Found in Sanga, Sanga 2000.

Q. I am a Kundalini yoga instructor and I work with pregnant women, helping them to give birth. Can’t this be called bhakti yoga?

A. Bhakti is a yoga unto itself. At the same time bhakti (devotion) runs through all systems of yoga as their vital spiritual element. It is the bhakti in any system of yoga that makes the yoga practitioner successful in terms of mukti (liberation). Bhakti is concerned more with prema (love of God) than it is with mukti, although mukti is a by-product of prema. Bhakti yoga consists of hearing and chanting about God with the motive of pleasing God, devoid of desire for worldly gain or liberation.

Q. If there is a cycle of birth and death that we are all are trapped in, why are there so many more people now on the planet than before?

A. There are unlimited souls in the material world. That an increasing number in human form are inhabiting the earth at this time does not challenge the doctrine of reincarnation.

Q. If we are to mix only with people who are saintly, how can we help people who really need spiritual teachings?

A. First you yourself must become saintly. Otherwise, we should associate with saintly persons and minister to the innocent public by giving them our association, sharing our faith and experience, etc. However, we should not associate with worldly people in terms of their worldly interests.

Q. Why do we find so much back biting and criticism among the Gaudiya Vaisnava groups? You would think spiritual people would show more respect for one another.

A. What is needed, I believe, is a deeper understanding of guru tattva. The problem lies to a large extent with neophyte followers who cannot adjust to the fact that other gurus have different opinions. I believe it would be better for a guru to address this up front rather than cater to the mentality of neophytes. Srila Sridhara Maharaja did this early on in his siksa connection with Prabhupada’s disciples.

When he understood that the neophyte disciples were looking to him for answers that were the same as Prabhupada’s and somehow wanted him to be identical in every respect with Prabhupada, Sridhara Maharaja said, “You should know that Swami Maharaja and I are not one in all respects.” Those who could digest this continued under his guidance to develop a much deeper understanding of the dynamics of guru tattva. This is absolutely necessary if we want harmonious and respectful dealings amongst Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

Q. Can a soul enter into a test tube?

A. Yes. The test tube is an artificial womb—but it is a womb nonetheless.

Q. Srila Prabhupada has stated, “As far as heart transplants are concerned, there is no question of success, unless the recipient’s soul enters into the transplanted heart.” But there have been many successful heart transplants.

A. Prabhupada is saying here that simply by changing the physical heart one’s life is not necessarily prolonged. The soul must enter that new heart. Thus, in successful transplants, the atma leaves the old heart and enters the transplanted one.

Q. In a previous discussion on the vastraharana lila, you said, “Katayayani never appeared to fulfill the desires of the gopis after they had perfectly executed their vrata. The purport of this is that Katyayani cannot give what they desired. This is what she wanted to teach us.” I don’t comprehend this at all.

A. I have cited the opinion of Jiva Goswami. After the Katyayani vrata the goddess did not appear to fulfill the desire of the gopis. Krishna himself appeared only because of the gopis’ intense loving desire. Goddess Katyayani can give one a good husband, but she cannot give Krishna prema. Accordingly, she did not fulfill the gopis’ desire and in order to instruct us thus did not appear after the gopi’s vrata was completed.

Q. Wasn’t the worship of Katyayani only for the satisfaction of Krishna? Isn’t this the lesson of raganuga bhakti to spontaneously serve and worship the Lord and his devotees?

A. You do not understand manjari bhava. The worship of Katyayani by the gopis was with a desire for svakiya bhava. But in the Gaudiya samapradaya we cultivate parakiya bhava. The gopis in vastraharana lila were in their siddha deha. They were sadhakas who attained svarupa siddhi and took birth in Krishna lila. By the association of the nitya siddha gopis, they overcame their desire for svakiya and attained parakiya. Knowing this we should follow the lesson of this lila.

In raganuga bhakti, worship must go on in both the sadhaka deha and siddha deha. The gopis activities in the vastraharana lila should not be imitated by devotees in their sadhaka dehas. In our sadhaka deha we should follow the example that the Goswamis set.

Q. Is Siva a god like Visnu or something different?

A. Siva is a transformation of Visnu. He is like yogurt, and Visnu is like milk. Yogurt is a transformation of milk. They are the same in essence, but they function differently. For example, in relation to the world, Visnu maintains it whereas Siva destroys it. Siva tattva is very illusive. There are many manifestations of Siva; the destroyer god, the yogi, the Vaisnava, gopa, gopi, etc.

Q. In a previous discussion you said the Bhagavatam’s statement about Siva being the greatest Vaisnava was not true. How could the Bhagavatam say something untrue?

A. Siva is no doubt a complex tattva. The statement in the Bhagavatam in which he is glorifed as the greatest Vaisnava comes in the propaganda section at the end of the Purana. Therein the Bhagavata is glorifying itself. It states that just as the Ganga is the best of rivers and Acyuta the best God, and Siva (Sambhu) the greatest Vaisnava, similarly the Bhagavata is the best of the Puranas. Then it goes on to say in the following verse, ksetranam caiva sarvesam yatha kasi hy anuttama: “Just as Kasi is the holiest place, etc.”

In this way the Bhagavatam is glorified. Now, we may find many wonderful things to say about Siva by which we can demonstrate that he is a great Vaisnava, but it is not possible to demonstrate that he is the “greatest” Vaisnava—not from Bhagavata nor from any other scripture. And when we turn to Kasi, the abode of Mahadeva, we cannot say much. There are many other places higher than Kasi for the Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

Thus, although it is true that Siva is an exalted Vaisnava and we should worship him in this light, the specific mention of him and Kasi in this section of the Bhagavatam is propaganda. Propaganda need not be untruthful, but it often stretches the truth. Siva is the greatest Vaisnava amongst the yogis and Kasi is the holiest place for them as well. Saying this, the Bhagavata draws the attention of the Saivaites to itself, endearing them to its precepts. I see no harm in this, no compromise on the part of the Bhagavata. It is, after all, couched in a Puranic setting, and it is common for the Puranas to exaggerate with the intention of drawing people to their precept. Indeed, the Bhagavata itself mentions this type of preaching strategy:

paroksa-vado vedo ‘yam
balanam anusasanam
karma-moksaya karmani
vidhatte hy agadam yatha

The scripture speaks in veiled language to those, who, like children, are attracted to things that are not good for them, and thus desire material benefits. The scripture offers fruits for adhering to its injunctions just to get such people involved in religious life, while the real purpose of the scripture is to facilitate their liberation from material life. Just as a parent offers candy to a child to induce him to take medicine, so the scripture offers material benefits to child-like persons to induce them to follow its injunctions. The benefit of this adherence far exceeds any material benefits that may or may not result from following the scripture.

Q. Are there not two Sivas—one on this side and one on the other who is fully transcendental; Sadasiva, Mahavishnu? Mustn’t Siva then also be empowered with hladini sakti, being fully surrendered to Ananta Sesa and with a permanent place as the protector of Vrindavana?

A. What you say about Gopisvara is the Gaudiya understanding of Mahadeva’s highest reach. This, however, is not brought out directly in the Bhagavatam. The place of Siva given in the Bhagavatam is brought out by Sanatana Goswami in Brihatbhagavatamrita. Therein, he represents only jnana misra bhakti. He is no doubt a complex tattva, and incidentally, my namesake.

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