Bhaktisiddhānta and Rāgānugā

In ISKCON and in many of the saṅgas that have developed from ISKCON, there is a widespread idea that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda did not support rāgānugā-bhakti. This is not an accurate statement. The accurate fact is that Bhaktisiddhānta did not support Rāgānugā in the same way that Śrī Bhaktivinoda and his predecessors did.

Specifically, Bhaktisiddhānta did not support the contemporary implementation of Dhyānacandra Goswāmī’s system of Rāgānugā-sādhan – especially giving  ekādaśa-bhāva immediately on dīkṣa via a “siddha-pranālī.

Ekādaśa-bhāva – a list of eleven characteristics of a person the practitioner is supposed to identify with – is simply a template given from the guru to the disciple as a starting point for the disciple’s meditation on participating in service in Vraja-līlā. This meditation is an essential, indispensable component of Rāgānugā, but the use of ekādaśa-bhāva, while certainly very helpful when judiciously applied, is not the only way to approach the meditation.

Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvati was not opposed to the system, but to the casual manner in which it was given to those hardly qualified to utilize the system or practice the meditations.

Bhaktisiddhānta’s opinion here has to be clearly understood and expressed, otherwise we will accept the the very widespread misconception that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sārasvatī was against Rāgānugā – thereby drawing into serious question whether he is actually a representative of Śrī Caitanya or not, for Śrī Caitanya’s express mission (as described by his immediate followers and biographers) was to propagate Rāgānugā Sādhana.

To learn more on this subject, I highly recommend an excellent essay written by my Gurudeva, Śrī Dhanurdhara Swāmī: Śrīla Bhaktisiddānta and Rāgānugā Sādhana.

Vraja Kishor

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  1. Bhaktisiddhanta did not practice siddha pranali and this was one if not the main point of disagreement between himself and his brother Lalita Prasad Thakur. The tradition of saddhi pranali was discarded by Bhaktisiddhanta, and this is why you do not find it practiced by his disciples including Prabhupada and even Narayan Maharaja. Interestingly enough, there is no evidence that that five Goswamis practiced siddhna pranali either. All this I recently heard corroborated by a Ravindra Svarupa lecture.


      1. Some tasks in spreading the glories of Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta were given to certain individuals.

        Sriman Mahaprabhu entrusted the responsibility for promoting the details of these instructions (about the siddha deha and the process of its “revelation”) to Sri Gopal Guru Goswami who, as the foremost disciple of Vakreshwar Pandit, became intimately connected with the Lord during his last eighteen years at Puri.
        Due to his close relationship with Svarupa Damodar also, Gopal Guru Goswami gained an exceptional insight into Sriman Mahaprabhu’s internal movements.
        This pleased the Lord so much that he selected him to be the first acharya of the Gambhira after his departure. The Lord also instructed him to write a paddhati on siddha pranali and lila smaran, and awarded him the title of guru.

        Among the five chief disciples of Śrī Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, Gopālaguru was the special object of Mahāprabhu’s mercy. He was the son of Murāri Paṇḍita, and his name was Makaradhvaja Paṇḍita, although Mahāprabhu called him Gopāla. When Śrī Gaura lived in Nīlācala, Gopāla engaged in His service. Even though he was still a child, he was very skillful in his sevā. The Lord showed very strong vātsalya affection for him, and personally gave him the title “Gopālaguru.”

        One day, Caitanya Mahāprabhu went outside the village to tend to his bodily needs. Gopāla was standing some distance away with a waterpot in his hand ready to serve the Lord. He noticed that the Holy Name, which always blissfully danced on Mahāprabhu’s tongue, was not to be heard. Wondering how this could be, he then saw that the Lord was holding his tongue with his hand. After a short while, Gopāla, being full of curiosity, inquired from the Lord, “Prabhu! Why are you holding your tongue like that?” Mahāprabhu answered, “The words kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa always dance on my tongue, and even when I’m unclean they don’t stop. One is forbidden to chant the kṛṣṇa-nāma mahā-mantra when he is unclean. Transgressing that injunction is an offense. For this reason, I hold my tongue to keep it still.”
        Gopāla replied, “Prabhu! Elegant words don’t adorn my little mouth, but still, in order to understand, I am asking. Your beautiful body doesn’t have a trace of uncleanliness. It is sac-cid-ānanda-maya and always pure. Your ‘going to the bathroom’ is an illusion. That’s just your pretending to be human. You are independent, but if an ordinary jīva should die while evacuating, without chanting the Holy Name, how will he attain the transcendental state?”

        Hearing these profound words from the boy, the Lord replied, “Gopāla, you have spoken correctly. In chanting the śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāma there is no consideration of cleanliness or uncleanliness. Chanting is always auspicious for the jīva. You have caused me to remember the highest injunction. From today, you shall bear the title guru.” Mahāprabhu told the devotees this story, and the news quickly spread everywhere. Soon all the Vaiṣṇavas began to call Gopāla “Śrī Gopālaguru.”

        Gopālaguru Gosvāmī became the ācārya of the Gambhīrā Maṭha, and when he became old, he wanted to arrange for someone to continue the worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kānta. To obtain a suitable sevaka, he offered a mental prayer to the lotus feet of Śrīman Mahāprabhu. One night, the Lord appeared to Gopālaguru and said, “Gopāla! The sevaka you seek will be the first person you see tomorrow morning. Accept him without hesitation. Like you, he will be learned in all the transcendental śāstras. He will preserve well the worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kānta and reveal my glories to the whole world.”
        Hearing this order from Mahāprabhu in his dream, Gopālaguru became ecstatic. The next morning, after his morning duties, he went to his doorway. The first person he saw was a very peaceful young brāhmaṇa who had been standing there waiting to see him. When the youth approached, he offered daṇḍavats to Gopālaguru’s lotus feet. The Gosvāmī remembered his dream and blissfully offered the young man his blessings. Seeing his peaceful nature and absorption in kṛṣṇa-bhakti, Gopālaguru gave him mantra-dīkṣā, etc., and named him Śrī Dhyānacandra.
        After receiving initiation, Śrīpāda Dhyānacandra served his guru with great devotion. Gopālaguru Prabhu engaged him in caring for Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kānta.

        After a short while in govinda-sevā, he received the dress of a Vaiṣṇava ascetic from his guru, and was then ordered to visit Śrī Vṛndāvanadhāma.

        Later,Sri Dhyanachandra Goswami was also ordered to compile a second paddhati which has received equal acclaim.

        Still later, following these two arcana-paddhatis, Sri Siddha Krishna Das compiled his Sādhanāmṛta-candrikā, which combines upāsaka-pariṣkṛti, lila smaran, archan, dhyana and the duties of a sadhaka all in one book.
        These three paddhatis have been recognized as the foundation of archanam and smaranam in the Gaudiya Sampradaya, and are commonly referred to as Paddhati-traya.

        It is to draw attention to the authority of Sri Gopal Guru and Dhyanachandra Goswami that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur includes them in his book called Jaiva-dharma.

        In its narrative story, Gopal Guru is given the important role of Sri Guru Goswami who awards siddha pranali to his qualified disciple Vijaya Kumar.
        Thakur Bhaktivinoda thus supports Gopal Guru Goswami, the authenticity of siddha pranali, and its important function as well. In fact, nowadays we can find his personal siddha-pranali chart and read it in amazement

        So, the first time the process of siddha pranali is mentioned anywhere in the canon of Gaudiya Vaishnava literature is in the famous paddhati of Srila Dhyanachandra Goswami, called Śrī Gaura-Govindārcana-Smaraṇa-Paddhatiḥ.


    1. Not 100% accurate.

      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.”


  2. Radhe Radhe

    It is true that the term “siddha pranali” is not found in the literature of the Six Goswamis.

    I understand why Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur did not implement the works of Sri Gopal Guru Goswami and his disciple Srila Dhyanachandra Goswami and honestly, who am I to judge his motives? In his times, certainly there had been GROSS misuses of this practice and honestly, in which religious system not?

    But it also very dangerous to say that their paddhatis “have no value at all”.
    IMHO, it is BOTH absolutely fine to follow either Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in his rejection or Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur in his acceptance and own practice.
    The question, like always, lies in the sincerity of BOTH, the disciple AND Sri Gurudeva.

    If properly applied under the tutelage of a Sri Gurudeva who teaches these things to a qualified sadhaka, it certainly has a huge value.

    But like always in this world, things are easily misused and taken for very cheap.

    Just for information:

    We have evidence of two Goswamis who revealed the siddha deha to a sadhaka:

    Usually, the disciple is introduced to a manjari-svarupa specifically reserved for him and is blessed with allegiance to the siddha-pranali corresponding to the channel of his gurus.
    A practical example of introduction to a manjari-svarupa is found in the sixth chapter of Prema-vilasa, as Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami bestows diksha-mantra to Srinivasa Acarya.

    “Pada-yuga dhori kore ātma samarpaṇa
    Ātmasāt kori gosāi kohilo vacana
    Dui hasta dhauta puna koro āro bāra
    Joḍa haste koro dhyāna vrajendrakumāra
    Tāra vāme śrī rādhikā ati manohara
    Lalitā manjarī ādi śobhita sundara
    Pūjā korāilo sab pṛthak koriyā
    Tulasī manjarī mālya candanādi diyā
    Yūthe milāilo sab haste haste kori
    Śrīnivāsa korāilo sobāra anucarī“

    Holding the feet of Gosvāmī, Śrīnivāsa surrendered himself to the feet of his guru. Gopālbhaṭṭa Gosvāmī then ordered him, “Wash your hands again and start the meditation of Śrī Vrajendra-kumāra with folded hands. Think of the extremely attractive Śrī Rādhikā on His left side, surrounded by Lalitā, the Mañjarīs and others.” He helped Srinivasa to do the pūjā of all of them individually with Tulsī mañjarīs, garlands, sandal paste and other ingredients. Thus he made Śrīnivāsa the maidservant of them all.

    Śrī rādhā-ramaṇa pūjā koro punarbāra
    Sab manoratha siddhi caraṇe yāhāra
    Sugandhi candana dilo hṛdaya upora
    Tulasī manjarī caraṇe dilo bahutara
    Dakṣiṇa hasta mastake dhori kohe harināma
    Tabe rādhā-kṛṣṇa panca nāmera vidhāna
    Rādhā-kṛṣṇa mantra kohe kare-yuge dhori
    Kāma bīja śunāilo anguli anusāri
    Ei sab mantra tumi koribe smaraṇa
    Yei kāle tad āśraye koribe manana
    Guṇa manjarikāśraye maṇi manjarikā tumi
    Tomāra yūthera vivaraṇa kohi sab āmi
    rūpa guṇa rati rasa manjulāmanjula
    Ei sab sange sangī ei anukūla<

    He ordered Śrīnivāsa, “Worship Śrī Rādhā Ramaṇa again – at His lotus-feet lies the fulfillment of all your desires.” Śrīnivāsa applied fragrant sandal paste on Rādhā-ramaṇa’s chest and many Tulsī-mañjarīs on His lotus feet. Placing his right hand on his head, he chanted Harināma, after which he got the five names of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. He spoke the mantra with Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa-nāma while holding Śrīnivāsa’s hands. Śrīla Gopāl Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī then told him the Kāma-bīja and how to count it on the fingers. He said: “Remember all these mantras whenever you surrender to Them by meditating on Them.You are Maṇi Mañjarī in the group of mañjarīs under Śrī Guṇa mañjarī (Gopāl Bhaṭṭa Goswāmī himself). I will tell you everything about her party. It is favorable to accompany Rūpa-, Guṇa-, Rati- and Mañjulāli Mañjarī.

    One day, Hriday Caitanya asked Shyamananda to take a bath in the Ganges…Then Hriday Caitanya initiated Shyamananda into the chanting of the Krishna-mantra (also known as “Gopal-mantra”), and instructed him to chant it hundred times daily. He also instructed him to meditate on Krishna while chanting this mantra.”
    His new name was then Dukhi Krishna das.

    Now, Hriday Caitanya´s gurudeva was Sri Gauridas Pandit, who in Vraja-lila is Krishna´s friend Subal.

    Dukhi Krishna das spent years in the service to his beloved Gurudeva.

    One day, he felt the strong desire to go to Vrindavana. So he approached his Gurudeva and received the permission from Hriday Caitanya to go to Vrindavana. He told him: “May the abode of Vrindavana bestow mercy very soon upon you.”

    In Vrindavana, Dukhi Krishna das met Srila Jiva Goswami and was utterly impressed with him.

    Sri Jiva Goswami placed his hands on Dukhi Krishna das´s head and allowed him to study the shastras under his personal tutelage.
    While teaching him BHAKTI RASAMRITA SINDHU and UJJVALA NILAMANI from Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Jiva Goswami turned Dukhi Krishna das into an expert.

    One day, Dukhi Krishna das asked Jiva Goswami about the process of devotional service and how to cultivate it. Sri Jiva Goswami then described the five kinds of RASAS or relationships and he elaborately explained the madhurya-RASA. When Dukhi Krishna das heard descriptions of the madhurya-RASA, his heart filled with a deep longing. He humbly said:’I wish to know more about Srila Rupa Goswami´s instructions. After studying his books, I wish to practice his teachings. By your association and by the association of these books, I have developed a taste for serving Sri Sri Radha Krishna. You are so merciful! You have accepted this fallen soul as your servant. Whatever I have learnt has only been by your mercy.

    Srila Jiva Goswami became compassionate towards Dukhi Krishna and some days later he initiated him into the six-syllable Radhika-mantra. He also told him five names of Krishna and five names of Radhika, and tought him how to chant these mantras daily. He also taught him how to chant the Kama-gayatri, and how to meditate on Radha and Krishna´s pastimes while chanting.
    Sri Jiva Goswami revealed to him his spiritual form, qualities and service. This is how Dukhi Krishna das, who is still known and famous as Shyamananda das, was especially favored by Srila Jiva Goswami.

    Sri Jiva Goswami said: ‘Oh Shyamananda! You must carry out the duties your Gurudeva has prescribed for you. Hriday Caitanya is an exalted soul, and whatever you attained is simply by his mercy…”

    (excerpts are from the book “Prema Vilasa”.

    The book is written by Nityananda das, a direct disciple of Sriman Nityananda´s wife, Jahnava Ma.
    He personally witnessed many historical events at that time.
    His detailed “report” on the festival of Kheturi is very famous, for example. Some devotees just plainly reject this book for unknown reasons.

    It is a fact that in the book “Prema Vilasa”, we find some problems with the chronological order of certain events or the dates fixating them, but in terms of SIDDHANTA, Gaudiya philosophy, it is completely authentic and this fact is accepted widely among most of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. And always be aware that there are more Gaudiya Vaishnavas in the world than ISKCON/GM…in fact much much more…)


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