A conversation between HDG Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Goswami Thakur Maharaj and a sannyasa disciple held on Durga Puja, 28-Sept-1998, Sri Gopinatha Gaudiya Math, Cakra Tirtha, Jagannatha Puri.
Gurudeva: Gopinatha (Gopinatha Dasa Brahmacari)! Please give me my Sabda-sara. And my copy of Gaudiya-kantha-hara, and Sriman Mahaprabhur Siksa. Look at me, I am completely bedridden. Well at least I can sit up… so I am only half-bedridden. Well, half-bedridden or completely bedridden. I can stretch my legs a little, that’s all. That’s how my time goes by…
Devotee: Your posture may be unusual, but it is still very beautiful, in a different sort of way.
Gurudeva: (laughs) Sit down, baba. Let’s talk. Om Visnu, om Visnu, om Visnu… (pause) I am looking into the meaning of the word sampradayika. Someone was saying that Guru-pranali…
Gurudeva: They were saying that there are many Babajis in Vrndavana who criticize us in various ways. They do not accept our disciplic line. I wanted to say something about that.
Devotee: Please go on, Maharaja.
Gurudeva: My position is the following:
sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah
sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnavah ksiti-pavanah
catvaras te kalau bhavya hy utkale purusottamat
‘The mantra that is not received in disciplic succession does not produce results. Therefore in the Age of Kali there are four such disciplic successions. They are the Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka sampradayas. In the Age of Kali, these four disciplic lines will appear out of Purusottama in Orissa.’ (Padma Purana quoted in Prameya-ratnavali)
All of the disciplic successions had their beginnings here in Purusottama-dham, or Puri. That is why it is said, hy-utkale purusottamat. Is it not so? So there are four lines of disciplic succession. Ramanujam srih svicakre—the goddess Laksmi chose Ramanujacarya as her representative. That is the Sri sampradaya. Madhvacaryam caturmukhah—Brahma selected Madhvacarya as the founder of his line. Sri-visnu-svaminam rudro—Rudra, who is considered the foremost of Vaisnavas (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh), accepted Visnuswami as the founder of his line, while nimbadityam catuhsanah—the four Kumaras chose Nimbarka as their representative. Nimbarka’s commentary on the Vedanta is called Parijata-bhasya. Ramanuja of course wrote the Sri-bhasya. Madhvacharya’s exegesis is called the Anubhasya, or sometimes the Sutra-bhasya or Anubhasya. Visnusvami wrote the Sarvajna-sukti.
Now what is the meaning of the word ‘sampradaya’? A sampradaya is an instruction received through a disciplic succession of legitimate teachers. Find the definition in the Sabda-sara,1 will you? This copy of Sabda-sara is very old; it used to belong to my father.
Devotee: I have found it, Guru Maharaja. The definition is given as ‘the instruction specific to a particular line of teachers.’ Synonyms given are samaja (‘a community’), dala (‘a sect’) and sajatiya (‘brotherhood’).
Gurudeva: ‘The instruction received in a particular line of teachers.’ So what do we do? Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Prabhupada said the same thing. We accept the authorities or Mahajanas—mahajano yena gatah sa pantha. Something that just springs up out of nowhere cannot be accepted as authoritative. The conditioned soul has four defects: (1) bhrama (‘the tendency to error’), (2) pramada (‘inattention’), (3) karanapatava (‘the inadequacy of the senses’) and (4) vipralipsa (‘the desire to deceive’). Any conditioned soul has these defects.
Bhrama means the tendency to think something that is true to be false and vice versa. Whatever I perceive directly (pratyaksa) or whatever deductions I make on the basis of those perceptions will be full of error. The sun is more than a million times bigger than the earth. But when we look at the rising sun, our eyes tell us that it is about the size of a saucer. In fact, it is 1,400,000 times bigger than the earth.
The word pramada means ‘inattention.’ Even when the senses do their job, the mind is not entirely attentive and so makes further errors. Karanapatava means the incapacity of the senses to properly perceive anything. And the last fault is quite devastating; it is vipralipsa, ‘the desire to deceive.’ Even though we don’t really know what the truth is, we say, ‘I have seen.’ Generally, I give the example of Columbus. When Columbus was on his voyage of discovery to America, the sailors were about to start a mutiny. ‘Where is Columbus taking us? He is leading us to certain death!’ When Columbus heard all these mutinous utterings, he suddenly cried out, ‘Eureka! Eureka!’ Eureka is a Greek word that means, ‘I have found it.’ He discovered a great continent like America. Then the sailors all stopped the mutiny. So vipralipsa means the cheating propensity. Even though I don’t see anything, I shout, ‘Eureka!’ I am using this just as an example. The idea is that it doesn’t do me any good to shout out ‘Eureka!’ as though I have actually found something out when I haven’t.
So these are the conditioned souls’ four defects. The words of those who are free of such faults are considered authoritative or pramana. The word prama means ‘knowledge.’ So it is said, ‘Authoritative evidence is that which leads to real knowledge’ (pramano prama-jnana-janakam). Thus, the word prama means knowledge and pramana means that which leads to such knowledge. Why are the statements of the Mahajanas accepted as authoritative? It is because they have truly attained direct perception into the truth.
There are also many sampradayas or schools of thought that are based on misconceptions of the truth. These cannot be considered as genuine sampradayas, or credible schools of thought. Those who follow the teachings of such disciplic successions will not engage in genuine sadhana or bhajana. True bhajana or worship of the Lord, and sadhana, or exercising the means of attaining the Lord, begins when one follows in the footsteps of the previous acaryas.
Srila Prabhupada called our disciplic succession the Bhagavata-parampara. Why did he give it this name? Normally, people give a list of Gosvamis’ names—all those who belonged to that particular family of gurus. Sometimes these include women. Was every one of these people a perfected soul or siddha? What do we mean by siddha? There are sadhakas or aspirants for perfection and siddhas, or those who have attained perfection. The name is there, siddha-pranali, but it is not enough just to have a name. Have they all attained perfection on the path of devotion? Devotion begins with practices that we call sadhana. But when one becomes perfected in these practices, he is called siddha. The characteristics of someone who is on the platform of perfection are described in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Amongst other things, the siddha is omniscient.
avijnatakhila-klesah sada krsnasrita-kriyah
siddhah syuh santata-prema-saukhyasvada-parayanah
‘The siddhas have no awareness of any material suffering. All their actions are consecrated to Krsna and they are only engaged in constantly relishing the joys of love for Krsna.’ (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 2.1.280)
So our spiritual master has given directions according to the way that he worshiped. Bhaktivinoda Thakura also… Now take out my copy of Mahaprabhura Siksa. Tell me what is written here.
Devotee: It says, [Reads]
”A discussion of authoritative statements (apta-vakya).’ Something special needs to be said about the concept of apta-vakya. Everything spoken by someone who has attained spiritual authority (apta) is considered reliable. There is no need to look for hidden meanings in their words. The meaning that arises immediately upon hearing a series of words is the direct meaning or abhidha vrtti. Take for example, ayam saci-nandanah saksan nanda-nandanah —’This son of Sachi is the same person as the son of Nanda.’
Gurudeva: Bhaktivinoda Thakura is here making the distinction between direct (abhidha vrtti) and inferred (laksana) meaning. Every word functions in both these ways. Sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana. With whom do we have an eternal relationship (sambandha)? Our existence comes from Krsna, so we have an eternal relationship with him. And as we advance in spiritual life, this relationship will develop into something substantial, like that between a father and son or whatever. These transcendental relationships are revealed to us in proportion to the intensity of our spiritual practice.
Devotee: Here it is said that the words that come down through authoritative channels are reliable sources of knowledge. Then, Bhaktivinoda Thakura goes on to explain the concept of guru parampara.
Gurudeva: Very good. Read on.
‘What is an ‘authoritative channel’ (amnaya)?’ And he answers…
amnayah srutayah saksad brahma-vidyeti visrutah
guru-parampara-praptah visva-kartur hi brahmanah
Devotee: That is exactly what is given here.
Gurudeva: visva-kartur hi brahmanah, ‘beginning with Brahma, the creator.’
Devotee: [goes on reading, starting with the translation:]
‘Ämnaya or the authorized and sacred tradition is defined as the transcendental knowledge that is embodied in the sruti and received through the system of parampara beginning with Brahma, the creator.’ (Mahajana-karika, quoted in Gaudiya-kantha-hara, 1.62).
This statement is further supported by the Mundaka Upanisad (1.1.1):
brahma devanam prathamah sambabhuva
visvasya karta bhuvanasya gopta
sa brahma-vidyam sarva-vidya-pratistham
atharvaya jyestha-putraya praha
‘Lord Brahma is the foremost of the demigods. He is the creator of the universe and its guardian. He instructed his eldest son, Atharva, in the science of transcendental knowledge (brahma-vidya) and thus became the first teacher within the universe. All other knowledge is based on this transcendental knowledge.’
yenaksaram purusam veda satyam provaca tam tattvato brahma-vidyam
‘He spoke the transcendental knowledge by which one can truly know the imperishable Supreme Person.'(Mundaka Upanisad 1.1.13)
Gurudeva: [repeats the verses] Bhaktivinoda Thakura is discussing the ten basic teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the dasa-mula. These ten basic teachings include the sources of knowledge or pramana; the nine others are the prameya or elements demonstrated by these sources. So Bhaktivinoda Thakura is here explaining the first of the ten basic teachings or pramana.
amnayah praha tattvam harim iha paramam sarva-saktim rasabdhim
tad-bhinnamsams ca jivan prakrti-kavalitan tad-vimuktams ca bhavat
bhedabheda-prakasam sakalam api hareh sadhanam suddha-bhaktim
sadhyam tat pritim evety upadisati janan gauracandrah svayam sah
‘Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed everyone in these ten basic teachings. The first is that the source of knowledge is the amnaya or sacred tradition arising from the Upanishads. This tradition teaches that the Supreme Truth is Hari, who possesses all potencies and is the ocean of divine relationship. The living beings are His separated parts and parcels, which have been swallowed up by the material energy but can be liberated through spiritual feeling. Everything that exists is simultaneously both one and different from the Lord. The means of attaining Him is pure devotion and the goal of devotional practice is to develop love for Him.'(Dasa-mula-siksa, 1)
Now read on. What does it say about the disciplic succession?
Devotee: About the parampara, Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes:
‘From this statement [in the Mundaka Upanisad], it is clear that a process of transmission of transcendental knowledge exists from the time of creation. This chain of transmission has preserved the purity of the teachings of the Bhagavata-dharma. This message is called amnaya. The Brahma sampradaya has been established in the scriptures by such passages as:
paravyomesvarasyasic chisyo brahma jagat-patih
‘Brahma, the lord of the world, was the disciple of the Lord of Vaikuntha Himself.'(Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika)
‘Anyone who refuses to accept such statements is a promoter of heresy. Those who accept the authority of Sri Krsna Caitanya but secretly do not accept this disciplic succession of spiritual masters are nothing but Kali’s spies. Can there be any doubt of this?
‘Whatever the case may be, those who are fortunate accept the authoritative testimony of the disciplic succession and consider the knowledge received in this way to be superior to that from all other sources. This is Mahaprabhu’s first teaching.
‘In the Tattva-sandarbha, Jiva Gosvami has written: athaiva sucitanam sri-krsna-vacya-vacakata-laksana-sambandha-tad-bhajana-laksana-vidheya-tat-prema-laksana-prayojanakhyanam arthanam nirnayaya pramanam tavad vinirniyate | tatra purusasya bhramadi…’
Gurudeva: Bhaktivinoda Thakura is saying the following about the guru parampara, that all these people have accepted the disciplic succession…
Devotee: Bhaktivinoda goes on:
‘Jiva Gosvami establishes the validity of the testimony of authorized persons (apta), the authority of the Puranas and that of the Srimad Bhagavatam in particular as the most authoritative source of knowledge. So, in the same way that he establishes the Srimad Bhagavatam’s glorious position as an authority, he also underlines the same for the scriptures composed by Brahma, Narada, Vyasa, Sukadeva, and then Vijayadhvaja, Brahma Tirtha, Vyasa Tirtha and the other Tattvavadis following Madhvacarya. From such statements, it is clear that the spiritual line of the servants of Lord Caitanya is the one that has come through Brahma. Kavi Karnapura confirmed this in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika where he wrote out the entire guru-pranali.’
Gurudeva: This is what I was about to say.
Devotee: Yes. [continues reading]
‘Baladeva Vidyabhusana, the author of the Govinda-bhasya commentary on the Vedanta Sutras, also confirms the same disciplic succession. Is there any doubt that those who reject this connection are the greatest enemies of Sri Krsna Caitanya’s followers?’
Gurudeva: This is the principal thing. It is written here.
Gopinath: [goes on reading]
‘Sri Kavi Karnapura accepted Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s disciplic succession.’
Gurudeva: Now read this. Kavi Karnapura has listed everyone in the disciplic succession and now Baladeva Vidyabhusana gives the same one. And Bhaktivinoda Thakura goes so far as to say that those who don’t accept this disciplic succession are Mahaprabhu’s enemies.
Devotee: Quite so. And he goes on to write here: ‘The same Caitanya who revealed the eternal message of the Vedas in the heart of Brahma, the original philosopher (adi-kavi), appeared again in the Age of Kali in order to purify the auspicious Vedic doctrine and free it from the contaminations that had entered into it over the course of time. The four flaws, i.e., the desire to deceive, inattentiveness, the inadequacy of the senses, and the tendency to error, affect the judgment of every human being. Even the greatest scholars cannot free themselves of these defects when it comes to assessing transcedence. In these matters, the words of the Veda, which are not the product of human beings, are the only source of sure knowledge. The other sources of knowledge such as direct perception (pratyaksa), deduction (anumana), analogy (upamana), tradition (aitihya), etc., are all incapable of providing sure knowledge independent of sabda, or the divine sound vibration of the Veda.’
Then Bhaktivinoda Thakura goes on to write about Krsna as the supreme truth in the next chapter. ‘Here Sri Krsna… ‘
Gurudeva: No, read further about the disciplic succession. Read here…
‘A discussion of authoritative statements (apta-vakya). Something special needs to be said about the concept of apta-vakya. Everything spoken by someone who has attained spiritual authority (apta) is considered reliable. There is no need to look for hidden meanings in their words. The meaning that arises immediately upon hearing a series of words is the direct meaning or abhidha vrtti. Take for example, ayam sacinandanah saksan nandanandanah—’This son of Saci is the same person as the son of Nanda.’ From this statement, it is quite clear that what is being said is that Gauracandra is one and the same as Krsnacandra. In the expression, ‘The village on the Ganges,’ however, the direct meaning cannot be accepted, [because no one builds a village on the water]… ‘
Gurudeva: In this case we have to go to the implied meaning or laksana vrtti.
Devotee: [continues reading]
‘We understand the implied meaning that the village is on the banks of the Ganges. In the words of the Vedas, however, interpretation on the basis of such indirect meanings is not necessary. In the Chandogya Upanisad (8.13.1)… ‘
Gurudeva: That is syamac chabalam prapadye sabalac chyamam prapadye.
Devotee: [continues reading]
‘syamac chabalam prapadye sabalac chyamam prapadye. Krsna’s personal energy or svarupa-sakti is called sabala. So the meaning of this line is, ‘I take shelter of Krsna through the essence of His personal energy and I take shelter of Krsna’s personal energy through Him.’ When the direct meaning of the Vedic scriptures is logical and easily understood.’ This part is underlined then why should we follow Sankara’s interpretation and say that syama means ‘Brahman within the heart’? Liberated souls have a natural tendency to worship the Divine Couple—Radha and Syamasundara. This is the real meaning of this statement from the Vedic literature.
‘Therefore the Caitanya-caritamrita (1.7.132) says,
laksana haite svatah pramanata-hani
‘If one takes the indirect meaning of the Vedic texts, then the self-evident nature of the scriptures is lost.’ There are many different categories of indirect meaning… ‘
Gurudeva: Alright, you can stop here. We needn’t go any further into the indirect meanings. Now look in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika; there is something there. I cannot read it myself.
Devotee: All right, Maharaja. Let’s stop here.
Gurudeva: Now what is being said, here too… Whatever Srila Prabhupada has taught us about the disciplic succession is based on what is found here. Prabhupada has given a disciplic succession that is based on this Mahajana parampara. Look here, Prabhupada has given:
sri-vidyanidhi-rajendra-jayadharman kramad vayam
purusottama-brahmanya-vyasatirthams ca samstumah
tato laksmipatim sriman-madhavendram ca bhaktitah
tac-chisyan srisvaradvaita-nityanandan jagad-gurun
devam isvara-sisyam sri-caitanyam ca bhajamahe
sri-krsna-prema-danena yena nistaritam jagat
kali-kalusa-santaptam karuna-sindhuna svayam
mahaprabhoh svarupa-sri-damodarah priyaìkarah
rupa-sanatanau dvau ca gosvami-pravarau prabhu
sri-jivo raghunathas ca rupa-priyo mahamatih
tat-priyah kaviraja-sri-krsna-dasa-prabhur matah
tasya priyatamah srilah seva-paro narottamah
tad-anugata-bhaktah sri-visvanathah sad-uttamah
tad-asaktas ca gaudiya-vedantacarya-bhusanam
vaisnava-sarvabhaumah sri-jagannatha-prabhus tatha
sri-mayapura-dhamnas tu nirdesta sajjana-piryah
‘I praise Krsna, Brahma, Devarsi Narada and Vyasa, one after the other. I praise Sri Madhva, Padmanabha, Narahari, Madhava, Aksobhya, Jayatirtha, Jnanasindhu, Dayanidhi, Vidyanidhi, Rajendra, Jayadharma, Purusottama, Brahmanya, and Vyasa Tirtha. We devotedly praise Laksmipati and Madhavendra Puri whose disciples were Isvara Puri, Advaita Acarya and Nityananda Prabhu, the spiritual masters of the universe. I worship the ocean of mercy, Lord Sri Caitanya who accepted Isvara Puri as his guru and then personally saved the world, suffering in the Kali-yuga.
‘Svarupa Damodara was Mahaprabhu’s dear servant as were the two best of the Gosvamis, Rupa and Sanatana. Dear to Rupa were Sri Jiva and the wise Raghunatha. Very dear to him was Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja, and most dear to him was Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura, so devoted in service. The great saint Visvanatha was devoted to him, and the great acarya of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, was attached to Visvanatha. The emperor of the Vaisnavas, Jagannatha Prabhu followed him; he pointed out the birthplace of the Lord in Mayapura and thus became dear to all the saintly people.’
This is the disciplic succession up to Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. Then afterwards comes our Srila Prabhupada. Some people in Vrndavana said that Jagannatha Dasa lived 150 years, others 130 years. No matter, everyone accepts that he was a great saintly Vaisnava. He is three generations back. Bhagavata Dasa Babaji took diksa from Jagannatha Dasa Babaji and Gaura Kishor Dasa was his disciple, that is, he took bhek2 from him. Prabhupada took initiation from Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji.
Gaura-kisora treated Bhaktivinoda Thakura as a guru and would go to hear the Bhagavatam from him. It was there that Srila Prabhupada first saw Gaura-kisora and his extraordinary demeanour. Srila Prabhupada used to say that Gaura-kisora was just like Raghunatha Dasa, whose renunciation was as firm as a line engraved in stone. He saw him madly singing a song in which he kept repeating, ‘Where is my Radha, so full of divine love? Where is my Radha, so full of divine love?’ Prabhupada liked the song so much that he wrote it down. Babaji Maharaja was singing, ‘Where is my Radha, so full of divine love?’ and the tears were flowing down his face and onto his chest. Maharaja was so unaware of the world around him that he did not even see whether he was dressed or not. His cloth had come off and he was wandering around, completely naked, singing this song to Radha.
When Prabhupada saw this level of renunciation, he went to Bhaktivinoda Thakura and asked his permission to take initiation from Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji. So Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave him permission. This is the way the disciplic succession comes down to us. First, Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. Then Bhaktivinoda Thakura took daur-kaupina from him. And he was Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja’s guru and Srila Prabhupada took initiation from him. So our disciplic succession is coming down in this way.
Now all these people in Vrndavana say that the Gaudiya Matha has no parampara. But we don’t accept what they say. Out of their ignorance they say that we have no disciplic succession. They say that what we have is something entirely new. They ask us whether we have a guru-pranali. But we ask them to study this matter carefully and then come back and tell us whether we have a guru-pranali or not. Then I said to him,
sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah
The point is that if you worship without following the instructions that come in a disciplic succession of bona fide spiritual masters, then it will not bear fruit. That’s why we repeat this verse,
sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah
So what are the four sampradayas? They are the Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka sampradayas. These four will appear in the Age of Kali out of the Purusottama in Orissa. So there are four lines of disciplic succession. Ramanujam srih svicakre—the goddess Sri chose Ramanujacarya as her representative. That is the Sri sampradaya. Madhvacaryam caturmukhah—Brahma selected Madhvacarya as the founder of his line. Sri-visnu-svaminam rudro—Rudra, who is considered the foremost of Vaisnavas (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh), accepted Visnusvami as the founder of his line, while nimbadityam catuhsanah—the four Kumaras chose Nimbarka as their representative. So from each of these founders, preceptorial lines were begun. We do not accept the disciplic successions of anyone who is against these four Vaisnava sampradayas.
Devotee: They haven’t been so influenced. But I have a question about this.
Gurudeva: All these Babajis want to boycott Srila Prabhupada.
Devotee: A most unfortunate matter.
Gurudeva: Prabhupada was such a powerful personality. He spoke with such force that they would just sit in silence. Let them say whatever they want. Prabhupada’s philosophical conclusions are the highest. We must engage in worship according to these conclusions. Then they will understand. Everyone is trying to deviate from the truth in different ways. They try to deviate others and make them fall down from the path of spiritual life. The people on the other side of the river, in the current Navadvipa town, used to say, ‘Where are you going? To Mayapura? That’s so far away from here.’ They would try all kinds of things. Bhaktivinoda Thakura tried so hard to find the birthplace, but no one could tell him where it was. They only said maybe here, maybe there.
Devotee: How much compassion he had for the world that led him to search so vigorously!
Gurudeva: Bhaktivinoda Thakura saw it directly. He saw a building…
Devotee: He saw a building in Godrumadvipa.
Gurudeva: Prabhupada told us that about Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and this is absolute and no one should doubt it. Tell him that. I am a great fool, but two or three days before Srila Prabhupada left this world, I had the chance to hold his lotus feet on my chest, completely. Prabhupada was sitting on a chair and I held his feet on my chest. I have no other qualification. Prabhupada gave me his blessings. And Sridhara Maharaja and many of Prabhupada’s other dear disciples were also very affectionate to me. Everyone knows these things.
Devotee: This is very true. You have no qualifications, that is, you are nirguna. You are free of all material qualities!
Gurudeva: No, no. The venerable Sridhara Maharaja… Whenever I had any kind of doubt, I would go running over to see Sridhara Maharaja. Some people do not know what kind of relationship existed between us and so they say many things. So explain to Rama Dasa Baba, that the sampradaya Prabhupada has given us is called the Bhagavata-parampara. You have to memorize it.
Baba, explain one other thing to him. Who is a siddha? If we engage in the practice in the way we should, then perfection is inevitable. What is the practice? Devotion. Bhakti is both the means and the end. But it is said,
nitya-siddha krsna-prema sadhya kabhu naya
sravanadi suddha-citte karaye udaya
‘Ecstatic love for Krsna is eternally perfect and cannot be achieved through any effort; however, it manifests in the heart that has been purified by the acts of devotion such as hearing and chanting.'(Caitanya-caritamrta 2.22.104)
Hearing and chanting are activities that purify the consciousness. Of all the devotional activities, chanting of the Holy Names is the best. Love for God appears to us when our consciousness has been purified by chanting the Holy Name. Rupa Gosvami described the process of devotional practice that leads to the development of prema. Mahaprabhu explained this to Sanatana Gosvami:
kona bhagye kona jivera sraddha jadi haya
tabe sei jiva sadhu-saìga je karaya
sadhu-saìga haite haya sravana-kirtana
sadhana-bhaktye haya sarvanartha-nivartana
anartha-nivrtti haile bhaktye nistha haya
nistha haite sravanadye ruci upajaya
ruci haite bhaktye haya asakti pracura
asakti haite citte janme krsne prity-aìkura
sei bhava gadha haile dhare prema-nama
sei prema prayojana sarvananda-dhama
‘If by some great good fortune, a certain living entity develops faith in Krsna, he begins to associate with devotees. As a result of associating with devotees, he takes up practical devotional service beginning with hearing and chanting. Such spiritual practice frees him from all unwanted material contamination and that leads to constancy. When one has nistha or firmness in one’s practice, then a taste for hearing and chanting and other practices arises. The next step is the awakening of a deep attachment and from that attachment the first manifestations of love finally appear in the heart like a tree’s seedling. These first ecstatic manifestations are called bhava, which intensify to become love of Godhead or prema, the ultimate goal of life and the reservoir of all pleasure.’ (Caitanya-caritamrta 2.23.9-13)
When loving feelings first start to manifest, the devotee starts to experience ecstasy. As these loving feelings intensify, one attains prema. Prema, or divine ecstatic love, is the ultimate goal of human life and ‘the reservoir of all pleasure.’ When one attains love, then,
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
‘I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Syamasundara, Krsna himself with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.’ (Brahma-samhita 5.38)
This is what happens. So anyone who wants to experience love of God must start with chanting the Holy Name. And that must be done properly. But we cannot understand why our minds are still being distracted and wandering away from the Name. This is our own fault. This is why the sign of firmness in practice is given as aviksepena satatyam, or constancy without distraction. In this way, I may chant five million Names without experiencing even a drop of ecstatic love.
So we have to chant the Holy Name, and we must do it properly. If we do so, then we will make advancement and develop a little affection for the Lord. It is often seen that as we chant, we may get feelings of extreme humility and perhaps tears will even come to our eyes. But this should not make us think that we have become great Vaisnavas. Watch out for that kind of egoism. We are presently only in the beginning stages of devotional life. There are three degrees of advancement—beginning, intermediate and advanced. In the beginning stage, our principal objective is to become free of defects, or anarthas. When we can rid ourselves of all these anarthas, then we will become fixed in our devotion. That is the stage known as nistha.
Now what is going on, Baba, is that these people have not yet given up their sinful activities, their defects, and they are discussing all of these elevated aspects of spiritual life, thinking that they are quite advanced. Studying the lives of these Babajis is just creating a disturbance. It is not our concern whether someone is good or whatever. We don’t want to make any enemies. Why do you think I keep repeating these Bhagavata verses about fault-finding? The Bhagavata says that whether you go looking for the qualities or the faults, it all comes down to the same fault-finding spirit. It has condemned the practice:
para-svabhava-karmani na prasamsen na garhayet
visvam ekatmakam pasyan prakrtya purusena ca
para-svabhava-karmani yah prasamsati nindati
sa asu bhrasyate svarthad asatyabhinivesatah
‘Knowing that this entire universe is the product of the one indwelling Supersoul and the combination of matter and spirit, one should not criticize or praise the activities of others, which are going on as a result of their nature. Anyone who either praises or criticizes the natural activities of others will quickly lose his position on the spiritual path because of his absorption in untruth.’ (SB 11.28.1-2)
Ramacandra Puri had this particular tendency. It is natural for ants to wander everywhere, but when Ramacandra saw ants near the Gambhira, he said:
ratrav atra aiksavam asit, tena pipilikah sancaranti aho!
viraktanam sannyasinam iyam indriya-lalaseti bruvann utthaya gatah.
”Last night there was sugar candy here and so today there are ants all about. How dreadful to see a renounced sannyasi attached to sense gratification in this way!’ After speaking in this way, he got up and left.’ (Caitanya-caritamrta 3.8.48)
When you give up this faultfinding tendency, you actually become a human being.
Devotee: The Bhagavata clearly says in the very beginning that this scripture is for the non-envious and the saintly—nirmatsaranam satam.
Gurudeva: That is so. In the very beginning. What is religion? dharmah projjhita-kaitavo’tra paramo nirmatsaranam satam… We cannot accept someone who is envious to be a true sadhu. The question is, who pleases the Lord? Look at the end of the twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna says,
yasman nodvijate loko lokan nodvijate ca yah
harsamarsa-bhayodvegair mukto yah sa ca me priyah
‘I love the devotee who is neither disturbed by anyone nor causes disturbance to any person, and who is free from the pulls of euphoria, anger and fear.’ (Gita 12.15)
anapeksah sucir daksa udasino gata-vyathah
sarvarambha-parityagi yo mad-bhaktah sa me priyah
‘I love the devotee who has no expectation, is pure and skilled, indifferent, who has no worries and gives up all sense of self-centered activity.’ (Gita 12.16)
yo na hrsyati na dvesti na socati na kaìksati
subhasubha-parityagi bhaktiman yah sa me priyah
‘I love the devoted person who is free from elation, anger, sorrow and craving, who neither seeks the pleasant nor shuns the unpleasant.’ (Gita 12.17)
samah satrau ca mitre ca tatha manapamanayoh
sitosna-sukha-duhkhesu samah saìga-vivarjitah
tulya-ninda-stutir mauni santusto yena kenacit
aniketah sthira-matir bhaktiman me priyo narah
‘I love the devotee who is the same to friend and foe, unchanged by honour or insult, heat and cold, in pleasure as in pain, who is unmoved by praise or blame, silent, contented by whatever comes his way, unattached to home, and is steady in mind.’ (Gita 12.18-19)
Krsna Himself tells us what kind of devotee is dear to Him. So we don’t want to create a relation of undying enmity with any man. Prahlada Maharaja prays for the happiness of even the envious person—svasty astu visvasya khalah prasidatam (SB 5.18.9). A devotee like Prahlada desires the welfare of everyone in the world.
Devotee: The Vaisnavas are so merciful! Just look at their compassionate nature. They even seek the welfare and happiness of the evil and envious.
Gurudeva: Why not? They are all spirit souls. They are covered over because they have been in bondage since time immemorial. But Mahaprabhu revealed the nature of the spirit soul when he is free from these material coverings.
naham vipro na ca narapatir napi vaisyo na sudro
naham varni na ca grhapatir no vanastho yatir va
gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah
‘I am not a brahmana, nor a ksatriya, nor a vaisya, nor a sudra. Neither am I a brahmacari, a householder, a retired man or a renunciate. My real identity is that I am the most insignificant servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Krsna, the lover of the Gopis and overflowing ocean of supreme and immortal joy.’
This is our identity when we are in our pure state. This is true for every single jiva, whether coming from Europe or America. The soul is the same for everyone. There is only one Supreme Lord, Krsna. He is the father of the universe:
aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah
‘I am the source of all things. Everything proceeds from Me. Believing this, the wise worship Me with great feeling.’ (Gita 10.7)
All the moving and non-moving creatures—all the universes have come forth from Him. Europe, America, Africa—all these places have the same source. They are not different. Even so, the spiritual or mystical tendency is stronger in India. Ever since Vyasadeva, religious practices have always been stronger here. That is why we call our land, ‘spiritual India’ (paramarthika bharata). This is why Mahaprabhu never left India, even though He said,
prthivite ache jata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibeka mora nama
‘My name will be heard in every single town and village in the world.’ (Caitanya-bhagavat 3.14.126)
And where were Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s books found? In a library. Svami Maharaja found Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s book in a library. Svami Maharaja went throughout the world— Europe, America, everywhere. Vivekananda also went, but he acted improperly, spreading incorrect doctrines. Only the Gaudiya Matha teaches the truth as given by Mahaprabhu.
Vivekananda taught the equality of all religions, sarva-dharma-samanvaya. Somebody considers karma to be the best path, someone else jnana, someone else yoga. But Mahaprabhu pointed out that bhakti was the only way and that these others were ultimately ineffective. All these things—karma, jnana, yoga—have been explained in the Bhagavad-gita. But in the end, Krsna says,
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo’si me
‘Always think of Me, worship Me by engaging in devotional service of hearing and chanting, serve Me in My Deity form, offer your very being unto Me, and you will surely reach Me. This is My sincere promise to you because you are My dear friend.'(Gita 18.65)
And then He follows that by saying, sarva-dharman parityajya—abandon all these other paths. In particular, sarva-dharman means the practices related to varnasrama-dharma. This is stated in the commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti. Varnasrama-dharma implies the worshiping of various gods and goddesses.
So, Baba, memorize the disciplic succession that was given by Srila Prabhupada. Repeat it each day when you are performing your daily (ahnika) rituals after bathing. You will achieve everything by simply doing this. We are not without a proper disciplic succession. We worship according to the standards of the disciplic succession. For it is stated, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah.
tarko’pratisthah srutayo vibhinna nasau rsir yasya matam na bhinnam
dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam mahajano yena gatah sa panthah
‘Argument alone has no solid foundation. The scriptures contradict each other. No one is considered a sage without having expressed an individual opinion. The truths about religious duty are concealed in the heart. Thus, the only true path is the one that has been followed by great authorities.’ (Mahabharata)
This verse was spoken by Yudhisthira. Arguments alone cannot bring one to any firm conclusion. Argument depends on the use of deduction and so on, but these are insufficient to give a firm basis. The scriptures give varying opinions. There is a Bengali saying, nana muni nana mata—’Many philosophers, many opinions.’ No one can establish himself as a philosopher unless he presents an original opinion. So which way should I go? He goes on, dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam—’The truth of religions is concealed in the heart of a pure devotee.’ Therefore, in the story of Ajamila in the Bhagavatam, twelve great authorities are mentioned by name. The Yamadutas went to Yamaraja to complain about the Visnudutas. Yamaraja explained to them:
dharmas tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam na vai vidur rsayo napi devah
na siddha-mukhya asura manusyah kuto nu vidyadhara-caranadayah
‘Religious duties have been established by God Himself. Thus no one really knows them in full—not the rsis, demigods, perfected beings, demons or humans, what to speak of the Vidyadharas or the Caranas.’
svayambhur naradah sambhuh kumarah kapilo manuh
prahlado janako bhismo balir vaiyasakir vayam
dvadasaite vijanimo dharmam bhagavatam bhatah
guhyam visuddham durbodham yam jnatvamrtam asnute
‘There are twelve of us who do know the religious duties prescribed by the Lord, the Bhagavata-dharma. We are Brahma, Narada, Siva, the four Kumaras, Kapila, Manu, Prahlada, Janaka, Bhisma, Bali, Suka and myself. Anyone who understands this secret, pure and mysterious teaching will attain immortality.’ (Srimad Bhagavatam 6.3.19-21)
We are following the same path that was established by these great authorities. Prabhupada taught us all this. There are so many brahmanas’ names in the guru parampara lists. Prabhupada knew all this, but what was his vision? Externally, people may say so many things, but what is going on internally? Therefore he did not accept any of it. I mean Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s spiritual master… Srila Prabhupada was an extremely spirited and vigorous preacher, you know.
Devotee: He refused to accept any deception in the name of religion.
Gurudeva: Falsity, deception. He gave no quarter to any of these things. All these so-called siddhas! They are siddha (‘boiled’) like boiled potatoes or boiled vegetables. Just saying someone is a perfected being does not make it so. Perfect in devotion! How many people are actually engaged in cultivating devotional service? Simply carrying a fat string of japa beads does not mean that I am engaged in the proper practice of devotional service. This is all phony devotion, mere imitation.
Devotee: Guru Maharaja, what about Vipina Vihari Gosvami? The way that Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes about him, it seems that he was very respectful toward him.
Gurudeva: Bhaktivinoda Thakura accepted him as his guru. For this reason we should never disrespect him. We must be silent about this matter. But we can say that Prabhupada did not agree to follow in his footsteps. So it is not necessary for us to do so either.
Devotee: Nowadays, all the Western devotees are coming along and trying to find out everything they can about the past history of the matha. They want to know who had what kinds of relations with whom and so on.
Gurudeva: Yes, I know about that. When I went to Vrndavana, the Babajis would say that the Gaudiya Matha has no guru parampara. This or that is missing from the Gaudiya Matha’s tradition. But Srila Prabhupada was an extremely spirited and strong individual, you know. He never bothered with any of their criticisms.
Devotee: He just blew them off like puffs of smoke.
Gurudeva: Prabhupada used to say to me when I was taking notes, ‘Note this down carefully. These are things that you won’t hear again.’ I could say more, but I have been sick for the past five years. But don’t allow doubts to trouble you. Everything that I am saying I heard from Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada was jagat-guru. Whatever the Vrndavana Babajis say about us is completely unjust. Baba, just explain one thing to them: Firm devotion only comes after sinful contamination is removed from the heart.
adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sago’tha bhajana-kriyah
tato’nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah
‘First, one has faith. Then he can associate with devotees. This leads to the practice of devotional activities like hearing and chanting. The result of such practices is firm commitment to devotion.’
That is also explained in the Bhagavatam:
tada rajas-tamo-bhavah kama-lobhadayas ca ye
ceta etair anaviddham sthitam sattve prasidati
‘When this state of naisthiki bhakti is reached, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the devotee’s heart. Thus established in goodness, the devotee becomes completely happy.’ (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.19)
No one is hoodwinking you here. First rid yourself of your anarthas, then you will come to the stage of nistha.
Devotee: And we get rid of our anarthas by determined practice of bhajana.
Gurudeva: That’s correct. We must engage in the practices of devotion, bhajana. There is nothing to worry about. Everything that I am saying I heard from Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada was jagat-guru. No one can add to what Prabhupada said. His word is final. Prabhupada used to sing about being his spiritual master’s dog. I am like that. You know, Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s song?
sarvasva tomara carana sampiya parechi tomara ghare
tumi ta thakura tomara kukura baliya janaha more
baìdhiya nikate amare palibe rahiba tomara dvare
pratipa janere asite na diba rakhiba garera pare
tava nija-jana prasada seviya ucchista rakhibe jaha
amara bhojana parama anande prati dine habe taha
basiya suiya tomara carana cintiba satata ami
nacite nacite nikate jaiba jakhana dakibe tumi
nijere posana kabhu na bhaviba rahiba bhavera bhare
bhakativinoda tomare palaka baliya varana kare
‘I have surrendered everything to your lotus feet and have fallen at your door. I ask you to recognize that I am your dog and you are my master.
‘You will tie me up nearby and take care of me. I will remain near your doorway and chase away thieves and other dangerous people, keeping them on the other side of the moat.
‘Every day, I will joyfully eat only the leftovers of the devotees who have eaten your prasada.
‘Whether sitting or lying down, I will only think of your lotus feet. Whenever you call, I will go dancing toward you.
‘I will never think of my own needs or maintenance, but will remain blissfully in the joy of my feelings for you. Bhaktivinoda officially accepts you as his protector.’ (Saranagati, 19)
I go running to the Lord when He calls me, ‘Hey you!’
Devotee: Please be merciful to us that we may also become pet dogs like that. May we become your dog!
Gurudeva: Let me give you some advice. Buy a copy of Mahaprabhura Siksa. Just see how Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written about the disciplic succession. I will not be able to give you this copy…
Devotee: I will try to get hold of a copy.
Gurudeva: You can get it at the Bagh Bazaar Matha.
1 Sabda-sara, a Sanskrit-Bengali dictionary by Girish Chandra Vidyaratna, professor Sanskrit College, Calcutta, 3rd edition, revised and enlarged. Calcutta: The Girish Vidyaratna Press, 1880.
2 Bhek is the sannyasa initiation of the babajis.
3 The loincloth that is characteristic of the Babaji stage of life, i.e., he was his sannyasa guru.