Guru Parampara cover

Sri Guru-Parampara

Softbound, 40 pages, 5" x 7"

table of contents

excerpt

Sri Bhaktisidhanta Saraswati Thakura gave shape to the divine vision of Kedarnatha Thakura Bhaktivinoda, establishing sixty-four monasteries throughout India and a prolific publishing arm. His mission also reached out to the West beyond the borders of India. However, the shape of his mission led some to believe that he had deviated from the substance of Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s precepts, especially with regard to the esoteric path of raganuga-bhakti. Nothing could be further from the truth. This fifty-page booklet discusses Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura’s approach to raganuga-bhakti and how it represents the spirit of what he imbibed from Thakura Bhaktivinoda.


Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1:

Siddha-pranali-diksa and the eligibility for raganuga bhakti

Chapter 2:

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura's approach to raganuga bhakti

Chapter 3:

In defense of the siksa parampara

Chapter 4:

The Gaudiya Saraswata sampradaya today

Appendix

From Anartha-Nivrtti to Artha-Pravrtti

Notes


Excerpt

From the Introduction

In this chapter, I wish to examine the sensitive issue of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura's critique of prevalent practices in the sampradaya and his analysis of the modalities of raganuga sadhana. I intend to investigate a number of questions: What was Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura's criticism of siddha-pranali diksa? Why did he not institute it in his mission? Is it possible for his followers to attain Vraja bhakti without this initiation? And what is the guru parampara of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura? While he may have criticized others justly, did he throw the baby out with the bath water when he abandoned the siddha-pranali diksa?

From Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura's Approach to Raganuga Bhakti

There is no record of Bhaktisiddhanta ever receiving siddha-pranali diksa from his diksa guru, Gaura Kisora dasa babaji. Some of his followers say that he was told by Gaura Kisora that he would realize his svarupa in the syllables of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Bhaktisiddhanta fashioned his own approach to realizing one's spiritual identity and engaging in raganuga sadhana, one that appears to have been based on practices predating siddha-pranali diksa. His approach has its foundation in the sastra and the spiritual common sense that pierces the veil of the literal word addressing its intent. In this approach, he laid more stress on kirtan than smaranam. Kirtan can be practiced by all, whereas smaranam requires a degree of purity for its practice to be effective. Kirtan cleanses the heart and qualifies one for smaranam. Attempts at smaranam for beginners are questionable. Smaranam is not a mental practice, but rather the result of subjugating the mind, and kirtan is most effective in bringing about this subjugation. Thus, although raganuga bhakti involves, smaranam, kirtan is its primary limb. Addressing imitative smaranam, Bhaktisiddhanta wrote in his famous song Vaisnava ke: “Smaranam can occur by the power of kirtan, and only then is solitary service possible.”

In Bhakti-sandarbha, Jiva Goswami emphasizes the relative importance of kirtan over smaranam thus: “These words of the Visnu Purana show that the glorification of the Lord (kirtan) is much more importance than meditation, which leads in stages to samadhi.” Bhaktisiddhanta dubbed the printing press brhat-mrdanga, great drum, reasoning that the chanting of the sacred name could be heard for a few blocks, whereas the printed kirtan could be heard around the world. He considered the printing press to belong to raga-marga of raganuga sadhana. He stressed this all-consuming notion of kirtana to his disciples and supplemented it with esoteric diksa mantras.

From the Conclusion

As ISKCON continues its worldwide preaching campaign, it needs to pause and ask itself what the goal of such preaching is. Its senior members need greater theoretical acquaintance with their heritage and its esoteric practices, so they don't mistake them to be the property of those whom Bhaktisiddhanta opposed, rather than their own. They need to unite with the rest of the family of Bhaktisiddhanta, which would help them to unite with one another. The members of ISKCON need to remember that other than their Founder Acarya's stress on preaching, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was concerned that though this they would actually awaken to the inner life of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. They need to remember the criterion for ISKCON's success drawn from the words of Bhaktisiddhanta that Bhaktivedanta Swami sometimes cited: “If I could perfectly deliver even one soul back to home, back to Godhead, I would think my mission of propagating Krsna consciousness to be successful.”

ISKCON is not alone in falling short of the ideal of Bhaktisiddhanta. Today, his followers, now in various institutions, are faced with a spiritual crisis. They themselves are not unified, what to speak of unifying all Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The followers of Bhaktisiddhanta must take care to guard against institutionalized conceptions of spiritual succession obscuring the spiritual descent. As he was prepared to critique his own tradition, so they in his spirit should be prepared to offer constructive criticism to not only those who continue to inappropriately offer siddha-pranali diksa but when appropriate, to their own lineage as well.