Found in Sanga, Sanga 1999.

Q. In Sanga 12/26/99, “Where Time Meets Eternity,” you said, “the guru who is a sadhana-siddha, who has perfected himself via sadhana, or spiritual practice, (the majority of gurus in our line) has spiritualized his or her practitioner’s body (sadhaka-deha) over time.” Could you please elaborate further on “the majority of gurus in our line who have perfected themselves via sadhana.” Aren’t such gurus always perfected, eternal companions of the gopis (perhaps gopis themselves) who have come down to this plane to lift us up to their level? And when you say “the majority of gurus,” what happens to the minority? If they are not “perfected over time” does that mean that their disciples are just unlucky?

A. The idea is that most of the gurus are sadhana-siddha, the others are nitya-siddhas. All are siddhas. The nitya-siddha is more rare, but not better, for both are siddha. The sadhana-siddha is one who becomes a siddha through sadhana and then serves in the capacity of guru. Narada Muni is a sadhana-siddha. His story is found in Srimad-Bhagavatam.

While the disciple may think of his or her guru as a nitya-siddha, he may very well be a sadhana-siddha. Most of Prabhupada’s disciple think of him as a nitya-siddha. However, he himself used to say that in his previous life he was a doctor and committed no sins. Sridhara Maharaja clearly took the position of a sadhana-siddha, as did every disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta in Gaudiya Math. Bhaktivinoda Thakura described himself as a sadhana-siddha as well, although Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura thought of him as a nitya-siddha, and taught that he was. Bilvamangala Thakura is the example of a sadhana-siddha pointed to in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, and Prahlada Maharaja is also considered a sadhana-siddha. In this way the list goes on.

Q. The disciple sees the guru as nitya-siddha but non-disciples may see him as sadhana-siddha or simply as an ordinary man. Who is right, who is wrong? Disciples may see their guru as nitya-siddha but how should you, or I or any non-disciple view such feelings? Do we honor them as corresponding to reality? You cite

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as an example of a sadhana-siddha in our line. That brings to mind a song that you and Narasingha Maharaja wrote years ago in glorification of Srila Prabhupada. In the song you write that Srimati Radharani summoned her “servant dear,” ordering him “tomorrow on earth you will appear.” This seems to imply that prior to his appearance in this world Srila Prabhupada was already with Srimati Radharani. How then can he be a sadhana-siddha?

A. Disciples may or may not see their guru as nitya-siddha. They may see him as sadhana-siddha. There is nothing wrong with this. It is also possible that he could be both! Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says regarding Prahlada and Narada Muni “evam prahladasyamsena sadhana-siddhatvam nitya-siddhatvam ca naradadivaj jneyam.” Prabhupada comments, “Prahlada Maharaja is a mixed siddha; that is, he is perfect partly because of executing devotional service and partly because of eternal perfection. Thus he is compared to such devotees as Narada. Formerly, Narada Muni was the son of a maidservant, and therefore in his next birth he attained perfection (sadhana-siddhi) because of having executed devotional service. Yet he is also a nitya-siddha because he never forgets the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

So now what?

We should honor the vision of others as best as we can within reason. After all, others may be doing that with us when they honor our guru. As you mentioned, your vision may not be theirs. Krishna shows different things to different devotees. You ask who is right and who is wrong. You want an objective answer to a subjective reality. Guru is ultimately Krishna. If we find Krishna in a Vaisnava, proportionately we will honor him. A mere glimpse of Krishna warrants all regard.

Regarding Srila Prabhupada, he may be thought of as sadhana-siddha or nitya-siddha. Both are possible. He may represent Radha for one disciple and Subala for another. The poem your refer to is the vision of Sripada Narasingha Maharaja. I honor it, and in service to it, I helped him with the poetic English version of it.

Q. I read that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta said that it would take three lifetimes to become perfect; one with namaparadha, the next with namabhasa and the third with suddha-nama. But Srila Prabhupada always used to say “in this one lifetime.”

A. Sri Gurudeva says many things, in many ways, at different times, to different people, for the same purpose: to help them to go back to Godhead. Some may be encouraged to think they can go in this lifetime, others will be encouraged even if they know it may take thousands of lifetimes. The latter are more advanced than the former. Back to Godhead is one thing. Krishna-prema is this and much more.

Q. How can a disciple, whose beloved guru is not in the best shape, avoid reinitiation?

A. He or she must pray for the upliftment of their Guru. That one who has helped us, we must try to help. How can we desert him? This is a noble attitude. At the same time one must be prepared to take help himself from another Vaisnava, a siksa-guru. We must try to better understand the principle of guru with sincerity and humility. We are trying to approach Krishna-prema, the highest ideal. Sometimes along the path we must adjust our position and re-focus, as knowledge is revealed.

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