Found in Sanga, Sanga 2003.

Q. I understand the value of brahmacarya (celibate spiritual life) but at this point it seems to be beyond my grasp. I read about Gandhi and how he struggled before he could attain to this holy state and in his writings he discusses the value of diet for a celibate. Is there a specific diet I could follow or any other advice that you could offer that might help me maintain celibacy?

A. A sattvic diet is best for celibacy. Eat simply. Eat to live; don’t live to eat. Avoid spicy foods, onions, garlic, meat, fish, and eggs. Bhagavad-gita teaches that a sattvic diet is best for spiritual life in general. Sattva refers to the quality of goodness, which is said to be illuminating. A sattvic diet is vegetarian, one that avoids overly spicy foods as well as onions and garlic, because these foods are said to excite passion (rajas). Meat, fish, and eggs are products of unnecessary violence and are considered unclean. Above all, one should eat in gratitude and service to God.

Controlling the tongue is directly related to controlling the genital urge. Therefore for celibate life one must be careful of not only what one eats but also of what one says. The urge to speak and be heard—to argue to win the argument—must be brought under control. Speech should be only about God and for God.

To maintain a vow of celibacy, it is also very important to keep good company with others who are similar minded. This is best done by living in a monastery with others who have given up the desire for family life to more directly pursue spiritual advancement. Live in this way and make the ideal of your life God consciousness—love of God—and learn to see everything in relation to God. In this vision, women and men are not objects for the pleasure of one’s senses. Bodies are dwelling places of individual souls and God—places of worship.

Q. Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote, “The sufferings and miseries that I endure in my service to Krishna are the source of my greatest joy.” Can you elaborate on the meaning of this?

A. In a general sense this means that bhakti is a labor of love. Tolerating suffering in the cultivation of God consciousness retires karmic obstacles. One with this vision will see suffering as joy. The Thakura’s words may also refer to the stage of raga, which is a developmental stage within prema (not to be confused with the path of raga). In the stage of raga, extreme suffering is experienced as happiness if it brings about union with Krishna. For example, in the heat of the summer when Sri Radha goes to see Krishna tending the cows she may learn that he is on the other side of Govardhana Hill. Even though her tender feet are pierced and scorched because the stones on Govardhana are sharp and hot from the sun, she feels no pain whatsoever as she climbs to the top of the mountain in delight at the prospect of seeing Krishna.

Q. I went to Navadwipa with a devotee who was previously involved with ISKCON and Gaudiya Math. This devotee left those organizations because he said that they came from Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who was not qualified to be a guru because he was not connected through guru-pranali (line of gurus) to a direct associate of Sri Caitanya. He also said that one should not accept a guru based on how one perceives his radiance, spirituality, or experiences his inspiration, but rather on whether or not he is connected by guru-pranali. In his opinion, understanding the principle of guru is very simple and can be compared to electric current. He said if the line is broken or not there, then the person is not connected and therefore not qualified to give diksa (initiation) or siksa (instruction). Can you please comment on this?

A. I have written in detail on this subject and other related themes such as Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s approach to raganuga bhakti and the awakening of one’s svarupa (spiritual identity) in my booklet Sri Guru-parampara.

I am surprised that this argument regarding the diksa of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura is still being given credence. It is an old argument that involves among other things the speculation that the Thakura was not initiated.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was initiated by Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, a universally acknowledged siddha mahatma. He was also closely associated with the Gaudiya reformer Thakura Bhaktivinoda, his father and siksa guru who asked him to begin a preaching mission.

The speculation that he was not initiated began because he did not stress his connection to the diksa guru-pranali of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji or that of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Instead he stressed his connection to Gaurakisora dasa Babaji through diksa and Bhaktivinoda Thakura through siksa, and from there he traced his connection through the siksa of Jagannatha dasa Babaji, Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s siksa guru. In this way he conceived of himself as being connected to a lineage of siddhas (siddha pranali) related to each other either through diksa or siksa extending back to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. At the time, there were a number of diksa lineages that lacked spiritual substance and made more of a trade out of initiation than imparting spirituality. Through preaching and example, Bhaktisiddhanta wanted to dissuade people from being intimidated by disciplic lines that while able to trace their connection to an associate of Mahaprabhu through diksa, had nonetheless over time become corrupt or less than spiritually vital.

Thus the first mistake made by the devotee whose advice you have asked me about is his speculation that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was not initiated. Secondly, he advises you not to be taken in by your experience of someone’s apparent spirituality even when it inspires you, but to put more stress on making sure that all the dots are connected from one guru to the previous one through diksa. In saying this he asks you to conclude that someone who is clearly connected on paper but cannot inspire you and has no (spiritual) radiance is better because that person can prove that he is “connected” by guru-pranali. Your advisor has used the example of electricity and says if the wires are not connected, how can there be any (spiritual) current? Good point. However, our point in return is that if there is current, how can the wires not be connected? And if there is no current (apparent spirituality) even though the wires in every other way seem to be connected, perhaps there is another problem.

The Gaudiya Saraswata sampradaya coming through Bhaktivinoda Thakura to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and his disciples and grand disciples has enough spiritual current to have fulfilled Mahaprabhu’s prophecy that his name would be heard in every town and village. Such power of distribution is the right of those who have possession of the commodity they distribute. It requires krishna sakti: krishna sakti vina nahe tara pravartana. What is the sakti that spreads the sankirtana of Mahaprabhu? That is Sri Krishna’s svarupa sakti (samvit and hladini sakti), which constitutes bhakti proper (bhava bhakti).

By distributing both the name of Krishna and realized and relevant instructions regarding the means to attain full spiritual experience of the Name, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and members of his lineage have proven both their connection to the spiritual current descending from Mahaprabhu as well as their own spiritual substance. Still, we should not succumb to the idea that because the line of Bhaktisiddhanta has exhibited such spiritual vitality in the past that any guru in this line must be qualified because the line is qualified. This may not be the case, as Bhaktisiddhanta taught that even though a guru is in a qualified line he or she must still have substantial spiritual realization in order to give diksa and relevant siksa to support the diksa.

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