoming subject to pride and a host of other vice arising from an inflated sense of self-importance and the possible admiration of others.

Again, in the words of Narottama Das Thakur Mahasaya from his Prema-bhakti-candrika:

Apana bhajana kathA, na kahiba yathA tathA, ihAte haiba sAvadhAna /

"The topics of your own bhajana, speak not of them here and there. In this, I shall exercise caution."

Then, he notes: rAkha prema hRdaya bhariyA"Protect your love, burying it within your heart!" He says, gupate sAdhibe siddhi"Perfection is attained in secrecy." The intimacy of experiences with God is likened to the lovers' relationship in an apt metaphor found in Hatha-yoga-pradipika (3.9):

gopanIyaM prayatnena yathA ratna-karaNDakam /
kasyacin naiva vaktavyaM kula-strI-surataM yathA //

"Hide them with persevering effort,
as you would a basket of jewels –
Truly don't speak of them to anyone,
As a noble lady wouldn't speak of making love."

Therefore, accomplished Vaisnavas never share of their experiences in bhajana in public. The absence of replies does not make a commentary on the presence or absence of experiences as such. Often, it only tells of the wisdom of silence. Those who have something factually precious to share will carefully guard it as a hidden treasure. Access to such treasures is gained through gaining the Vaisnava's confidence, for such things are not to be squandered in broadcasting to a mixed audience, as one would not hurl bucketfuls of pearls before the swine.

Again, in the words of Sri Jiva from his Bhakti-sandarbha (339):

atra ca zrI guroH zrI bhagavato vA prasAda labdhaM sAdhana sAdhyagataM svIya sarvasva bhUtaM yat kim api rahasyaM tat tu na kasmaicit prakAzanIyam yathAha:

"Then, the secrets of one's own that are obtained with practice and in attaining perfection – with the grace of Sri Guru and Sri Bhagavan – are never to be disclosed to anyone. As in the Bhagavata:

naitat parasmA AkhyeyaM pRSThayApi kathaJcana /
sarvaM sampadyate devi deva guhyaM susaMvRtam // BhP 8.17.20

"This is not to be disclosed to outsiders, even if inquired on by someone;
All the secrets of the gods, O Devi, will yield their fruit when well concealed."

The warnings aside now, observe the merits of containing the experience – at the opening of Rupa's Utkalika-vallari, one of his final works:

prapadya vRndAvana-madhyam ekaH
krozann asAv utkalikAkulAtmA /
udghATayAmi jvalataH kaThorAM
bASpasya mudrAM hRdi mudritasya //1//

"Cast down amidst Vrindavana is one
In tears with the longings of an agitated heart
I shall reveal the fierce burning
The marks of tears imprinted in the heart."

The word bASpa means tears, and it means steam as well. Countless tears have left their deep wounds in Rupa's heart. The outburst of seventy verses of intense emotion are the result of decades of withholding an immeasurable depth of feelings. Read the description of Bhakti-ratnakara:

eka dina rAdhA-kRSNa viccheda kathate /
kANDaye vaiSNava mUrccha-gata pRthivite //
agni-zikhA prAya jvale rUpera hRdaYa /
tathApi bAhire kichu prakAza nA haYA //
karu dehe zrI-rUpera niHzvAsa sparzila /
agni-zikhA prAYa sei dehe braNa haila //
dekhiYA sabAra mane haila camatkAra /
aiche zrI-rUpera kriyA kahite ki Ara //

"One day, the separation of Radha and Krishna was discussed;
The Vaisnavas cried, falling senseless on the ground.
Rupa's heart was ablaze like the tip of a flame,
And yet outside nothing was manifest at all.
Whose body Sri Rupa's exhalation would touch,
That body would be burnt, as if touched by a flame.
Seeing this, astonishment filled all –
Such are Sri Rupa's deeds, what more can one say?"

This is the power of conserving emotion and experience within. This is the power of devotion contained. Do not build up your bhajana only to waste it away, let it not be blown with the wind to a thousand directions.

* * * * * * *

Q: What kinds of experiences can be revealed, and what ought to be kept hidden?

A: There are experiences that are very particular, and the revealing of which would set one apart from others and draw particular attention to oneself. Such experiences should be kept carefully under a lid, even among an assembly of devotees.

For example – you have had a dream where Thakur has given you a beautiful darshan or an advice, or you have had a vision at the time of illness that has cured you, or a strong experience has cast you into an ocean of anubhava and sattvika-bhava – things like this you should keep carefully hidden.

The experience you note is a beautiful experience, but it is a general experience, and something that can be easily shared by many. In fact, if someone is not moved to tears after reading of the acts and character of saints like this, there is something very wrong. Even a worldly person would feel moved at the sight of such sincerity.

Still, something such as what you mention should not be spoken to non-devotees, but in an assembly of devotees it is fine. I have been particularly protective of the sanctity of this forum's atmosphere especially for the aim of our being able to speak and have exchanges more freely than we could have had at places like Gaudiya Discussions with a completely mixed member base. This is why we also have members only sections and a public section here. I can't recall to which you posted the passage you cite, but it didn't strike me as inappropriate; rather I was very pleased to read it, and it no doubt serves as inspiration for others, too, to read and hear such narrations.

There are fine lines, and the lines are subjective to a great many factors that make up what you are, contributing to your eligibility to do diverse things. Your own borders are only found through experience and reflection.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

F: Sadhaka and Siddha: Two classes of devotees

There are two classes of devotees, the sadhaka and the siddha. Those at the stage of sadhana are called sadhakas, and those at the stages of bhava and beyond are called siddhas. The stage of bhava is the stage of the awakening of the svarupa. Vishwanath Chakravartipada describes this blessed stage as follows:

buddhir apatantam evArtham avadhArayantI jAgrat-svapna-suSuptiSu tadIya-smRti-vartmany eva pAnthatvam adhyavasyet | ahantA ca prApsyamAne sevopayogini siddha-dehe pravizantIva sadhaka-zarIraM prAyo jahAtIva virAjeta | mamatA ca tac-caraNAravinda-makaranda eva madhukarIbhavitum upakrameteti | sa ca bhaktaH prAptaM mahA-ratnaM kRpaNa iva janebhyo bhAvaM gopayann api kSAnti-vairAgyAdInAm AspadIbhavan lasal-lalATam evAntardhanaM kathayatIti nyAyena tad-vijJa-sAdhu-goSThyAM vidito bhaved anyatra tu vikSipta ity unmatta iti sajjata iti durlakSyatAM gacchet || mk 7.3

The bhava bhakta’s intelligence then unfailingly has this single purpose. The Lord remains on the path of his memory whether he sleeps, dreams or is awake. Then his sense of identity (ahantA, “I”) enters a perfected body (siddha-deha) suitable for his desired service to the Lord; it is almost as if he has left the present sadhaka body. His sense of possessiveness (mamatA, “mine”) becomes like a bee ready to relish the nectar of the Lord’s lotus feet. In this stage the devotee tries to conceal his feeling of love like a miserly person hiding a precious jewel. There is a saying that a bright face tells of hidden wealth. Because the bhava bhakta has qualities such as patience and renunciation, he is recognized by the realized devotees, but the common people are baffled by his activities and think he just has a disturbed mind.

For the bhava-bhakta, there is no question of absence from the lila. He is always absorbed and present in his svarupa and the related services in the svarasiki-lila. Needless to say, such souls are extremely rare in this world, and tend to keep themselves hidden from the public view.

At the stages prior to the awakening of the svarupa where the svarupa is being cultivated and meditated on, the vision of the lila appears whenever the consciousness of the sadhaka enters into the svarupa. At this stage, the lila is yet to become a "concrete" reality, in contrast to the substantial attainment at the stage of bhava. While the visions of the lila he receives are certainly real, being the reciprocal revelation of the ista-deva, the sadhaka is yet to attain permanent, active presence in the nitya-lila. The reality of the lila appearing in his meditations is a subjective presence brought forth with the lord's grace with the aim of nourishing his greed for the desired attainment.

Q&A: Siddha-identity in everyday life: Harmonizing siddha-deha with ordinary activities

Q: I have been wondering how one harmonizes one's siddha-identity with "ordinary" activities like bathing, eating, going to the toilet etc. Or is that a kind of mental switch, like during bhajan I am X gopi (siddha-deha), then I turn into Y das (sadhaka-deha) and do my ordinary activities until its bhajan time again? How can I meditate upon myself as a perfected, spiritual entity while being sick, driving a car, using my mobile phone or arguing with the boss in the office etc.?

A:  In his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Sripad Rupa Goswamipad presents the famous two-fold division of seva to be undertaken by those who seek to follow the raga-marga:

sevA sAdhaka-rUpeNa siddha-rUpeNa cAtra hi |
tad-bhAva-lipsunA kAryA vraja-lokAnusArataH || brs 1.2.295

"Serving in the sadhaka-form, as well as in the siddha-form, engaged in activities while desiring the mood of the residents of Vraja, following in their wake."

The external sadhaka-life is to be undertaken while emulating the example of the Goswamis of Vrindavan, engaged in the varieties of devotional services led by sravana, kirtana, archana and so forth. These activities are classified as svAbhISTa-bhAva-sambandhi, or as having a direct relationship with one's desired feelings. These activities, even though undertaken in the external body, lead one to the identity within. Therefore, there is no essential conflict between the two realms in which service has been undertaken.

Such activities of devotional service are also known as svarUpa-siddha-bhakti, or acts that are inherently devotional by their nature. This classification has been presented in contrast to saGga-siddha-bhakti, or elements that attain the quality of devotion through contact with devotion, and aropa-siddha-bhakti, or activities over which the quality of devotion is superimposed, and that are therefore considered to be akin to bhakti.

The quality for kindling inner revelation that is inherent in activities of svarUpa-siddha-bhakti lacks in the two other categories. Activities such as maintaining one's livelihood through work in the society, and thereby maintaining one's facility for devotional services, are generally known as aropa-siddha-bhakti, or activities that become devotional through superimposition. The activities are not devotional in and of themselves, their quality is transformed after the event through the devotee's internal spirit of offering and surrender.

Though elements of aropa-siddha-bhakti are also helpful, and indeed a necessity at a certain stage, they must begin to withdraw as one enters into the world of siddha-rUpa-sevA. Lacking a direct connection with the transcendent realm in which the seva is to take place, they have a great potential for distracting the mind. Some elevated souls are able to transmutate even worldly activities into direct acts of devotion through the power of their smarana, remaining aloof from external influence. However, most sadhakas will find that such external activities will prove to be obstacles in the practice of smarana.

Some aspects of ordinary daily life have qualities that are parallel to the course of the lila. Therefore, someone conversant with the lila can easily attribute the self-conception of the svarupa and the flow of the lila over them and remain in the proper self-identity in the course of the said activities. One should, as far as possible, seek to organize his life in a manner that facilitiates absorption in the lila throughout the day.

The adoption of a specific transcendent identity and the subsequent gradual absorption in the nectarine services of Radha-Krishna possess a vast potential for attracting and containing the consciousness beyond and away from this world. Therefore, as one becomes more accomplished in such practices, he will find it harder and harder to dwell amidst a mundane environment, so much so that time spent in distraction will begin to be felt as painful, and indeed unbearable. The two worlds don't mix together all that well.

For success in smarana, it is vital that one protect the consciousness from outer influences, as smarana is dependent on the purity of the mind – smaraNaM tu zuddhAntaH-karaNatAm apekSate (BhS 276). The foremost among the purifiers of the heart is the chanting of the divine Name, which one should chant at least one lakh, or sixty-four rounds, daily. Before exposing the matter of raga-bhajana (verse 8) in his Upadeshamrita, Srila Rupa Goswamipad has laid emphasis on the worship of the Name as the healer of the polluted heart (verse 7). Chanting a lakh of Names or more, along with the other devotional duties that must be undertaken to support the inner worship, take a substantial amount of time.

All of this has led some mahatmas to conclude that one should renounce the world as a prerequisite for the practice of lila-smarana. While the formal acceptance of the life of a renunciate is not necessarily called for, a withdrawal from the world is instrumental in making the practice successful. Successful smarana calls for exclusivity, and it calls for the absolute rejection of mundane desire. A heart riddled by the mundane, devoid of suddha-bhakti, is not eligible for entrance into the kingdom of rasa.

One must remember that svarupa-meditation and lila-smarana are not a matter of mere techniques of visualization. The lila is self-manifest by nature and arises of grace, grace that is drawn towards one who forsakes all for the sake of a wholehearted devotional pursuit. The appearance of the lila in the chamber of the heart cannot be forced. It flows naturally in a pure and devoted heart, and is therefore aptly called svarasiki. The varieties of meditation, memorization and visualization that are undertaken, despite their being instrumental in supporting the attainment, do not possess the power for revealing the lila and bestowing saksat-seva.

One may also, disregarding all of the above, engage in a semblance of cultivation of svarupa-meditation and lila-smarana. While through that bhajana-siddhi will not be attained, often a favorable samskara is created, a samskara that will in due course of time lead the devotee to the shelter of realized bhajananandi-mahatmas who infuse him with the power to leave behind the mundane and embrace a life of bhajan. Prior to that, practices of smarana are reminiscent of a child's play with dolls. Feeding a doll and putting it to sleep gives a conception of what having a baby is like, and yet the experience is far removed from the labor a mother must bear in caring for a child.

Q&A: Making up for lapses in devotional practices: What to do if one has been unable to complete his daily vows?

Q: What should one do if for some reason he's been unable to complete the daily devotional vows concerning the chanting of harinama or diksha-mantras, or puja?

A: It should be understood that there is no wonder trick by the doing of which the neglect of a previous day's devotional activities could be complemented whilst hoping to attain an equal result. One's daily devotional activities are nitya-niyamas, perpetual vows. One should not seek for ways to occasionally avoid them for the sake of one's leisure and pleasure. raghunAther niyama, yena pASANer rekha! - "The vows of Raghunath were like streaks on a stone." One should strive to embrace such firmness of practice to attain success in his devotional pursuits.

It may be that on account of some unforeseen, insurmountable obstacle one's devotional practice is compromized. If that is the case, some remedial measures have been taught in the Vaishnava-smriti and heard from the mouths of the sadhus. Yet, one should not, on their strength, neglect one's devotional vows in a calculated manner, "If I don't fulfill my vows of bhajan today, then here's what I need to do tomorrow to make up for it. Let me therefore leave it for tomorrow." No! This will imbibe the flaw of nAmno balAd yasya hi pApa-buddhiH, to assume that one may misbehave on the strength of devotional worship.

One should think, "I must complete my daily nitya-niyamas. I must." Just as one wouldn't leave a child unfed and uncared for a day, one mustn't leave one's tender bhajan unnourished, and one mustn't keep his Thakur waiting. Utsaha and dhairya, enthusiasm and fortitude, are vital in the growth of bhakti (Upadeshamrita 3); without them, devotional progress is halted.

Should a lapse occur on account of excessive and unavoidable seva or some formidable obstruction, the general principle is that one should do more than the remaining balance as a matter of devotional atonement, with a sincere feeling of unworthiness as Thakur's servant. One must understand that the daily niyamas are a part of a living personal relationship with Thakur, not a matter of ritualistic, obligatory observance. They are our expression of longing, of our heart's budding love.

The 19th chapter of Hari-bhakti-vilasa (19.1038-1039) notes, in the context of worshiping the deity:

ekAha pUjAvihitau kuryAd dvi-guNam arcanam |
tri-rAtre tu mahA-pUjAM samprokSaNam ataH param ||
mAsAd Urdhvam anekAhaM pUjA yadi vihanyate |
pratiSThaiveSyate kaizcit kaizcit samprokSaNa-kramaH ||

"If worship has been forsaken for a day, one ought to worship twice. If three days have passed, one should perform great worship with the bathing ceremony. If the worship has been repeatedly neglected for the duration of a month, some hold that installation should be done anew, while others recommend the bathing ceremony and so forth."

Such worship should be done in the spirit of apology, calling out for the Lord, begging him to again receive our worship, with firm determination that such neglect will not occur again.

Manohara-bhajan-dipika, discussing what ought to be done in the event that the chanting of the names has been halted for a day, states that one must then, on the following day, perform four-fold the daily vow. For example, if one's vow has been for 50.000 names daily, one should then chant 200.000 names, discarding all unneeded activity to arrange for time for its performance. In the event that daily vow has not been neglected but has been compromised, then doing the vow two-fold is sufficient.

For those chanting the Names in excess of one lakh, the four-fold atonement is not practicable for obvious reasons. Rarely it is seen, though, that someone with a lakh's daily vow would halt his nama-bhajan altogether for a day! Regardless, if their nama-bhajan has been compromised, they should chant a substantially increased quantity in proportion to their daily vows on the following day to atone for the neglect of Nama Prabhu's daily worship.

The above also applies for the chanting of the diksha-mantras and other quantifiable practices. If the practices neglected are not of a nature that could be quantified, one should sincerely regret having neglected the said practice and thereby a precious opportunity for acts of devotional worship, praying for a new opportunity. With that, one should make arrangements to see that the situation leading to the neglect will not occur again.

Q&A: Maintaining inspiration in bhajan: Sometimes inspiration comes, and again it goes...

Q: It is often seen that people come to Vraja for pilgrimage, associate with sadhus and gain much inspiration in bhajan -- only to have it diminish and wither in a few months after returning to West! What is the reason for this, how to avoid it?

A:  There are several reasons for the diminishing of enthusiasm in bhajan. As a matter of general principle, it has to do with not exercising due caution in protecting one's bhajan. For a sadhaka, protecting one's bhajan is of the utmost essence. He should not neglect or squander his precious attainments.

In his Upadeshamrita, Srila Rupa Goswamipad has listed the following six items that cause the devastation of devotional pursuits:

atyAhAraH prayAsaz ca prajalpo niyamAgrahaH |
jana-saGgaz ca laulyaM ca SaDbhir bhaktir vinazyati || 2 ||

"Excessive eating or harnessing property, strenuous endeavors, idle talks, neglect of principles, the company of the worldly and fickleness; these six make the devotion perish."

If someone, after having spent time engrossed in bhajan, returns to his worldly life of harnessing so many items that are truly not of need for a life of bhajan, he is overwhelmed by a sense of possessive illusion that blocks the consciousness from entering the ways of bhajan. If one eats in excess or eats inappropriate food from inappropriate sources, sexual desire is provoked, the consciousness is tainted with evil and the mind becomes wicked. If one engages in idle talks, such as blasphemy, gossip or topics of sensuality, he cuts on the very root of devotion through blasphemy and gossip, cultivating taste for the mundane.

If someone neglects the execution of due devotional principles, one's daily religious vows of prayer, worship and meditation, the creeper of devotion withers in shortage of water. If one maintains mundane association either through cultivating relationships with worldly people or vicariously enjoying their ways through movies, novels and so forth, his taste for the worldly is nourished, and in proportion his interest in devotion vanishes. If the mind is fickle, running across the universe and taking interest in countless topics of sense enjoyment and intellectual interest, the focus of consciousness is scattered and led afar from bhajan.

Among the six items perfecting the practice of devotion, Rupa Goswami mentions sato vRtteH, which the commentator glosses as sadAcAra, or saintly conduct. Sadachar keeps one protected from varieties of aparAdhas and shields one from mundane influence, lack thereof leads one to unknowingly commit aparAdhas and leaves one vulnerable for the effects of the world. Therefore, one should learn and adopt appropriate sadachar, saintly conduct, to protect the tender creeper of devotion.

In his teachings to Sri Rupa, Sriman Mahaprabhu taught of the cultivation of the creeper of devotion and the need to exercise great caution (CC 2.19.154ff):

tabe yAya tad-upari goloka-vRndAvana |
kRSNa-caraNa-kalpa-vRkSe kare ArohaNa ||
tAhAG vistArita haJA phale prema-phala |
ihAG mAlI sece nitya zravaNAdi jala ||
yadi vaiSNava-aparAdha uThe hAtI mAtA |
upADe vA chiNDe, tAra zukhi’ yAya pAtA ||
tAte mAlI yatna kari’ kare AvaraNa |
aparAdha-hastIra yaiche nA haya udgama ||

"Then, it grows beyond and reaches Goloka Vrindavan, climbing to the desire tree of Sri Krishna's feet.
"Extending there, it produces the fruit of prema, as the gardener always sprinkles it with the water of hearing and the such.
"Should offence at the feet of a Vaishnava arise like a mad elephant, it'll uproot or break the creeper, making its leaves dry.
"Therefore the gardener, with great diligence, prepares a protective barrier to prevent the elephant of offence from awakening."

The observance of maryAda, or proper etiquette in dealings with Vaishnavas, coupled with due awareness of inadequacies in ingredients, places and manners of activity in worship, must therefore be assimilated and maintained if one is to maintain one's firmness in pursuing devotion.

Mahaprabhu described the undesired weeds that suck the life sap of the creeper of devotion in the following words:

niSiddhAcAra, kuTInATI, jIva-hiMsana |
lAbha, pUjA, pratiSThAdi yata upazAkhA-gaNa ||
seka-jala pAJA upazAkhA bADi yAya |
stabdha haJA mUla-zAkhA bADite nA pAya ||
prathamei upazAkhAra karaye chedana |
tabe mUla-zAkhA bADi’ yAya vRndAvana ||

"Forbidden acts, duplicity, hostility towards others, mundane gain, worship and distinction, these are the host of weeds.
"Drinking the water sprinkled, they are nourished while the growth of the main creeper becomes thwarted.
"The weeds must be discarded at the very moment of their appearance; Then, the main creeper will grow and reach Vrindavan."

One should therefore stay afar from forbidden acts such as sinful deeds or other acts deemed unbefitting in the Vaishnava scriptures, be transparent in his dealings and not lead a life of deceit, not cause undue grief and anguish to other living entities, and always beware the traps of mundane gain, worship and distinction that arise parallel with the growth of devotion.

Hence the famous words, sAdhu sAvadhAn! -- "Saints, beware!". Seek to protect your devotional accomplishments by carefully weeding out crippling elements, whilst always yearning for the company of affectionate and advanced sadachari-sadhus from whose hearts the nectar of devotion oozes in our direction, and who educate us in the ways of guarding our growth in devotion.

Padavali: I Heard the Saint Say (Narottama)

"When shall I become a resident of Vrindavana?"

– From Srila Narottama Das Thakur Mahasaya's Prarthana –


śuniẏāchi sādhu-mukhe bale sarva-jana /
śrī rūpa-kṛpāẏa mile yugala caraṇa //

“I’ve heard from the saints’ mouths, and so say all,
With Śrī Rūpa’s grace, the feet of Yugala are attained.”

hā hā prabhu sanātana gaura-parivāra /
sabe mili vāñcha pūrṇa karaha āmāra //

“Hā hā! Master Sanātana, the companions of Gaura!
All of you, make my desires fulfilled!”

śrī rūpera kṛpā yena āmā prati haẏa /
se pada āsraẏa yāra sei mahāśaẏa //

”Should Śrī Rūpa’s grace fall upon me...
Whose is the shelter of those feet, he is great indeed!”

prabhu lokanātha kabe saṅge laẏe yābe /
śrī rūpera pāda-padme more samarpibe //

“When will master Lokanātha go, keeping me with him,
And offer me at Śrī Rūpa’s lotus feet?”

heno ki haibe mora narma-sakhī-gaṇe /
anugata narottame karibe śāsane //

“Then, shall it happen to me that the dear sakhīs
Will scold Narottama, who has become their follower?”


Padavali: When shall I become a resident of Vrindavana (Narottama)

"When shall I become a resident of Vrindavana?"

– From Srila Narottama Das Thakur Mahasaya's Prarthana –


hari hari kabe habe vṛndāvana-vāsī /
nirakhiba naẏane yugala rūpa-rāśi //

“Hari, Hari! When will I become a resident of Vṛndāvana?
With my eyes, I shall see the charming forms of Śrī Yugala…”

tyājiba śaẏana sukha vicitra pālaṅka /
kabe vrajera dhūlāẏa dhūsara habe aṅga //

“Forsaking the joy of sleeping on a fancy bed,
When will my limbs be anointed with the dust of Vraja?”

ṣaḏa-rasa-bhojana dūre parihari /
kabe vraje māgiẏā khāiba mādhukarī //

“Casting afar the enjoyment of six food-flavors,
When shall I beg for mādhukarī in Vraja?”

parikramā kariẏā vrajera vane vane /
viśrāṁa kariba giẏā yamunā puline //

“Circumambulating Vraja from one forest to the next,
I’ll take rest, going to Yamunā’s bank.”

tāpa dūre kariba śītala vaṁśī-vaṭe /
kabe kuñje basiba giẏā vaiṣṇava nikaṭe //

“I’ll rid myself of burning heat at the cooling Vaṁśī-vaṭa;
When will I sit in the kuñja near the Vaiṣṇavas?”

narottama dāsa kahe kari parihāra /
kabe vā emana daśā haibe āmāra //

Narottama Dās says, “Forsaking all,
When will such a state be mine?”

Padavali: Madhavotsava-kamalakara - Springtime of Vrindavana in Gita-govinda (Lalita-lavanga-lata)

This song, Madhavotsava-kamalakara of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, can be sung daily during the spring-season, starting with Vasanta-pancami.

śrī-jaẏadeva-viracitā gīta-govinda-kāvyam

sāmoda-dāmodara-nāmaka prathamaḥ sargaḥ,
mādhavotsava-kamalākāra-nāmaka tṛtīya prabandhaḥ |
vasanta-rāga-yati-tālābhyāṁ gīyate ||


lalita-lavaṅga.latā-pariśīlana-komala-malaẏa-samīre |
madhukara-nikara-karambita-kokila-kūjita-kuñja-kuṭīre ||

lalita – tender; lavaṅga.latā – clove creepers; pariśīlana – in touch with; komala – gentle; malaẏa-samīre – with breezes from Malaya-mountains; madhukara – honey bees; nikara – swarms of; karambita – intermingled; kokila – cuckoos; kūjita – cooing; kuñja-kuṭīre – in an arbour cottage;

"Tender clove creepers touching the gentle breeze from Malaya-mountains, swarms of honey-bees intermingled, cuckoos cooing in arbour cottages..."

viharati harir.iha sarasa-vasante |
nṛtyati yuvatī-janena samaṁ sakhi ! virahi-janasya durante || dhru ||

viharati – frolicks; harir – Hari; iha – here; sarasa-vasante – in the enamored spring; nṛtyati – dances ; yuvatī-janena – of youthful girls; samaṁ – even as then; sakhi – friend; virahi-janasya – of people in separation; durante – misery;

"Hari frolicks in the enamored spring! Even as the young ladies dance, O sakhi!, people in separation grieve."

unmada-madana-manoratha-pathika-vadhū.jana-janita-vilāpe |
ali.kula-saṅkula-kusuma-samūha-nirākula-bakula-kalāpe ||

unmada – intoxicated; madana-manoratha – on the cupid's chariot; pathika – travelers; vadhū.jana – of the young brides; janita – occurring; vilāpe – lamentations; ali.kula – swarm of honeybees; saṅkula – crowded together; kusuma-samūha – bunches of flowers; nirākula – full of; bakula-kalāpe – in the thickets of Bakula-tree;

"The intoxicated travelers on Cupid's chariot of mind, the young brides make their lamentations known... Swarms of honeybees are crowded amidst the flower-bunch laden thickets of the Bakula-trees."

mṛga.mada-saurabha-rabhasa-vaśaṁvada-nava.dala-māla-tamāle |
yuva.jana-hṛdaya-vidāraṇa manasija-nakha-ruci-kiṁśuka-jāle ||

mṛga.mada – musk; saurabha – fragrance; rabhasa – rapidly; vaśaṁvada – as if their own; nava.dala – new leaves; māla – garlanding; tamāle –Tamala-trees; yuva.jana – of the youngsters; hṛdaya – heart; vidāraṇa – rending; manasija – the mind-born cupid; nakha – nails; ruci – splendor; kiṁśuka – blood-red Kimsuka-flower; jāle – in bunches of;

"The new leaves garlanding the Tamala-tree rapidly spread their fragrance, as if they'd adopted the qualities of musk as their own. The splendor of bunches of blood-red Kimsuka-flowers are the nails of the mind-born Cupid, rending the hearts of youngsters."

madana-mahīpati-kanaka-daṇḍa-ruci-keśara-kusuma-vikāśe |
milita-śilī.mukha-pāṭali-paṭala-kṛta-smara-tūṇa-vilāse ||

madana – cupid; mahīpati – the sovereign; kanaka – golden; daṇḍa – sceptre; ruci – splendor; keśara-kusuma – Kesara-flowers; vikāśe – blooming; milita – joined; śilī.mukha – arrows, or bees; pāṭali-paṭala – cup-like Patali-flowers; kṛta – made as; smara – cupid; tūṇa – quiver; vilāse – appearing as;

"Blooming Kesara-flowers in their splendor are the sceptre of Cupid the sovereign. Bees and cup-like Patali-flowers together come forth as the Cupid's quiver."

vigalita-lajjita-jagad.avalokana-taruṇa-karuṇa-kṛta-hāse |
virahi-nikṛntana-kunta-mukhākṛti-ketaki-danturitāśe ||

vigalita – vanished; lajjita – being ashamed; jagad – of the world; avalokana – watching; taruṇa – tender, or youngsters; karuṇa – with pity, or Karuna-flower; kṛta – made to; hāse – laugh; virahi – those separated; nikṛntana – maiming; kunta-mukhākṛti – faces as if lances; ketaki – Ketaki-flowers; danturitāśe – filling all directions;

"Forsaking their shame in the watching eyes of the world, the youngsters are pitifully laughed at by Karuna-flowers. The faces of Ketaki-flowers, filling all directions, are the lances maiming those in separation."

mādhavika-parimala-lalite nava-mālika-jāti-sugandhau |
muni-manasām^api mohana-kārīṇi taruṇā.kāraṇa.bandhau ||

mādhavika – Madhavi-plants; parimala – fragrance; lalite – gently; nava – new; mālikaẏāti –Malika and jasmine flowers; sugandhau – fragrance; muni – of the sages; manasām – minds; api – even; mohana-kārīṇi – cause of bewilderment; taruṇā – youngsters; kāraṇa – cause; bandhau – of uniting, or bondage;

"The fragrance of Madhavi-vines and the sweet odors of new Malika-jasmines lead even the minds of the sages to bewilderment, a cause for the youngsters' union."

sphurad.atimukta.latā-parirambhana-pulakita-mukulita-cūte |
vṛndāvana-vipine parisara-parigata-yamunā.jala-pūte ||

sphurad – vibrant; atimukta.latā – Madhavi-creepers; parirambhana – embracing; pulakita – bristled; mukulita – full of blossoms; cūte – mango-trees; vṛndāvana – in Vrindavana, or vṛnda – group, avana satisfy; vipine – in the forest; parisara – flowing about; parigata – surrounding; yamunā – of Yamuna-river; jala – water; pūte – clear;

"The vibrant Madhavi-creepers embrace the mango-trees, full of blossom as their bristles. The fresh waters of Yamuna flow in Vrindavana's every direction."

śrī.jaẏadeva-bhaṇitam^idam^udaẏati hari-caraṇa-smṛti-sāram |
sarasa-vasanta.samaẏa-vana-varṇanam^anugata-madana-vikāram ||

śrī.jaẏadeva-bhaṇitam – spoken by Sri Jayadeva; idam – this; udaẏati – emerging; hari-caraṇa – the feet of Hari; smṛti-sāram – essence of meditation; sarasa – impassioned; vasanta – spring; samaẏa – season; vana – woods; varṇanam – description; anugata – following; madana-vikāram – cupid's agitations;

"This narration by Jayadeva gives rise to the essence of meditation, the feet of Hari. The Cupid's transformations follow in the wake of the description of the impassioned spring-time in the woods."

Padavali: Radha-janmotsava

bhAdra zuklASTamI tithi, vizAkhA nakSatra tithi,
zrImati janama sei-kAle |
madhya dina gata ravi, dekhiYA bAlikA chabi,
jaYa jaYa dei kutUhale ||
vRSabhAnupure, prati ghare ghare,
jaYa rAdhe zrI.rAdhe bole |
kanyAra cA&damukha dekhi, rAjA hailA mahAsukhI,
dAna dei brAhmaNa sakale ||
nAnA dravya haste kari, nagarera yata nArI,
AilA sabhe kIrtidA mandire |
aneka puNyera phale, daiva hailA anukUle,
e hena bAlikA mile tore ||
modera mane hena laYa, eho ta mAnuSa naYa,
kon chale kebA janamilA |
ghanazyAma dAsa kaYa, nA kariha saMzaYa,
kRSNapriYA sadaYa ha_ilA ||

On the eighth day of the bright half of Bhadra-month, on the day of the Visakha-constellation, Srimati's birth occured.
The sun, having traveled to mid-day and seeing the splendor of the baby girl, said "Jaya Jaya" in great delight.
In the town of Vrisabhanu, in each and every house, "Jaya Radhe, Sri Radhe" was said.
Seeing the moon-face of the daughter, the king became most happy and gave in charity to all brahmanas.
He gave different ingredients to the hands of all the ladies of the village, as they assembled at Kirtida's temple.
"As the fruit of so much piety, with the godspeed of destiny, such a baby girl has been given to you!
"We are thinking that she is not an ordinary human at all -- who has taken birth in this disguise?"
Ghanasyama Das says, "Have no doubt of it, she will always be dear to Krishna!"

Author: Ghanasyama Das
Source: Gita-ratnavali (GRA), p. 19 / 2
Theme: Radha-janma / Vraja
Language: Bengali
Raga: rAgiNI kalyANI
Tala: dazakusi

Padavali: Song before Bhagavat-katha (Gauracandrika)

jaYa jaYa nityAnandAdvaita gaurAGga |
nitAi gaurAGga nitAi gaurAGga |
jaYa jaYa nityAnanda zrI-Advaita gaurAGga ||
jaYa jaYa yazodA-nandana zacI-suta gauracandra |
jaYa jaYa rohiNI-nandana balarAma nityAnanda ||
jaYa jaYa mahA-viSNu avatAra zrI-advaita-candra |
jaYa jaYa gadAdhara zrIvAsAdi gaura-bhakta-vRnda ||

“Glory to Yashoda-nandana, the son of Sachi, Gaurachandra; Glory to the son of Rohini, Balarama, Nityananda. Glory to Sri Advaitachandra, Maha-Vishnu’s avatar; Glory to Gadadhar and the devotees of Gaura headed by Srivasa.”

jaYa jaYa svarUpa rUpa sanAtana rAYa rAmAnanda |
jaYa jaYa khaNDa-vAsi narahari murAri mukunda ||
jaYa jaYa paJca-pUtra saGge bhaje rAYa bhavAnanda |
jaYa jaYa tina-putra saGge nAce sena zivAnanda ||

“Glory to Svarupa, Rupa, Sanatana and Raya Ramananda; Glory to Narahari, Murari and Mukunda, residents of Khanda. Glory to Raya Bhavananda, who worships with his five sons; Glory to Sena Shivananda, who dances with his three sons.”

jaYa jaYa dvAdaza gopAla Adi cauSaTTi mahAnta |
jaYa jaYa chaYa cakravartI aSTa kavirAja-candra ||
jaYa jaYa haridAsa vakrezvara vasu rAmAnanda |
jaYa jaYa sArvabhauma pratAparudra gopInAthAcArya |

“Glory to the sixty-four mahantas headed by the twelve gopalas; Glory to the six chakravartis and the eight moon-like kavirajas. Glory to Haridas, Vakreshwar and Vasu Ramananda; Glory to Sarvabhauma, Prataparudra and Gopinath Acharya.”

jaYa jaYa zrInivAsa narottama prabhu zyAmAnanda |
jaYa jaYa uPiYA gauPIYA Adi yata bhakta-vRnda ||
tomarA sabe mili kara kRpA Ami ati manda |
sabe kRpA kari deha gaura-caraNAravinda ||

“Glory to Srinivasa, Narottama and Prabhu Shyamananda; Glory to all the devotees, headed by those from Orissa and Gauda. All of you, bestow your mercy on me, for I am so wretched; All of you, mercifully bestow to me Gaura’s lotus feet!”

Padavali: Haridas Thakur (Sucaka)

jaYa jaYa prabhu mora ThAkura haridAsa |
ye karilA hari.nAmera mahimA prakAza ||
gaura-bhakta.gaNa madhye sarva-agragaNya |
yA&ra guNa gAiYA kAnde Apane caitanya ||
advaita AcArya prabhura priYa prema.sImA |
te&ho se jAnena haridAsera mahimA ||
nityAnanda-cA&da yA&re prANa hena jAne |
caraNa paraze mahI deha dhanya mAne ||
hare.kRSNa hare.rAma ke zunAbe Ara |
haridAsa chePe gela prANa bA&cA bhAra ||
haridAsa Achila pRthivIra ziromaNi |
te&ho vinA ratna.zUnya haila medinI ||
jaYa haridAsa bali kara hari.dhvani |
eta bali mahAprabhu nAcaye Apani ||
sabe gAo jaYa jaYa jaYa haridAsa
nAmera mahimA ye&ho karilA prakAza ||

Praise, praise to my master, Thakur Haridas
Who brought forth the glory of Hari's name.
Among Gaura's devotees, he is the foremost of all,
Caitanya himself would weep, singing of his qualities.
Advaita Acarya is the summit of love for the dear lord;
He knows the glory of Haridas!
Nityananda-canda is known to be like his life;
With the touch of his feet, the Earth feels herself blessed!
"Hare Krishna, Hare Rama" -- who more shall hear?
As Haridas departed, life became a burden to bear.
Haridas was the crown-jewel of the Earth;
In his absence, the Earth has lost its gem.
"Say 'Jaya Haridas' and make the hari-dhvani!"
So said Mahaprabhu and danced himself.
Everyone sang, "Jaya Jaya, Jaya Haridas
Who brought forth the glory of the name!"

* * * * * * * * * *

Author: Ajnata
Source: Manohara-bhajana-dipika (MBD), pp. 785-786
Theme: Sucaka / Haridas Thakura
Language: Bengali
Notes: The last three couplets of the song are from Caitanya-caritamrita (3.11.97-99).

Padavali: Jhulanotsava (Gauracandrika)

suradhunI-tIre Aju gaurakizora |
jhulana-raGga-rase pahu~ bhela bhora ||
vividha kusume sabe raca_i hindora |
saba sahacaragaNa Anande vibhora ||
jhulaYe gaura punaH gadAdhara saGga |
tAhe kata upajaYe prema-taraGga ||
mukunda mAdhava vAsu haridAsa meli |
gAota pUrava rabhasa-rasa-keli ||
nadIYa nagare kata aiche vilAsa |
rAmAnanda dAsa karata soi Aza ||

On the banks of Suradhuni today, Gaurakisora
became filled with the relish of the swing pastimes.
The swing was wholly decorated with various flowers
and all the companions were enthralled in joy.
Gaura again swinged in Gadadhara's company
with that, how many waves of prema arose?
Mukunda, Madhava, Vasu and Haridasa joined
singing of the joys of these pastimes of rasa.
How many pastimes does the hero of Nadiya have?
Ramananda Das is longing for this.

* * * * * * * * * *

Author: Ramananda Das
Source: Manohara-bhajana-dipika (MBD), p. 747-748 / 3
Theme: Jhulana / Gauracandra
Language: Bengali

Raga: rAga sAraGga

Padavali: Great Ferry at Nadia's Dock

nadIyAra ghATe bhAi ki adbhuta tarI |
nitAi galuiyA tAte caitanya kANDArI ||

"Brother hey, an astonishing ferry's at Nadia's dock -
Nitai's at the fore there, and Chaitanya's at the helm!

dui raghunAtha zrI-jIva gopAla zrI-rUpa sanAtana |
pArera naukAya erA dANDi chaya jana ||

The two Raghunaths, Sri Jiva, Gopala, Sri Rupa and Sanatana -
These six folks are the oarsmen of the boat goin' afar..."

ke jAbi bhAi bhava-pAre nitAi DAke |
kheyAra kaDi vinA pAra kare jAke tAke ||

"Ho brothers! Who amongst you shall pass the world's ocean?" shouts Nitai,
"Without a dime you'll get to the farther shore!"

Atare kAtara vinA ke pAra kare bhAi |
kintu pAra kare sabe caitanya nitAi ||

Brothers! A passage free of cost, who wouldn't take?
Chaitanya and Nitai ferry all to the farther shore..."

kRSNa-dAsa bale bhAi bala hari hari |
nitAi caitanyera ghATe nAhi lAge kaDi ||

Krishnadas says, "Brothers hey, chant 'Hari Hari!'
At the dock of Nitai and Chaitanya, travel's free of cost!"

* * * * * * * * * *

ke jAbi ke jAbi bhAi bhava sindhu-pAra |
dhanya kali-yugera caitanya-avatAra ||

Who will go, O brother, who will go
across the ocean of worldly woe?
With the blessed Kali-yuga's Chaitanya-avatar!

AmAra gaurAGgera ghaTe adAna-kheya vaya |
jaDa, andha, Atura avadhi pAra haya ||

At the dock of my Gauranga, for you a ferry awaits -
Fools, blind and the sickly onboard - no limits in place!

harinAmera naukAkhAni zrI-guru khAndArI |
saGkIrtana kheroyAla dubAhu pasAri ||

Harinama's the boat, Sri Guru is the helmsman,
And sankirtan with upraised arms the oars!

saba jIva hoila pAra premera vAtAse |
paDiyA rohila locana ApanAra doSe ||

"Every soul may cross across as the wind of prema blows,"
Thus laments Locana, left behind for his flaws...

Padavali: Radha-janmotsava (Gauracandrika)

priYAra janama, divasa Aveze, Anande bharala tanu |
nadIYA nagare, vRSabhAnu-pure, udaYa karala janu ||
gadAdhara mukha, heri punaH punaH, nAce gorA naTarAYa |
bhAva anubhava, kari saGgI saba, mahA mahotsava gAYa ||
dadhira sahita, haladi milita, kalase kalase DhAli |
priYagaNa nAce, nAnA kAca kAce, ghana diYA hulAhuli ||
gaurAGga nAgara, rasera sAgara, bhAvera taraGga tAYa |
jagata bhAsila, e hena Ananda, e dAsa ballavI gAYa || 1 ||

Immersed in the birth day of the beloved Radha, his body was filled with joy;
The hero of Nadiya became immersed in thoughts of Vrisabhanu's village.
Beholding Gadadhara's face again and again, Gora, the king of dancers danced;
All the companions felt this bhava, and sung of the great festival.
There were pots and pots of yoghurt mixed with turmeric;
The dear companions danced, making deep hulahuli-sounds.
The clever Gauranga is an ocean of rasa, and there swell the waves of emotion;
The world became filled with such joy -- this is what Ballavi Das sings.

* * * * * * * * * *

Author: Ballavi Das
Source: Gita-ratnavali (GRA), p. 19 / 1
Theme: Radha-janma / Gauracandra
Language: Bengali
Raga: rAgiNI kalyANI
Tala: dazakusi

F: Raga-marga and Vidhi-marga in a Nutshell

The following are some reflections sent to a friend in clarifying the concepts of raga and vidhi.

1. There are two distinct paths. One is called vidhi-marga, and the other is called raga-marga. The difference between the two is not in the external practice: it is in the inner impetus for activity. On raga-marga, the impetus is in a great inner yearning called lobha, a burning desire that drives us onward with the aim of attaining emotions and services similar to Krishna's dear companions in Vraja. On vidhi-marga, the impetus for activity is born of a sense of duty or a fear of reprimand, drawing from the mandates of the scriptures. Only raga-marga leads us to Vraja-dhama and to the attainment of manjari-bhava. Vidhi-marga does not lead to attainments beyond relationships that are mixed with knowledge of god's majesty.

2. There are identical practices. Practices such as hearing, chanting, worship and so forth take on an almost identical appearance on the two paths. Then, unless one is sensitive and experienced, it will be hard to assess another's path by the mere observance of the outer form of the activity; the impetus determines the path. Raga-marga, aside the shared practices with vidhi-marga, features a whole unique internal world of practice; the inner cultivation of a specific loving emotion that gives rise to the revelation of the siddha-svarupa, or one's eternal companion-form that is suited for direct service for Radha and Krishna in the land of Vraja. It has been specifically noted (BRS 1.2.296) that "In the opinion of the wise, the practices of vidhi-marga are also to be employed on the raga-marga".

3. There are different stages on the path of raga. The journey is sometimes divided into two basic phases called ajata-ruci and jata-ruci. The first, ajata-ruci, literally "when taste is yet to awaken", is the stage where one has taken a keen interest in topics of raga-marga, but a mature, burning desire is yet to fructify in the core of one's heart. At this stage, one's raganuga-sadhana is practically a blend of raganuga and vaidhi in terms of one's impetus; one is not spontaneously and constantly pushed onward by the power of the mere desire. The second, jata-ruci, literally "when taste has awakened", is the stage we can justly call "actual raganuga", for in that a deep, overwhelming taste for both the practice and the goal has arisen, and in that there is truly following (anuga) of passion (raga).

All things considered, I am then personally shy to say thing such as "I am following raga-marga" or "I practice raganuga-bhakti", for I feel that, with all the mundane still upon my shoulders, it would be but a mockery of this beautiful and pristine path. The best I can say is, "I am trying to practice bhakti." Where are the tears in my eyes, where is the choking of my voice, and where are the bristling of my hair and the tremors of my body? And with that, where is my raganuga? If I had even a scent of divine emotion and a feeling that more lies ahead on the path, surely all of that would be a part of my reality as I reflected on my prospects.

Therefore, with folded hands and a straw between our teeth, we shall have to say, "I am not truly following much any path at all; with the wishes of guru and Vaisnavas, I am chanting a little bit and with their mercy I find some joy in that, hopeful that my heart would be purified in due course with the name's benevolent effect. I remain praying that one day I could also embark on the path of bhakti proper – as all real devotees have done, leaving behind the interests of the worldly world, offering their hearts at the service of their lord's feet."

F: My Precious Anartha-astakam

My Precious Anartha-astakam

– Svatantra-smriti, Artha-nirupanam –

Pure devotion, the mere notion, casts shivers up my spine;
Seriously, you're proposing, the whole world I'd decline?
I must be gradual, I must be casual, stir my concocted soup;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Rules, fools, are for the pure, and they sure ain't my cure;
For to suppress and to oppress would be harmful for sure!
A higher taste you told to relish? I can't taste it, for I cherish
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Lord money, my honey, the precious aim of my life,
Kali's pal, yes I know it, but my life needs some strife!
Must work hard, must work hard, to make more than I need;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Juicy gossip I so cherish, 'tis the elixir for the soul;
Thousand ears and thousand mouths I have grown for the foul!
To know the faults of all others is to feel good myself;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Abstinence – alas, such a relic from the past!
The observance is abnormal, said Sri Freud's forecast;
And I agree, for I so love that tickling sensation;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

With gusto I devour every dish, I'm not afraid;
No matter who cooked, and no matter who paid!
I am what I eat, yes, and I therefore proclaim:
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

I am great, and I am good, and don't you tell me what to do;
For I know what's my best, and that again I shall chew;
I don't need your advice, for I cherish my every vice:
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

The names of Sri Krishna I should chant? But oh why?
I don't like it, and I know it, I don't even care to try!
For I heard it might harm my attachments and my pride:
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Then chant this, O friends, for the mistress of your heart;
Queen Anartha the sovereign, lest she be jealous and depart!
Be obedient – for she's precious like a gem on the snake's part;
And please carry her everywhere with your soul-molded cart.

ES: Buddhi-yoga and and the wayward ways of the intellect - Conducive and degrading applications of buddhi

We are sometimes riddled by a buddhi, intellect or intelligence, that serves to merely confuse and detract us from the path of devotion proper. Introspection is, then, in place in identifying the unholy ways of this subtle covering of the self.

When the intelligence is unable to decipher anything clearly, it is overcome by tamas. When the intelligence is branching out in all directions, uncontrolled, it is overcome by rajas. When the intelligence is peaceful and illuminated, it is situated in sattva.

To be able to exercise discrimination and self-analysis over the status quo of the intelligence, one should be situated beyond: yo buddheH paratas tu saH. Buddhi is born of rajas; to ravel on the platform of the buddhi without rising to buddhi-yoga, one is in a precarious situation. When the buddhi is established in yoga, one becomes established in sattva.

The formula for the proper establishment of the buddhi in yoga, in connection with the supreme, is noted in Krishna's words in the Gita:

teSAM satata-yuktAnAM bhajatAM prIti-pUrvakam |
dadAmi buddhi-yogaM taM yena mAm upayAnti te || 10.10 ||

"Unto those, who are always engaged, who worship with love, I bestow the yoga of the intelligence by which they may approach me."

Note carefully the qualifiers that lead to a situation, in which buddhi-yoga proper is established: It is given for those, who are perpetually engaged, and who worship with love. The antaryami bestows knowledge and forgetfulness in accordance wiht the living entities' desires; when the desires are skewed, a skewed understanding shall arise, and the antaryami shall make that strong. Therefore, buddhi-yoga proper is only attained with the purification of the heart in the fire of well-entrenched practice.

This is also the theme in Visvanatha Cakravarti's Raga-vartma-candrika, as he explains the three-fold ways in which the aspirant comes to attain proper understanding:

udbhUte tAdRze lobhe zAstra-darziteSu tat-tad-bhAva-prApty-upAyeSu AcArya-caitya-vapuSA sva-gatiM vyanakti [bhA.pu. 11.29.6.] ity uddhavokteH keSucid guru-mukhAt keSucid abhijJa-mahodayAnurAgi-bhakta-mukhAt | abhijJAteSu keSucid bhakti-mRSTa-citta-vRttiSu svata eva sphuriteSu sollAsam evAtizayena pravRttiH syAt | yathA kAmArthinAM kAmopAyeSu || 1.9 ||

When such greed has arisen, as seen in the scripture, to give the means for attaining the corresponding bhava "you show their own paths as the acarya and the indwelling witness" (BhP 11.29.6); from Uddhava's statement it is known that some attain this from the mouth of a guru, and some from the mouth of an all-knowing, blessed anuragi-devotee. Some, whose course of consciousness has been polished with devotion, will have all this knowledge manifest of its own accord; at this time, they will be seen as very joyfully – and indeed eminently – progressing, as a person desiring fulfillment of sensual desires is engrossed in the means for attaining the desired."

The true and saintly jnana-vritti (course of knowledge) will only flow in one, whose heart is polished by devotion, and who has fully committed himself to acts of devotional pursuit; only then will the intellect truly function in the parameters of uttama-bhakti and bring about nothing but the devotional welfare of the devotee. That pending, one should maintain a fair amount of caution and introspection, question one's motivations and see the undue biases that arise in the understanding – biases that lead our intellect to act against devotion.

The sadhaka should not, then, mistake all application of the intellect as buddhi-yoga. Should the rogue intellect be engaged, for example, in minutely examining the shortcomings of others, or in an endless wrangle of scriptural arguments for the sake of establishing one's view as the supreme, or merely for showing the defects of another's views, it is to be known that the intellect has been terribly misapplied and can only serve to degrade the tarkika.

ADB: Smarana and Purity of Heart (Darshan transcript)

The following is a transcript of a discussion with Sri Ananta Das Babaji on the 23rd of March, 2005.

Smarana and Purity of Heart

23rd of March, 2005 – Radha-kunda

Babaji Maharaja: What?

Madhava: About meditation on our svarupa, and lila-smarana. The question is that, not my question but some devotees are asking, that it is quite hard to see yourself in your own svarupa, so perhaps what the acharyas have told, like the methods of meditation, is not sufficient for Western devotees, because Western devotee and Bengali devotee, Indian devotee, there are different mind. So whether...

Babaji Maharaja: Different mind not. Bhakti is for all universe. Not Bengali, not Orissan, not U.P. person, not any question for it. Bhakti is all universe. Then, Bengali and Western no matter. Jiva Goswamipada has written, that zuddhAntaH-karaNaz cet kIrtanAparityAgena smaraNaM kuryAt. If your heart clean, then you do this smarananga-bhajana, memory. And with memory, you of course chanting name, mala. zuddhantaH karanaz cet. Cet mane if. If your heart clean, then you - without avoiding harinama's chanting - do smarana. Astakaliya-lila-memory. It is Goswamipada advice. There is no Bengali-man, no Western man, there is no any difference. [laughs]

Madhava: For everyone.

Babaji Maharaja: By bhajan his heart clean, my heart clean, I, why, how I that understand? You understand when your, that, your astakaliya-lila want your mind. It is very nice, of course I will smarana it.

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: And up to now, when that is very, your mind take very difficulty. No that easy it will come. And no that taste. Up to now you bring force of your sravana-kirtana, for bhajana, for raga bhajana. Then when will come that taste, and your mind also enter into pleasure, happiness for lila-smarana, that time you do lila-smarana, no problem.

Madhava: Their question is that sometimes, for example...

Babaji Maharaja: Western and here Indian, no matter...

Madhava: Right. For example, someone may say that chanting one lakha harinama is very troublesome, so maybe, because one time you told that if...

Babaji Maharaja: One time, one lakha harinama, or half lakha, or three lakhas, that is why your lila memory smarana take another time. And it is another thing. Name chanting, when your heart no clean, that time also you make chant three lakhas harinama, no problem. But which is memory of lila, smarana, for that need little pure heart.

Madhava: Right. Right.

Babaji Maharaja: So at first purify, you chant name, and puja, and sat-sanga and read your book, sravanam kirtanam, these all bhajana-bhakti path, and when your mind take pleasure, happiness and come taste...

Madhava: Then svarupa comes.

Babaji Maharaja: Before that, you can practice little little. How your mind gradually enters that lila.

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: But by force and sixty-four hours I will do this bhajana that won't...

Madhava: Will not work.

Babaji Maharaja: Own power not possible, that will automatically will come.

Madhava: Right. So there is no short-cut. Some are thinking that because this bhajana-process is some slowly going, dhire dhire, but we want to go very fast, so we should find something different that will...

Babaji Maharaja: That is fast, but not your... like that, not can go to fast. You try, sadhaka, first, no heart not clean, then cannot that going fast, not possible. And if going fast, twenty-four hours taking this harinama, and that with your lila-smarana, then also that will be vidhi-bhakti, not raga-bhakti. Raga-bhakti, Jiva Goswamipada has written, raga-bhakti ruci. Ruci will come. Your no hunger, no appetite, and many kinds of your all good food, but no hunger...

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: And when hunger, then come ruci. When you see that food, then greed and ruci. Like taste that lila-smarana, then will come ruci.

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: Need, then very need. Jiva Goswamipada has written that raga-bhajana is ruci.

Madhava: So the method, the bhajana-marga and the methods that acharyas have given, they are already the fastest method.

Babaji Maharaja: Yes.

Madhava: The best method.

Babaji Maharaja: Gradually, dhire dhire dhire.

Q&A: Birth Tithis of the Gopis

Q: Is the celebration Lalita-sasthi related to Lalita Sakhi?

A: Lalita Sasti indeed is not very likely to be connected in any way to Lalita Sakhi. It is, rather, a festival dedicated to Lalita Devi the shakti, an aspect of goddess Durga.

The details given in Radha-Krishna-ganoddesa-dipika add up to Lalita Sakhi's birth tithi occuring on sravana sukla-ekadasi. The following are the dates for all the Asta-sakhis, month and lunar day.

Lalita: sravana sukla-ekadasi
Visakha: bhadra suklashtami
Citra: asvina sukla-trayodasi
Indurekha: bhadra sukla-pancami
Campakalata: bhadra sukla-saptami
Rangadevi: bhadra sukla-tritiya
Tungavidya: bhadra sukla-pratipad
Sudevi: bhadra sukla-tritiya

Q&A: Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism: What does the term mean, why is it used?

Q: I've seen the concept "traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism" frequently used. What does it encompass, and why has such a term been introduced?

A: The concept "traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism" refers to established traditions of Gaudiya Vaishnavism existing since the times of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, his companions and their direct followers. The word "tradition" indicates the handing down of doctrinal interpretations and methods of devotional practice over the generations; it speaks of the presence of a parampara, a disciplic succession, an established and well preserved heritage.

The term has been coined to distinguish the tradition we regard as orthodox from the numerous contemporary and historical movements founded by charismatic leaders, who have issued reforms, introduced novel approaches and founded movements clearly distinct from the existing heritage of the tradition.

The word "traditional" is not necessarily applicable in the sense of embracing traditional social values and so forth; of course, whenever faced with, they are treated with appropriate respect. The word emphasizes tradition in the sense of a spiritual heritage, as a heritage of teachings on the path of devotion.

Traditional Gaudiya lineages are traced back to the companions of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu via a succession of mantra diksha initiations, otherwise commonly known as the guru-pranali. It is expected that every initiated Gaudiya Vaishnava is able to present their diksha-pranali when called for.

The origins of several prominent traditions, or parivAras (lit. "family") as they are often called, are listed below.
  • Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Jahnava Thakurani. Virabhadra Goswami, son of Nityananda and Vasudha, and the vast Nityananda-vamsha (family dynasty). Ramachandra Goswami, the adopted son of Nityananda.
  • Sri Advaita Prabhu, Sri Sita Thakurani. Their son Krishna Mishra Goswami and the Advaita-vamsha dynasty.
  • Sri Gadadhara Pandit. Numerous branches including that of Achyutananda, son of Advaita. Many early mahatmas of Vrindavan were disciples of Pandit Gosai.
  • Sri Gopal Bhatta Goswami and Sri Srinivas Acharya. The Gosains of Radha-ramana are among the prominent followers of Gopala Bhatta. Srinivasa's influence spread across the entire eastern India.
  • Sri Lokanath Goswami and Sri Narottama Das Thakur Mahashaya. Thakur Mahashaya preached far and wide across Gauda, the waves of his influence reached as far as Manipur and Assam.
  • Sri Shyamananda Pandit and Sri Rasikananda Prabhu; Shyamananda was particularly influential in Orissa.
  • Sri Vakreshvar Pandit and Sri Gopal Guru Goswami. Particularly influential in Orissa.
Aside the above, there are countless other lineages descending from the companions of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Nityananda Prabhu and others, often of geographically limited influence. Many such lineages have remained relatively isolated for centuries until the appearance of a prominent preacher, with whose efforts the lineage has reached across the continent.

Many of the abovementioned lineages feature so-called vaMza-paramparAs, or family dynasties, in which members of a particular branch of the family have acted in the capacity of gurus over the centuries in their respective locales. These vaMzas formed a great deal of the backbone of the early tradition in Bengal. A vaMza is not, however, a prerequisite for a paramparA as such.

There are two common usages of the word parivAra. Sometimes it is used in referring to a spiritual family traced through diksha-connections (and in the sense of "followers"), and at other times it is used as an equivalent of vaMza, or a family dynasty. The word zAkhA, a branch, is also commonly used in referring to a particular tradition. The description of the early Gaudiya tradition in the model of branches of the Chaitanya-tree is described in Chaitanya Caritamrita (Adi, ch. 10-12).

Sri Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj, when asked, would describe his lineage as "Nityananda-sakha, Dhananjaya Pandit parivar". (Dhananjaya Pandit was one of the dvAdaza-gopAlas, a disciple of Jahnava Thakurani.) Some others are in the habit of saying "Nityananda parivar" or "Jahnava parivar", though the convention appears to favor the use of "Nityananda parivar" only for lineages with a direct connection with the Nityananda-vamsha.

Most traditional Gaudiya lineages feature a distinct tilaka-svarUpa, of which they are recognized. To give a few examples, the followers of Nityananda wear a sharp, triangular neem-leaf in their tilak, the followers of Advaita a heart-shaped large banyan-leaf, and the followers of Narottama a tulasi-leaf with a small stem. The followers of Gadadhar wear a leafless tilak, and the followers of Shyamananda the imprint of Radha's anklebell with a dot in the middle.

The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, lacking a central authority since its very inception on account of its dynamic spread, has come to encompass a large diversity of practices and insights within the foundational framework of the Goswamis' teachings. For the most part, the distinct traditions are coming along rather well despite the plural nature of approaches. On account of such mixing, it is not uncommon to see local influences weigh on the praxis of a group of devotees just as much as the heritage of their individual branch does.

In practice, this means that a Vaisnava of Nityananda-parivara from a Bengali village and a Vaisnava of Nityananda-parivara from Radha-kunda may be like day and night, while the former may be very similar to other Vaisnavas of different parivaras around rural Bengal, and while the Kunda-vasi Nityananda-parivara Vaisnava may be very similar in his ways to the Thakur Mahasaya parivara mahatma at Govardhana.

F: Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West

The following are reflections on the status and growth of classical Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West, extracted from my writings at Vilasa Kunja forums.

The entirety of what we understand as traditional Gaudiya Vaisnavism in the West (WTGV) is geographically very scattered, leading to the exact problems I have noted in my blog and brought up on a number of occasions. Let me start off with an expression of concern I find weighing on my heart whenever I reflect on the global scenario of traditional Gaudiya Vaisnavism in the West in the context of my gurubhais.

Sri Ananta Das Babaji Maharaja has over 100 initiated Western disciples since 1994. Where are they? I have now been in Vraja for a total of two years since 2002. I've seen Niyama-sevas, and I've seen Gaura-purnimas, the peak travel times. Of the 100 disciples, I've seen a handful. Looking at a list of devotees initiated before me, some 80 of them, aside those living in Vraja, I've seen four or five, and I've heard news of a few more. Less than ten total. Where are the rest, what are they up to? I've been trying to ask around, but nobody seems to have a clear idea.

This, to me, speaks of a grave concern. People are unshielded, out in the open. "Fire at will," said the commandress of the material world. Even many gurubhais of mine who have received diksa and pranali are fairly scattered – sharing a wide range of interests in the diverse topics of the mundane world, interests disconnected from bhajana. Granted, in the beginning we may be scattered and that's all right, but the path is about dovetailing, refining and purifying our interests – not about cultivating them further!

Then, communities are vital. Very few will survive without community support. Only exceptionally strong individuals with deep devotional samskaras and firm practice will make it through longer periods of deprivation from Vaisnava-sanga. To think one will make it through on one's own is to be proud, and pride comes before the fall. How many tales and real life examples are there of Vaisnavas gradually getting steered off the path with the powerful and subtle allurements of daivi-maya? Has not enough been said of the importance of sadhu-sanga? Hear Thakur Mahasaya's wisdom on uncontrolled desires:

anyathA svatantra kAma, anarthAdi yAra dhAma,
bhakti pathe sadA deya bhaGga |
kibA se korite pAre, kAma krodha sAdhakere,
yadi hoy sAdhu janAra saGga? || PBC 23 ||

"Otherwise, independend desires in the abode of anarthas and the rest –
They always twist and bend the path of bhakti!
What can they do, lust and anger to the sadhakas,
If there is the company of saintly people?"

Peer pressure and so forth only work for so long. In the long run, should one keep doing sadhana as a matter of duty without a self-nourishing taste, the support of peer pressure will become a source of deep frustration that both leads one to discard the practice or substantial amounts thereof, as well as to ill feelings towards the sources of pressure. I am not alone in sharing the experience. Depending on the form and nature of peer pressure, especially if imposed from the side of people with less than pristine hearts, it may bear very adverse effects on one's sadhana in the end. The real need is for company that can infuse one with positive inspiration and, most of all, substantial taste. In the company of whom one can see and witness the reality of the path we travel. From that follow confidence, determination and the other virtues that help us carry on.

Such company can only come to fulfillment when there are mutual endeavors for the attainment of uttama-bhakti, a sincere heart's endeavor to let go of the mundane and to reach for devotional attainment as the primary task of life. For such, there must be focus, for without focus there is no power. Power, as in the other-worldly infusion that carries you through and helps you find strength and fulfillment. As the sunrays focused through a magnifying glass have the power to create fire, so does the all-pervasive and ever-available mercy of Thakur and Vaisnavas create fire when the rays of their good will are brought into sharp focus.

Then, all of that in practice:

Will we all eventually move to Vrindavan? Perhaps we will, perhaps we won't. Perhaps we'll move tomorrow, perhaps after a decade or two as our children have grown up. In the meantime, we need to be doing something meaningful! Then,

Will their ever be a "Traditional" Temple in the USA? Oh yes, I have no doubt there will be one in due course of time. As for when, that I cannot see. But yes, I feel it is desirable in the global evolution of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. The details of making that a success or a failure are something outside the scope of this post.

Is there any idea among our Guru-Jana that we should go and preach to the wider world? The principle of sharing is deeply engrained in Gaudiya Vaisnavism from the very beginning, with Sri Caitanya's descent and his munificent gift, followed by the pioneer efforts of Srinivasa, Syamananda and Narottama.

In what way and how? In a grand diversity of ways, each according to his and her own capacity and inclinations. Reaching out should be the loving sharing of a precious gift in the spirit of friendship and equanimity, taking place naturally in the life context we find ourselves in. No imposing is there, yet there is unreserved sharing where there is the interest in receiving, where there are people with open hearts.

Most people are not cut out to be "preachers", in as much as it means going out among the masses for education and infusion of divine inspiration. For success in such a task, one needs a substantial storehouse of accumulated spiritual power channeled out through mind and intelligence that are apt in catering to the needs of diverse individuals. Therefore, even many great mahatmas have not come out in the capacity of acarya figures in any larger scale – though the waves of their influence have been felt in the sampradaya.

At what point do people pick up and move their family to be closer to other Vaishnavas? When there is the desire, and when it becomes practically possible (through committed endeavors).

Where would we go? And with this, you hit the core of the problem... It seems as if there are no concentrations of our blend of Vaisnavas anywhere. Wherever you would go at this moment, you would find another Vaisnava in a situation similar to yours. Of course two are more than one, but that does not a community make. However it is a start, and when we have nothing, we have to start somewhere! Every construction begins with the joining of the first two parts.

Practically, I cannot say to where or to whose proximity one could move to. Everyone will have to see for themselves where they find Vaisnavas in whose company they feel content, with whom they find some synergy and familiarity in spirit. I have been trying to create contacts and mediums of communication to pave way for this to become a reality, yet I feel the task is a long way from success.

Physical proximity aside, one of the steps we ought to be taking forward is upping the medium of communication from written to spoken – for speech carries more effect than written content, as speech carries attitudes and emotions with more depth and clarity.

We could schedule phone conference meetings. There are instant messenger applications with phone conferencing facility widely available, and atop that many can be used free of charge. This would be one step onward towards creating deeper relationships between Vaisnavas of our flavor. And those relationships, in turn, are the foundation on which more in the way of a community will be built.