Found in Sanga, Sanga 2000.

Q. Some people say that until you reach the stage of prema you need a siksa guru. Is that correct?

A. Someone may say this in order to get many devotees to follow him. The term “siksa guru” is often used very generously. Anyone, especially the Godbrother of the Guru who often instructs us, is sometimes considered the siksa guru. Previous acaryas are also considered to be siksa gurus. One who actually takes shelter of and regularly renders service to a living siksa guru is far more rare. We do not find many of the stalwart disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura setting this example. Although many of them thought highly of Sridhara Maharaja, for example, and in a general sense referred to him as a siksa guru, they themselves had their own missions and did not have an ongoing relationship with him.

We should not be intimidated to find a siksa guru upon the disappearance of our gurudeva. If this comes naturally, take it a as a blessing. Furthermore, the level of one’s own advancement will determine how he or she takes siksa. An advanced devotee can actually take siksa from sastra and the previous acaryas writings. Whereas neophytes cannot do so and thus they are in need of advaced devotees’ association to understand the import of their writings.

Q. In a previous discussion you mentioned that Ramananda Raya was Visahka, one of the main assistants to Srimati Radharani Would not Visahka’s extreme and exclusive attachment to Srimati Radharani preclude direct service to Krishna as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?

A. Acaryas differ on the position of Ramananda Raya. Kavikarnapura has identified him with Lalita sakhi. He also identifies him with the priyanarma sakha Arjuna as well as pura sambandhi Pandava Arjuna. Bhaktivinoda Thakura identifies him with Visakha gopi. Visakha gopi would have been the ideal person to assist Gauranga Mahaprabhu in his efforts to understand the highest ideal of Radha dasyam (service to Radha), and it was Ramananda Raya who instructed him in this regard.

Because of Ramananda’s identification with Pandava Arjuna, some consider that the Bhagavad-gita lila of Krishna was reenacted in Gaura lila in the form of the Ramananda samvada, Mahaprabhu’s conversation with Ramananda. Both of these conversations involve the discussion of a gradation of spiritual ideals. In the Ramananda samvada Ramananda/Arjuna takes the place of the teacher and Gauranga/Krishna the place of the student. This is a reversal of the roles in the Gita, in which Krishna is the teacher and Arjuna the student.

In the Ramananda samvada Gauranga tests Arjuna/Ramananda’s understanding of the highest reach of his lessons imparted in the Gita. Thus, this sacred conversation between Ramanada Raya and Gauranga allows Gaudiya Gita commentators to reach beyond the general understanding that was prominent during the time of Garua lila, an understanding that renders the conclusion of the Gita to be more concerned with renunciation than prema (love). Accordingly, while Mahaprabhu considered the Gita’s conclusion to be external when Ramananda cited it, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura compared it to the flute sound of Krishna calling the gopis to dance with him in rasa lila, the Gita’s clarion call.

Q. Are nitya siddhas of the tatastha sakti and therfore marginal and subject to illusion? (I am not referring to those siddhas who by dint of saddhana have attained to nitya siddha but those souls who have never been bewildered).

A. There are different kinds of nitya siddhas. Some of them are constituted of the tatastha sakti (marginal/intermediate potency) and others are constituted of God’s svarupa sakti (internal/primary potency). Neither of them are subject to illusion.

Q. The sacred literature has divided human consciousness into four stages: ordinary waking consciousness, dreaming consciousness, deep sleep (sushupti), and turiya, total awareness. How does turiya relate to Krishna bhakti? Do we go through these stages in succession?

A. I have explained this in my book Tattva-sandarbha. The first three dimensions of consciousness are material, the waking state (jagara), dream state (svapna), and deep sleep (susupti). The fourth, turiya, represents consciousness unencumbered by material influence. The idea is that consciousness, of which the self is constituted, exists in our wakeful state of material experience, as it continues during sleep. In sleep we dream and experience the mental realm, whereas during our waking state the physical plane has more bearing on our lives.

The question arises as to what happens to the self during deep sleep, when one is unconscious of both the physical and mental realms of experience. The scripture answers that upon awakening from deep dreamless sleep one remembers existing in that condition. This is evidenced by the common expression, “I slept well!” One cannot remember something one has no experience of. I may remember a golden mountain without ever experiencing one, but not without having experienced gold and a mountain.

Thus in deep sleep when intelligence is transformed by the mode of ignorance (tama guna), the self continues to exist, as it does when intelligence is transformed by the mode of passion during the dream condition and during the wakeful condition when intellect is transformed by goodness (sattva guna). The self is thus independent of the body and mind. If the physical and mental realms were to shut down, the self would continue to exist. This we know from our experience in deep sleep.

Realizing this involves entering the fourth dimension of consciousness (turiya). This is the goal of all transcendentalists, except for the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The Gaudiyas are interested in something more: turyatitah gopala. This is the fifth dimension, in which one comes face to face with Gopal Krishna in Vraja Dhama, from adhoksaja to aprakrta, from God consciousness to Krishna consciousness.

Q. Have you ever had to retract an answer you made in the past in favor of a more developed answer now based on your progressive growth and understanding?

A. I do not recall having to do this since I began accepting students, but I could envision doing so. If I were to answer questions today that I answered years ago, I would undoubtedly give more comprehensive answers.

Q. In any field of study no one person can know everything and even an expert will sometimes have to say, “I will research that and reply later when I am clear on the answer.” Is this the case in relation to spiritual enlightenment? Do you ever have to respond like that?

A. I am not omniscient. There are many things I do not know. If I do not know an answer to a question, or if I want to think about and feel out the question before I answer in order to do justice to it, I say so. Although I am well read, there are many books I have not studied carefully. For the most part I have a feeling for Gaudiya Vaisnavism, and this feeling guides me.

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