Found in Sanga, Sanga 2000.

Q. Could you elaborate on the three classes of siddhas you mentioned who are qualified to serve in the capacity of guru, bhagavat prasad deha prapt, nirdhuta kasaya, and murcchita kasaya?

A. Jiva Goswami has described these three maha bhagavatas in his Bhakti-sandarbha. Based on this description, Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja has spoken of three types of gurus in his book, Sri Guru and His Grace. The idea is that the fully realized guru has both feet in the spiritual world and extends one here. He is the bhagavat prasad deha prapt maha bhagavata. This person is very hard to find. Narada Muni traveling everywhere in his siddha deha is the example given by Sri Jiva.

Jiva Goswami cites Sukadeva Goswami as an example of nirdhuta kasaya. He was free from material desire and in this sense he had one foot extended into the spiritual world. Jiva Goswami cites the example of Narada before he received his spiritual body as an example of murcchita kasaya. At that time he had both feet in the material world, but his eyes were fixed on the spiritual world. He was still influenced by sattva guna. In the opinion of Sridhara Maharaja any of these three can give diksa.

Q. You wrote recently about “neophyte followers who cannot adjust to the fact that other gurus have different opinions.” If the siksa guru supports the teachings of the diksa guru, how can there be different opinions?

A. The siksa guru supports or nourishes that which is imparted at the time of diksa (divya jnana). However, he may differ in terms of his opinion on relative issues, such as management, approaches to practice, etc. A mature disciple must be able to sort out that which is relative and that which is absolute in the teachings in order to live within a plurality of gurus.

Q. What constitutes an offense to one’s guru? How can one avoid unintentional offenses?

A. An offense usually implies malicious intent. However, it is possible to have the best of intentions and still commit an offense. Some basic knowledge of Gaudiya siddhanta along with common sense is required.

Q. If one is already a disciple of a great spiritual master who is no longer living, can one take initiation again from another highly qualified guru?

A. It would be offensive to do so. If the other guru is highly qualified and respects the great initiating guru, then he should offer siksa, not diksa.

Q. What exactly does “narayanah paro vyaktat” mean?

A. “Narayanah paro vyaktat” is a statement found in the Gita bhasya of Sankara. It means one thing to Sankara and another to Vaisnavas. Literally it means that Narayana is superior (para) to the unmanifest (avyaktah). In the Gita the word “avayaktah” refers to the material world in its unmanifest state (Bg.8.20). It is also used in the Gita in reference to Brahma’s sleep (Bg.8.18).

While Sankara agrees that Narayana is superior to the world, he considers him to be a manifestation of Brahman in his so called practical (vyavaharic) reality that does not exist in ultimate (paramarthic) reality. Thus according to Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta, Narayana himself is not the ultimate reality.

Vaisnavas disagree with this opinion. They consider Narayana to be transcendental (para) to the material world and consider him to be the highest expression of reality.

Q. Re: the difference between a mayavadi and brahmavadi. Is it true Vallabhacarya defeated the Mayavadis utilizing Brahmavad philosophy? I also heard the Vallabha sampradaya, or pusthi marg, is very personal in their worship of the Absolute. Comment?

A. Yes, Vallabha, following Visnu Swami, taught a form of brahmavada more commonly known as suddhadvaita, pure non-dualism, which is strongly at odds with Sankara’s doctrine of advaita. Srila Rupa Goswami mentions the pusthi marg favorably in his Bhaktirasamrita sindhu. He says that it is similar to his conception of raga bhakti.

Q. How can it be said that moksa is a reaction to exploitation? And how can dharma, artha, kama, and moksa, be classified as deceptions? Weren’t great personalities like Nanda Maharaj and Yudhisthira Maharaja pursuing these goals?

A. The desires for dharma, artha, kama, and moksa cheat the heart from attaining prema. Otherwise, these four are the goals of life, and the literature on dharma and moksa are relevant to religious life leading to liberation. As desire for dharma, artha, and kama are to be transcended to attain moksa, so desire for all four of these must be transcended to attain prema. Moksa is a reaction to the suffering brought about by material desire because it is concerned with ending material suffering.

Q. If Vyasadeva wrote the Mahabharata for less intelligent people, how come the Bhagavad-gita is contained within it?

A. This is Vyasa’s genius. The general public will be attracted to the romance, political intrigue, and war of the Mahabharata. Yet in the course of reading it, just when the war is about to begin, when readers are on the edge of their seats with full attention, the Bhagavad-gita begins.

Q. I have read where the Jiva is qualitatively one with the Absoslute but not quantitatively. Elsewhere it says the jiva is neither qualitatively nor quantitatively one with the Absolute. Which is it?

A. Jiva souls are qualitatively one with God in the sense that they, like him, are constituted of consciousness. However, God also has qualities that the jivas do not have. So when we look more closely at the issue we can say that the jiva souls and God are different in both quality and quantity. When we speak in broader terms we can say that jivas are different in quantity but one in quality with God.

Q. What was the age of Krishna when he performed rasa lila? Do we know anything about Radha’s part in the lila ?

A. Krishna was about seven when he performed rasa lila. In my book, Aesthetic Vedanta: The Sacred Path of Passionate Love, I discuss the five chapters in Srimad Bhagavatam describing rasa lila, both in terms of their philosophical ramifications and their implications with regard to spiritual practice. The book is available here.

Q. Re: vibhavas, stimulations for ecstatic love. How do qualities stimulate ecstatic love?

A. The qualities of the object of your love stimulate that love, do they not? If you love someone and then hear about their qualities, it gives rise to that love.

Q. In a recent discussion you said that Siva is a transformation of Visnu. Are they not one and the same?

A. Siva is best thought of from the Vaisnava perspective as a devotee of Krishna. But he is also God, although somewhat differently from the way in which Rama and Krishna are God. Then again, Sadasiva is God in every respect. Siva is a complex tattva. Always keep the highest regard for him.

Q. Where is it said that Siva is manifestation of Krishna?

A. In the Fourth Canto, Chapter 24, of Srimad Bhagavatam, Siva offers many nice prayers to Vasudeva (Krishna) in which he addresses him as the cause of all causes, the supreme person, etc. There are many scriptural statements that explain Siva to be a manifestation of Krishna. For example, in Brahma-samhita Siva is described as a manifestation of Krishna. Therein, Krishna is compared to milk and Siva to milk transformed into yogurt, ksiram yatha dadhi vikara-visesa-yogat. (5.45).

Q. Do we have two hearts, a physical and spiritual? Is it the spiritual heart, and not the physical, where the soul resides resting on five different kinds of air?

A. According to Vedanta Sutra, the idea that God resides in the physical heart the size of the thumb is for the sake of conceptualization during meditation, and is thus a metaphorical description. The size of the thumb refers to the size of the human heart. God is in reality all pervading and atomic at the same time.

The soul is atomic in size, although it is described in the Gita as all-pervading, sarva gatah. “Gatah” also means “dependent.” The individual soul is dependent on God who is everything (sarva). The soul actually resides in the physical heart while embodied, and a portion of that heart lights up and guides the soul at the time of the its passing from the body into liberated life.

The soul also has a figurative heart of its own, its essence—a unit of dedicating tendency. Its heart is its svarupa.

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