Found in Sanga, Sanga 2000.

Q. In a recent Sanga discussion, you said, “Most of the gurus are sadhana-siddha, the others are nitya-siddhas.” It seems other Gaudiya teachers are saying that most of the gurus in our line are coming directly from Krishna’s abode and are the maidservants of Srimati Radhika. How can they be sadhana-siddhas then?

A. There are a number of things to consider. First of all in the Gaudiya sampradaya there have been thousands of gurus, and there will be many more as time goes on. Most of them are sadhana siddha gurus. This should be encouraging for the many sadhakas seeking perfection!

There are very few scriptural references that tell us about any particular guru’s siddha status. Descriptions in the sastra of the qualifications of a guru do not include his or her being a nitya-siddha. On the contrary, the majority of them speak of devotees who have perfected themselves and attained a status that qualifies them for serving in the capacity of guru. Sastra indicates that gurus do indeed more often than not become siddha via sadhana.

All of the descriptions of liberated souls found in Bhagavad-gita refer to jivanmuktas who are sadhana-siddhas, not nitya-siddhas. Caitanya-caritamrta says, kiba vipra kiba nyasi sudra kene naya/ yei krishna tattva vetti sei guru haya. This means that the guru may come from any sector of society, secular or religious. If anything is conspicuous in this verse relative to this discussion it is the fact that it says nothing about the guru descending from the spiritual world.

Should a guru descend from above this is considered to be a rare occasion. Thus the title “Seventh Goswami” given to Bhaktivinoda linking him with the nitya-siddha Six Goswamis, who appeared 400 years before him. Bhaktisiddhanta told his followers to consider themselves as belonging to Bhaktivinoda parivara, indicating that Bhaktivinoda Thakura was an eternal nityasiddha associate of Mahaprabhu Sri Caitanya.

The revolutionary strides of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura caused his followers to consider him a nitya-siddha, who had descended to widely propagate the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna. The very propaganda that these two are nitya-siddhas, differentiating them from everyone else, serves to illustrate that this status is the exception.

At the same time we must consider that the guru is ultimately Krishna himself. Krishna says, acaryam mam vijaniyat: “I am the acarya.” In light of this we must consider that Krishna is nitya-siddha, and thus all gurus are as well from this angle of vision. It is Krishna descending within the Vaisnava whom we revere as Sri Guru. Whatever past the particular Vaisnava guru may have is of little consequence to us. Indeed by the very nature of our divine experience in connection with Sri Guru we will see his past however mundane as spiritual. This is love’s power.

If we consider the conception of the bhagavata-guru-parampara of Bhaktisiddhanta, we may find more nitya-siddhas than sadhana-siddhas included. However, in between those mentioned who may be nitya-siddhas there are hundreds of sadhana-siddhas as well, diksa-gurus usually of high standing.

Finally, in the ultimate issue there is no difference between one type of siddha or another. Both are siddha. Indeed, Sanatana Goswami says in his Brhad-bhagavatamrta tika in relation to Prahlada that the sadhana-siddhas are better because their devotion has been tested!

Q. Once you said that you didn’t consider harinama to be an effective preaching tool at present in the West. Why is that?

A. This was in reference to chanting on the streets. Once Prabhupada told us to stop Harinama-sankirtana in India because people were not respecting it. This is the principle I was referring to. When this happens, we should find other means to approach the public in glorification of God. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura gave us a dynamic conception of kirtana, the printing press, etc. Here we are using the Internet successfully, wouldn’t you agree?

Q. Recently I had an online discussion with a follower of Radha Ramana Caran das Babaji. He argued that bhaja nitai gaura radhe shyam, japa hare krishna hare rama is a bona fide bhajana and he rejected the criticism of the followers of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He said this is not a mantra but a bhajana meant for kirtana and that there is no law against making new bhajans. He also argued that the Hare Krishna mantra is meant only for japa citing that there is not a single instance in any Caitanya biography where the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is sung with khol and kartals.

A. You must realize that great persons sometimes differ. Both Bhaktisiddhanta and Caran dasa Babaji are great persons, certainly in the sense that they each had a powerful influence on a great number of people, and inspired them to chant Krishna’s holy name. So both should be shown some respect, at least from a distance, relevant to which group one is affiliated with. This is common courtesy, and more, it is mandated by Rupa Goswami himself.

As for the argument itself, there are two conclusions, and I suspect that there will always be. Each side supports their case with scriptural citations and interpretations of them, with persuasive logic and examples of previous precedents set by great souls, etc. Some devotees are taken by the presentation of one, some by the other. More often they are taken by the person himself or his modern followers, and subsequently they become prone to his particular take on everything.

This is fine, and very few devotees will change sides. We argue more for the sake of rational justification of our feelings than we do to convert others. This is also all right, and perhaps necessary at some point. However, we should measure the value of our discussions by the extent to which they result in improving our own practice.

Nothing will convince others more than our personal example, and nothing will satisfy us more than our own spiritual advancement.

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