Found in Sanga, Sanga 2004.

Q. What does it mean when we read that the svarupa (spiritual form) of the jiva (individual soul) is dormant and awaits activation? Perhaps it’s just another way of saying, “Who you are is waiting to be uncovered,” but I’m having a hard time conceptualizing a “dormant” spiritual body awaiting “activation” when the jiva is liberated.

A. In his commentary on Gopala-tapani Upanisad, Sri Jiva Goswami addresses this issue by saying that “the svarupa of the liberated soul exists eternally in a dormant condition and is awakened through the cultivation of bhakti.” Sri Jiva says the following about the svarupa in his Priti-sandarbha (10): “In the spiritual world, there are innumerable spiritual forms expanding from the effulgence of Bhagavan. When liberated souls attain these forms, Bhagavan enjoys pastimes with them.”

Each of these spiritual forms is constituted of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. These forms are embodiments of Krishna prema, through which liberated souls participate in Krishna lila. They exist in a dormant condition prior to the individual soul’s attainment of liberation and are activated by the grace of Bhakti-devi.

Caitanya-caritamrta explains the same idea thus, nitya-siddha krishna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya sravanadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya: “Love of Krishna exists in eternal perfection. It is not something that is ‘attained’ (as the fruits of karma are). By engaging in hearing and other forms of bhakti, one’s consciousness is purified and prema awakens.”

It is important to note that the spiritual svarupa of the jiva is manifest in an act of grace. Regardless of how hard or how well one practices, actual svarupavesa is entirely dependent on revelation. It is sva-prakasa, self-manifest. Therefore saranagati, the surrender of resigning oneself to a life of devotion, must be emphasized more than anything else for those who desire to attain their svarupa.

Q. When did the worship of Radha-Krishna Deities begin and who was the first to establish Deity worship of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu?

A. It is generally accepted that the Deity worship of Sri Krishna standing next to Radha was begun by the direct associates of Sriman Mahaprabhu known as the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana. Their personal Deities are still worshiped in Vrindavana and Rajasthana. The Deities of Rupa Goswami, the leader of the Six Goswamis, are worshiped today in a temple located on the grounds of the Maharaja’s City Palace in Jaipur. Throngs of residents and pilgrims flock there before sunrise to worship and adore Sri Sri Radha-Govindaji.

The first Deity of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in Navadwipa. Mahaprabhu told his mother just before he took sannyasa that after leaving home he would appear again as her son in his Deity form and that she would be his mother in the form of the earth from which the Deity would manifest, mora arca murti’ mata tumi se dharani. After he accepted sannyasa, this Deity form was installed with the approval of his wife, Sri Visnupriya. This Deity is still being worshipped in Nadiya. The first Deities of Sri Caitanya and Nityananda (Gaura-Nitai) are still worshipped today in Kalna. Gauridasa Pandita, a disciple of Nityananda Prabhu, established these Deities during the manifest lila of Gaura-Nitai.

I believe it was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura who began the worship of Deities of Radha-Krishna and Caitanya Mahaprabhu on the same altar, following his slogan sri krishna caitanya radha krishna nahe anya rupanuga janera jivana, “Sri Krishna Caitanya and Radha-Krishna are one. This is the very life of the followers of Rupa Goswami.”

Q. I have been reading a book about Navadvipa Dhama, the place of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s birth and pastimes before he took sannyasa. In the book it said that before hearing or remembering the transcendental pastimes of Mahaprabhu, one should meditate on the beautiful abode of the Lord, and one’s own spiritual form as an eternal friend and servant of Lord Caitanya. Then the book gives a description of Navadvipa Dhama as to how it “rises like a turtle’s back,” how the trees are made of self-effulgent gems, etc.

There are other descriptions of transcendental Navadvipa as well. The book Sri Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is an extended meditation on the dhama, revealed to the inner vision of the Thakura and graciously passed on to the followers of Mahaprabhu. I really like the idea of meditating on Navadvipa Dhama, but I have my own idea of what that is. So my humble request is for you to share any thoughts you have on the matter.

A. The Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition speaks of meditating on Navadwipa Dhama from the vantage point of one’s spiritual identity in Gaura lila, as his eternal servant/friend. However, in order to engage in the process of Navadwipa dhyana one requires substantial spiritual attainment based on a firm foundation of faith in Mahaprabhu and, in the least, quite a bit more instruction on the matter.

Some lineages in the Gaudiya sampradaya instruct members in great detail about smaranam (meditation), as smaranam is central to raganuga-bhakti. In such lineages the guru tells disciples their siddha dehas and instructs them in an elaborate process of manasi seva (service in the lila within the mind). This begins with a static meditation on a particular lila or the yoga pitha/altar (mantra mayi) and is eventually developed into a dynamic dhyana of the free-flowing movement of the lila (svarasiki).

Disciples in these lineages are told of their siddha deha in the nitya lila of Mahaprabhu, which for all Gaudiya practitioners in Gaura lila is that of a brahmana boy, a servant bordering on friendship (the ideal guru-disciple relationship: visrambhena guroh seva). The corresponding siddha deha of the disciple in Krishna lila will vary according to one’s spiritual taste.

However, many so-called gurus have abused instruction on manasi seva in Krishna and Gaura lila. The word siddha generally means liberated but it can also mean ‘cooked’. In Bengal it is said that many gurus are more involved in getting their own ‘siddha’ (cooked) potatoes than they are in giving out actual siddha dehas. In other words it is still common for so-called gurus in Gaudiya Vaisnavism to make a business out of selling a type of siddha deha initiation. Even today in some pilgrimage places anyone regardless of the qulification can go from guru to guru and receive one’s so-called eternal spiritual form from one guru and a different one from another, with each siddha deha said to be given to the guru in meditation. This leads discerning people to doubt whether any of these gurus are actually qualified and capable of revealing to disciples their siddha dehas. It also creates a disturbance for those gurus who are actually realized.

To caution against such fraudulent or premature practice, our lineage, that of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, does not stress this kind of manasi seva in any detail before one enters the advanced stage of nistha (fixed devotion) and more so the stages of ruci and asakti (positive spiritual attainment). These three are the final stages of sadhana-bhakti in which the mind is controlled first by intellect and sustained spiritual practice (nistha) and later by the softened spiritual heart and spiritual attachment (ruci and asakti). Furthermore, rather than learned manasi seva, we stress natural manasi seva arising out of kirtana. In the words of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, kirtana prabhave smarana svabhave se kale bhajana-nirjana sambhava: “Meditation on one’s siddha deha arises out of kirtana, and at that time one can sit in solitary bhajana.”

This is not to say that remembering the dhama and the pastimes of Mahaprabhu and Krishna as described in scripture is taboo until one reaches advanced stages of practice. Rather what we are saying is that when one is actually advanced such meditation becomes truly possible in a substantial sense. In the meantime one should concentrate on guru seva, kirtana of Krishna nama, and dhyana of Krishna nama (japa) and one’s diksa mantra. At the same time, one can try one’s best to remember Mahaprabhu and Krishna’s forms, qualities, pastimes, abode, and so on during one’s service throughout the day.

For example, the altar in the temple is like the yoga pitha from which the lila expands. When entering the temple or the altar for seva puja, one can chant Mahaprabhu’s verse naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro naham varni na ca grha-patir no vana-stho yatir va, kintu prodyan nikhila-paramananda-purnamrtabdher gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah, “I am not a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, or sudra. I am not a brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha, or sannyasi. What am I? I am the eternal servant of the servant of the servant of the master of the gopis.” This verse is about transferring one’s consciousness from one’s sadhaka deha to one’s siddha deha in a general sense. One can also gather verses describing the spiritual significance of Navadwipa, such as its nondifference from Vrindavana, as well as verses describing its beauty and charm. Such verses have spiritual power and one should chant these verses as part of one’s sadhana.

Chanting the naham vipro verse, one can conceive of oneself as an eternal servant/friend of Nimai Pandita (Mahaprabhu before he took sannyasa). Nimai Pandita is the madhura (sweet) name of our ista devata, whom we will serve in eternal Navadwipa Dhama. At his auspicious morning arati, we perform kirtana with a purified heart, envisioning Gaurasundara as he rises to the sound of Hari katha from the mouths of suka and sari (male and female parrots). At this time he is absorbed in meditation on the separation of Radha-Govinda, which was caused by the coming of the sunrise.

We can also think of the wonder of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, who with his associates serves Gaura in every way—as his sacred thread, bed, shoes and umbrella—and of mother Sacidevi as she calls Gaura along with other elderly ladies and performs the mangala arati. In this way, we remember Nimai and his abode throughout the day and in the evening we again assemble at the altar consecrated to Gaurasundara. There through kirtana of Krishna nama, we conceive of entering the house of Srivasa where Nimai Pandita sings the sweet name of Krishna without end, as he tastes his own Vraja lila and grants entrance to those humble souls who cherish this ideal.

Leave a Reply

* Name, Email, and Comment are Required

Subscribe without commenting