The ISKCON and Gaudiya Math Parampara
A brief look into the history and essential
meaning of the ISKCON
and Gaudiya Math parampara.
by Swami B. G. Narasingha
(Jagat Guru Dasa)
(The following article has been written to counteract the accusation that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada and his disciples and grand disciples are not in the Parampara of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. This accusation has recently appeared on the internet and therefore our response is being posted on VNN. For the most part the western community of devotees are unaware of the early histories surrounding the preaching movement of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and the types of opposition which they encountered. We hope this article will better aquaint the devotees with the facts and also send a message to the anti-party that we are not so uninformed as they would like to think - nor are we likely to depart from the siddhanta of Saraswati Thakur in favor of the imitationist process)
It so happens that from time to time over the centuries the movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has come under strong criticism and ridicule by those who are either uninformed about the actual practice of pure devotional service or by those who are overtly envious of the Supreme Lord and His pure devotees, the anti-party.
During the 1920s and 30s as well as recently as 1998 the anti-party has revived a certain propaganda that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur is not in the parampara of Bhaktivinode Thakur. It is the suggestion of the anti-party that Saraswati Thakur had no guru connection with Bhaktivinode whatsoever. Since Gaura Kishore dasa Babaji Maharaja was the diksa-guru (one who gives guru-mantra to gopal-mantra and kama-gayatri) of Saraswati Thakur his parampara, they say, should be traced to the Adwaita-parivad (disciplic succession in the family of Adwaita) and not to Bhaktivinode Thakur whom they say is in the Nityananda-parivad. It is also their thinking that Bhaktivinode Thakur did not regard Jagannatha das Babaji as his substantial guru (siksa-guru).
Furthermore it is the contention of the anti-party that since Saraswati Thakur did not receive siddha-pranali from Bhaktivinode Thakura he should not be considered his true follower and one who does not receive siddha-pranali, they say, cannot attain Vraja-bhakti. The anti-party is so strong on this point that they even go so far as to say that Bhaktivinode Thakur was not pleased with Saraswati Thakur due to Saraswati Thakur having wholesale rejected Bipin Bihari Goswami (the diksa-mantra/ pancaratrika-mantra-guru) of Bhaktivinode Thakur. Therefore they say that Bhaktivinode did not give siddha-pranali to him, as if rejecting Saraswati Thakur.
It is a fact that Bhaktivinode sent Saraswati Thakur to Gaura Kishore das Babaji for initiation and it is universally accepted that Babaji was a siddha-mahatma. The fact that Bhaktivinode did send Saraswati to Gaura Kishore is proof that he saw in the Babaji a higher conception than he found in his own diksa-guru - otherwise he could easily have corrected Saraswati and sent him to Bipin Bihari Goswami. But he didn't.
The anti-party draws their line of disciplic succession from Bipin Bihari Goswami to Bhaktivinode Thakur, to Lalit Prasad Thakur (the brother of Bhaktisiddhanta) to Gadadhara-pran and a few others.
The word "anti-party" has been chosen by Saraswati Thakur and his disciples to best describe the so-called disciplic succession going under the name of siddha-pranali because of their actually being in direct opposition to the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. There is such a thing as siddha-pranali and Krishna das Kaviraja Goswami has described siddha-pranali in his commentary to Krishna-karnamrta. He says that both siddha-pranali and chanting the holy name are bona fide, but Kaviraja concludes by saying that of the two - the process of taking the name of Krishna is superior. One becomes pure by chanting the name without offense and the holy name itself reveals the astakala-lila (eight-fold pastimes), being nondifferent from Krishna and His lilas. (This reference available at Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta)
The first doubt raised by the anti-party is that the actual guru of Bhaktivinode Thakur was Bipin Bihari Goswami and not Jagannatha dasa Babaji. They say that to consider Jagannatha das Babaji as the guru of Bhaktivinode is an offense. They consider this so because Bhaktivinode Thakur accepted diksa from Bipin Bihari Goswami in 1881 and he never received any such initiation from Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. Thus the anti-party wishes to discredit the parampara line as shown by Saraswati Thakur in his song "Guru Parampara" and simultaneously they wish to establish their own line as the true parampara of Bhaktivinode Thakur.
Bhaktivinode Thakur went on pilgrimage to Vrindavana in 1881 at which time he met Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. The Thakur received many spiritual instructions from Babaji Maharaja and the Thakur accepted him as his substantial guru (siksa-guru). Bhaktivinode has referred to Jagannatha Dasa Babaji as vaisnava-sarvabhaumah, the most revered and worshipable Vaishnava:
tvam, nirdesta saj-jana-priyah
vaisnava-sarvabhaumah, sri-jagannathaya namah
"I offer my respectful obeisance to Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja who is respected and worshipped by the entire Vaishnava community and who discovered the birth place where Sri Caitanyadeva appeared."
This raises another interesting point: With the help of Jagannatha das Babaji, Bhaktivinode was able to discover the place of Mahaprabhu's appearance. Simultaneously it was declared that the so-call Yoga-pitha at Navadwip on the other side of the Ganges was false. Many cast Goswamis objected to the site at Mayapur being the original site. Bipin Bihari Goswami at that time rejected Bhaktivinode Thakur for preaching an untruth (mithyapracara) and he even published his rejection of Bhaktivinode's preaching in a small newspaper of his own called Gaurangasevaka Patrika in 1919. One could say at this point - that at least that they did not see eye to eye or that their feelings for placing distance in their relationship with each other was mutual - indeed a difficult relationship to maintain between "guru and disciple." (The Gaurangasevaka Patrika and article available at Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta.)
Yoga Pitha ~ Birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Therefore Bhaktivinode turned over the Yoga Pitha at Mayapur to Saraswati and nobody else because he knew that only he had the strength, realization and sastric pramana (evidence) to hold the sacred ground against the sahajiya and Brahmin community. It is also interesting to note that although Bipin Bihari Goswami rejected the idea that Yoga Pitha was in Mayapur - the modern day followers of Lalit Prasad, nonetheless, accept Yoga Pitha in Mayapur and not the so-called Yoga Pitha in Navadwip.
For many years Saraswati Thakur saw the exchanges between Jagannatha Dasa Babaji and Bhaktivinode at times when the two lived together at Svananda-sukhada-kunja in Nadia for many years. We do not find any association of Bhaktivinode Thakur with Bipin Bihari Goswami except for a short time in the village of Narail, East Bengal and this does not include any reference to the latter instructing Bhaktivinode in the matter of pure devotional service.
It is true, as the anti-party says, Saraswati Thakur did not have very high regard for Bipin Bihari Goswami - he certainly did not consider him to be the Guru of Bhaktivinode Thakur. Saraswati Thakur as a small child (7 years old) was present when Bhaktivinode Thakur received diksa mantras from Bipin Bihari Goswami and from the outset Saraswati Thakur was critical of the Goswami. When Bhaktivinode offered his obeisances to the Goswami - the Goswami attempted to place his foot on the head of the Thakur - the child remarked, "Do you think that you have such spiritual power that you can put your foot on the head of Srila Bhaktivinode?"
There is another short story: Once a celebrated sahajiya came to see Bhaktivinode at his residence. The sahajiya was a gentleman but nonetheless a sahajiya. Saraswati was a young boy at the time. When he saw his father (Bhaktivinode) talking with that gentleman he simply offered obeisances at a distance and got up and went away. Seeing this the gentleman inquired, "Was that your son -why does he offer obeisances and go away?" Bhaktivinode replied in a happy style, "He has taken a vow not to come within one hundred metres of a sahajiya."
We must mention here that both Bhaktivinode Thakur and Saraswati Thakur have been accepted by many great devotees and scholars as liberated souls who appeared in this world by the divine arrangement of Krishna. They were not a pair (father and son) of this world as the mundane bhaktas (prakrta-sahajiyas) think - rather they were eternal residents from Goloka Vrindavana; namely Kamala-manjari and Nayana-mani-manjari respectively. Therefore from the beginning of their lives they both showed exceptional qualities and characteristics which are to be attributed only to pure devotees and liberated souls.
For example Bhaktivinode Thakur was preaching the process of pure devotion; writing and printing books such as Krishna-samhita and Kalyana Kalpataru (both revered devotional works) before he even met his so-called Guru, Bipin Bihari Goswami - something which is highly unusual, even unheard of - unless that is, one is already a liberated soul. Similarly Saraswati Thakur manifested himself as a pure Vaishnava from his earliest childhood. He was quick to catch the essence of the scripture and he especially showed a keen ability to distinguish between real bhajan and that of the sahajiyas (imitationists). We will not go into greater detail regarding their many transcendental pastimes, for many biographies have been written on this subject - it will suffice to say that both Bhaktivinode and Saraswati Thakur were liberated souls who came down to this world from Krishna's personal entourage to establish the essence of pure devotional service.
Bhaktivinode Thakur did for sometime show formal respect to Bipin Bihari Goswami but when the Goswami disrespected Raghunatha dasa Goswami, the Thakur distanced himself even more from Bipin Bihari. In essence the details of this incident show that like many cast Goswamis in Orissa, Bengal, Vrindavana and Radha Kunda - Bipin Bihari Goswami also thought that he could give blessings to Raghunatha dasa Goswami, the prayojana-acharya, because Das Goswami was from a "lower cast" or so he mistakenly thought. It appears that Lalit Prasad Thakur overlooked the stressful relation that had evolved between Bhaktivinode and Bipin Bihari over the issue of Yoga-Pitha being at Mayapur and also that of Ragunatha dasa Goswami in favor of the formal arangement of diksa. It does not appear, in spite of his vast learning, that he was able to catch the essence of the teachings of Bhaktivinode Thakur.
It is also known that Bipin Bihari mixed very freely with the degraded sections of Bengal society and associated with anti-Vedic philosophers like the Brahma Samaja. Even after his return to Vaisnavism he continued bad habits like smoking etc. - thus Saraswati Thakur, who was himself very strict in principles, saw this as a sign of lower Vaisnava adhikari (kanistha-adhikari) although Bhaktivinode Thakur remained somewhat unspoken on the issue.
In 1911 there was an assembly of scholars held in Medinpur (Bengal) wherein the topic of debate was to be "Brahmins and Vaishnavas." Bipin Bihari Goswami was present at that assembly and, as already known, he would side with the Brahmin community in the platform that Brahmin Vaishnavas were automatically superior to non-Brahmin Vaisnavas, due to a Brahmin being born in a higher cast. Bhaktivinode Thakur was also invited to attend that assembly. The conflict between he and Bibin Bihari was destined. Bhaktivinode Thakur - not wanting to take the position of confronting and attempting to defeat his "diksa-guru" in a public forum declined to attend the meeting on the plea of bad health. In his place he sent Saraswati Thakur (age 37) to represent pure Gaudiya Vaisnava-siddhanta in the line of Sri Rupa and Raghunatha das Goswami as per the teachings of Mahaprabhu.
In that assembly Saraswati Thakur prevailed in the debate and established to the satisfaction of the majority of that assembly that a pure Vaishnava, regardless of his birth was the topmost human being due to his unalloyed love for Godhead. The news of this was very pleasing to Bhaktivinode Thakur. The lecture (Brahmana O Vaisnavera Taratamya Visayaka Siddhanta - The Conclusion Concerning the Comparison of Brahmanas and the Vaisnavas) was published in a book in English called "Brahmins and Vaisnavism." (Also available at Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta)
One might ask why Bhaktivinode Thakur took initiation from Bipin Bihari Goswami in the first place, for the question naturally arises whether or not the Goswami was actually a pure devotee (perfected soul)?
During those days in India all the "recognized Gaudiya Vaisnavas" were initiated into one of the main parivads such as Adwaita and Nityananda-parivads. Everyone was expected to wear tilok and neck beads corresponding to his particular parivad. Since he had not taken initiation in any such parivad, Bhaktivinode did not wear the external markings of a Gaudiya Vaishnava. It so happened that some persons who had no real eyes to see him would sometimes consider Bhaktivinode to be a materialist and so forth and thus commit vaisnava-aparadha. Seeing this situation Bhaktivinode considered accepting the external markings of a Vaishnava which he must receive from a guru. He longed to meet a bona-fide guru who could inspire him but as Bhaktivinode later wrote, "But I did not obtain one." Later in a dream the Thakur got some direction from Mahaprabhu and he accepted Bipin Bihari Goswami.
The followers of Lalit Prasad Thakur contend that this is proof that Bipin Bihari was a perfected soul, otherwise Mahaprabhu would not have given direction to Bhaktivinode to accept him as guru. At this point the anti-party suggests that "could Mahaprabhu have made a mistake?" - thus they wish to indicate that Bhaktivinode Thakur received a siddha-guru (sat-guru) by the arrangement of Mahaprabhu Himself and not simply a formal connection for decorum's sake. We couldn't disagree more.
Similarly Mahaprabhu Himself had taken sannyasa in the Mayavadi sampradaya for the same reason - for decorum's sake only. And after that the Lord continued His preaching mission of nama-sankirtan. The situation of Bhaktivinode was similar - his mission was to preach - he had come down to this world with that purpose.
At the time of his initiation Bhaktivinode received the pancaratric mantras; guru-mantras, gopal-mantra, and kama-gayatri. It is interesting to note here that Bhaktivinode received those mantras which are offered as a samskara in place of the Vedic-diksa samskara and which are primarily meant for Deity worship following the system of pancha-samskara (tapah, pundra, nama, mantra, and yaga). It is clear also in studying the life of Bhaktivinode Thakur through his writings that he did not imbibe any of the conceptions of Bipin Bihari Goswami. Of course the anti-party says that Bhaktivinode received siddha-pranali (ekadas-bhava) from Bipin Bihari Goswami. Other than hearsay, there is no real proof of what they say - but they do say it. Factually the two, Bhaktivinode Thakur and Bipin Bihari were distanced from each other from the very beginning - although it can be said that Bhaktivinode did continue to show the Goswami formal respect.
Such respect for the Goswami was not so visible in Saraswati Thakur. In fact in later years Saraswati Thakur reinitiated (hari-nama, mantra-diksa, and sannyasa) a prominate disciple of Bibin Bihari Goswami who became know as Bhaktivivek Bharati Maharaja. There is no hiding the truth - Saraswati Thakur totally rejected the idea that Bipin Bihari Goswami was a spiritual preceptor of Bhaktivinode and we are also accepting the same conclusion. The brother of Saraswati Thakur (Lalit Prasad Thakur) however accepted just the opposite.
After the disappearance of Bhaktivinode Thakur, Saraswati Thakur and Lalit Prasad Thakur started a mission together in Calcutta called Bhaktivinode Asan at Ultadanga St. In a very short time their difference in conception/vision about Bhaktivinode arose and they parted ways. Saraswati Thakur used to say, "My brother sees Bhaktivinode as Babu (father) but I see him as the delegation of Radha." This statement reveals that Saraswati Thakura obviously considered that Lalit Prasad Thakur placed more importance on form than on substance and that he had no proper conception of the eternal divinity of Bhaktivinode.
of Lalit Prasad Thakur have said that their Guru has written extensively on the
differences between he and Saraswati Thakur although none of those manuscripts
have been printed. On the other hand Saraswati Thakur wrote long and printed his
manuscripts to spead the glories of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world.
A seemingly distinct character difference between the two brothers; one was prone
to fault the other while the other dedicated his life solely for the service of
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu , preaching vigorously against misconception in the line
Although Saraswati Thakur did receive mantra-diksa from Gaura Kishore dasa Babaji Maharaja (1900) he also accepted Bhaktivinode Thakur as his substantial Guru. It should be mentioned here also that Bhaktivinode Thakur gave mantras for worshipping the Deity in 1881 and hari-nama-diksa to Saraswati Thakur in 1886. The following is a letter (1910) from Bhaktivinode Thakura to Saraswati Thakura wherein Bhaktivinode gives Saraswati essential spiritual instructions, thus demonstrating that he was indeed his substantial (siksa) Guru.
"People of this world who are proud of their own aristocratic birth cannot attain real aristocracy. Therefore they attack the pure Vaishnavas, saying, 'They have taken birth in low-class families because of their sins.' Thus they commit offenses. The solution to the problem is to establish the order of daiva-varnasrama-dharma - something you have started doing; you should know that to be the real service to the Vaishnavas. Because pure devotional conclusions are not being preached, all kinds of superstitions and bad concepts are being called devotion by such pseudo-sampradayas as sahajiya and atibari. Please always crush these anti-devotional concepts by preaching pure devotional conclusions and by setting an example through your personal conduct.
Governor Nelson with Proclamation stating that
Yoga Pitha is the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
"Please make great effort so you can start parikram of Sridham Navadwip as soon as possible. It is by those actions that everyone in this world will receive Krishna-bhakti. Please try very hard to make sure that the service to Sri Mayapur will become a permanent thing and will become brighter and brighter every day. The real service to Sri Mayapur can be done by acquiring printing presses, distributing devotional books, and sankirtan - preaching. Please do not neglect to serve Sri Mayapur or to preach for the sake of your own reclusive bhajan.
"When I am not present any more, please take care to serve Sri Mayapur Dham which is so dear to you. This is my special instruction to you. People who are like animals can never attain devotion; therefore never take their suggestions. But do not let them know this directly or indirectly.
"I had a special desire to preach the significance of such books as Srimad Bhagavatam, Sat Sandarbha, and Vedanta Darshan. You have to accept that responsibility. Sri Mayapur will prosper if you establish an educational institution there. Never make any effort to collect knowledge or money for your own enjoyment. Only to serve the Lord will you collect these things. Never engage in bad association, either for money or for some self-interest.
signed Kedarnatha Datta Bhaktivinode
This letter shows that the innovator is Bhaktivinode and the implementer was Saraswati Thakur. Although the anti-party gives prostrate obeisances to Bhaktivinode they are nonetheless dead against the sannyasa order introduced by Saraswati Thakur. From the above letter it is clear that Bhaktivinode introduced the daiva-varnashram. Bhaktivinode licensed Bhaktisiddhanta to implement sannyasa - such that persons could actually attain the raga-marga adhikari and tread the path.
Although the alleged story is that Bhaktivinode did give "siddha-pranali" to Lalit Prasad Thakur it is also a known fact that Bhaktivinode advised Lalit Prasad Thakur to chant Krishna-nama. Bhaktivinode Thakur himself gives a warning in Bhajan Rahasya that to attempt meditation on gopi-swarupa without proper adhikari will be detrimental:
na labhiya siddhadeha bhave
viparyaya buddhi janme saktira abhave
"If one thinks of his siddha-deha (siddha-pranali) without acheiving adhikari his intellect gets bewildered."
In time it came to pass that siddha-pranali was being given out by imitationists to unqualified persons, therefore Saraswati Thakur also wrote one hundred verses called Prakrita Rasa Shata Dushini giving warning to the followers of the imitiation siddha-pranali system.
A few verses from the Prakrita Rasa Shata Dushini follow:
unmukha ha'le jada-katha haya na
natuva cin-maya katha kabhu sruta haya na
"When one is enthusiastic for constantly rendering unalloyed devotional service, there is never any possibility for becoming distracted by idle talks related to the mundane world. Otherwise, if one is not enthusiastic, then confidential topics about the all-conscious spiritual world should never be heard."
The warning here is that only those who are enthusiastic should enter into talks and so forth on higher topics (such as siddha-deha). The characteristic of enthusiam he says is that one should not be interested in any mundane talk. This of course includes mundane activities and also such things as illicit sex, etc. If one still has attraction for this level of existance then he does not have the proper adhikari for siddha-pranali.
amilane sthayi-bhava haya na
sthayi-bhava-vyatireke rase sthiti haya na
"In the absence of the necessary constituent elements of the bhakti process (such as anartha-nivrtti, nistha, ruci, etc.) one can never become fixed up in their own eternal sthayi-bhava (one of five principle mellows). In the absence of sthayi-bhava and its necessary elements, one can never become situated in their eternal rasa (siddha-deha)."
age sraddha pache rupanuga bole na
krama patha chadi' siddhi rupanuga bole na
"The followers of Srila Rupa Goswami never preach that transcendental attachment is reached before one developes pure faith. The rupanugas never teach that the perfection of devotion (siddhi) can be reached by abandoning the consecutive order of developmental stages on the path."
thakara kale lila-gana kore na
anartha-nivrtti-kale nama jada bole na
" While still contaminated with anarthas, one should never sing songs about the Lord's confidential pastimes. After these impediments are purified (anartha-nivrtti), one never speaks of the holy name of Krishna as if it were a mundane sound vibration."
'artha' boli' ku-pathete laya na
prakrta-sahaja-mata aprakrta bole na
"One should never mistakenly call material obstacles 'useful for devotional service,' thereby following the wrong path. One should never say that the mundane opinions of the prakrta-sahajiyas (cheap materialistic imposters) are aprakrta (transcendental)."
komala-sraddhe rasa-katha bole na
anadhikarire rase adhikara deya na
"A devotee should never speak on the topics of devotional mellows to one who has soft, pliable faith. A devotee should never attempt to bestow the qualification for rasa upon one who is unqualified to receive it."
Siddha-pranali (revelation of one's eternal perfected spiritual form, siddha-deha) is actually effected by the grace of the Guru for one who purely chants the holy name of Krishna without offense. The grace of sat-guru is required and also that of hari-nam (the holy name) which appears when one purely chants the name in a deep penetrating mood of divine love.
The so-called siddha-pranali meditation of the anti-party amounts to mental speculation at best. Siddha-pranali cannot be effected in the mind of a conditioned soul because such a mind is actually one of the eight material elements. One is required to transcend the mundane mind and come to the platform of suddha-sattva - then from the subjective plane of reality the revelation of one's siddha-deha can be realized - otherwise not.
Yes, we are saying that there is such a process as siddha-pranali but that the imitation process is being offered by the anti-party - not the authentic siddha-pranali. The line of Saraswati Thakur is bona fide and authentic because it recognizes both the ajata-rati-raganuga-sadhana (raganuga before bhava) and the jata-rati-raganuga sadhana (raganuga after bhava). The anti-party wants to meditate on their so-called gopi-deha with dress, activities and residence (ekadas-bhava) etc. while still conditioned with anarthas. They do not favor preaching, sankirtan, distribution of Bhagavat literature and so forth - thinking that these things are not ajata-rati-raganuga-sadhana but of a lower conception - that is their mistake. These services are nondiffrent from ajata-rati-raganuga-sadhana and will contribute to the purification of one's heart, enabling one to fix the mind on the lotus feet of Rupa Goswami and gradually come to the stage of bhava and thus jata-rati-raganuga-sadhana wherein one will glimpse the lotus feet of Sri Rupa Manjari.
The anti-party wants to say, "let us meditate on gopi-swarupa as the activity of the ajata-rati-raganuga-sadhana," but we strongly disagree - and so have our many acharyas. Otherwise what is the use of Gita, Bhagavatam, Sat Sandharbhas, Bhakti-rasamrta Sindhu and a host of other essential literature for all sadhakas desiring pure devotional service?
The anti-party contends that ekadas-bhava (siddha-pranali) is supported in Bhakti Sandarbha by Jiva Goswami in the following verse:
jnanam hy atra srimati mantre bhagavat-svarupa-jnanam,
tena bhagavata sambandha-visesa-jnanam ca.
"The term 'divine knowledge' here refers to the knowledge of the specific form of the Lord contained in the holy syllables of the mantra and knowledge of a specific relationship with the Lord." (Bhakti-sandarbha, 283)
The anti-party then jumps to the conclusion that "divyam jnanam" (divine knowledge) means ekadas-bhava (siddha-pranali) the knowledge of one's form as a gopi, dress, residence, etc. However, this divine knowledge revealed by the Guru at the time of giving diksa (as stated in Bhakti-sandarbha) is actually a reference to receiving proper understanding of the mantras for worship such as upanayan-samskara (brahma-gayatri), guru mantra and gayatri, gaura-mantra and gayatri, gopal-mantra, and kama-gayatri. There is no suitable support for ekadas-bhava found in the above quoted verse. For a thorough understanding of this subject (revealing the meaning of the mantra - receiving divyam jnanam) one should read the book "Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika" published by Mandala Publishers.
It is in one sense ironic that the anti-party dares to even show their face in the Vaishnava world of Saraswati Thakur's movement to preach their misconception. The persons who are doing this mischief were once all devotees of ISKCON who, leaving our Guru Maharaja A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the 1970's to go for siddha-pranali initiation, eventually fell down and were unable to even maintain the four basic regulative principles, what to speak of the meditation on their eternal form and relationship with Krishna. In this way these men became reject disciples. Of course at least one of them feels himself qualified to give siddha-pranali initiation and has misled a number of newcomers. In an attempt to rationalize their existence, these ex-ISKCON devotees have taken to the study of many books - became scholars and after acquiring some theoretical knowledge of raganuga-bhakti and siddha-pranali, they have tried to establish themselves as the actual followers of Mahaprabhu and Bhaktivinode Thakur - while at the same time they try to discredit the authority and qualifications of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Other than that, since the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur in 1914 they have done nothing to spread the cause of Mahaprabhu's mission to the world. Their primary work is to try to disprove the parampara of Saraswati Thakur. In Bengal the anti-party is no match for the Gaudiya Math who are highly learned in all these matters historically and according to sastra. The anti-party is only able to spread their misconception to a few less fortunate devotees from the west who are of weaker faith and beginners knowledge.
It is important to know that the parampara which Saraswati Thakur mentioned in his parampara song is a siksa sampradaya and not a diksa sampradaya. That is also to say that it is the bhagavat-parampara which does not rely on any formality whatsoever but which draws completely on substance over form. The line shown by Saraswati Thakur is not the line of a bodily succession but the recognition of where (in which great Vaishnavas) the conception of pure devotion was manifest. The line of Saraswati Thakur is not at all concerned with the so-called "pedigree" diksa-parampara of the so-called "unbroken" succession.
The anti-party claims that Bhaktivinode Thakur never made any reference to siksa-guru-parampara in his writing and therefore, how could there be a siksa-parampara? Unfortunately the anti-party produces "evidence of convenience" and not the truth. They have thus conveniently overlooked the following sloka from Kalyana-kalpataru:
koriya dekhan krsna-tattva nirdesa
siksa-guru-brnda krpa koriya apar
sadhake sikhan sadhaner anga-sar
"The initiating spiritual master (diksa-guru) shows his causeless mercy by giving his disciples instructions in chanting the mantra. By so doing, he points the disciples in the direction of the truths pertaining to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. I consider the numerous instructing spiritual masters (siksa-gurus) to be more important, for they show more mercy by training the sadhakas in all the essential aspects of sadhana-bhakti."
A classic example of how the anti-party is lost in their "pedigree" conception of diksa-guru becomes apparent in their disregard of Ragunatha das Goswami - going so far as to say that, "there is no diksa connection from Dasa Goswami to Bhaktivinode." Does the anti-party wish to suggest that Bhaktivinode in not in the line/parampara of Dasa Goswami simply because the diksa-guru of Thakur was not in a diksa-parampara from Dasa Goswami? Yes, that is exactly what they want to say. We find such a mentality to be mundane, strictly form oriented, undernourished, and blind to revealed truth.
Full fledged theism is not always manifest - it sometimes goes underground like a stream and again reappears. When it is underground in the unmanifest quarter we are not concerned with the parampara which simply upholds the formal tradition, the bodily succession. Rather, Saraswati Thakur has demonstrated that we should be solely concerned with the substance and always seek out pure devotion - wherever it appears and accept that on our heads. For that he taught a high measure of discrimination and caution.
The following is a quote from the Guardian of Devotion Srila Sridhar Deva Goswami supporting the above statements on accepting the essence and not simply the form:
"The very gist of the guru-parampara, the disciplic succession, is siksa, the spiritul teaching, and wherever it is to be traced, there is guru. One who has the transcendental eye, the divine eye, will recognize the guru wherever he appears. One who possesses knowledge of absolute divine love in purity he is guru. Otherwise the guru parampara is only a body parampara: a succession of bodies. Then the caste brahmanas, the caste gosvamis, will continue with their trade, because body after body, they are getting the mantra. But their mantra is dead. We are after a living manra, and wherever we can trace the living tendency for a higher type of devotional service, we shall find that there is our guru. One who has that sort of vision awakened will be able to recognize the guru wherever he may appear."
The highest fulfillment of life (aprakrta-gopi-deha) the perfected form of an eternal maidservant of Sri Sri Radha Govinda is not a cheap achievement. The reality is that few are willing to pay the price - nonetheless Saraswati Thakur preferred not to lower the price - rather he showed by his own ardent example that the goal of life can be achieved by those honest seekers of truth who will not indulge in self deception (the imitation process of siddha-pranali).
Apart from all that I have said thus far, the fact that Saraswati Thakur's disciplic succession is the bona fide succession of Bhaktivinode Thakur is self-evident in the fact that Bhaktivinode Thakur turned over the world preaching mission and the birth site of Mahaprabhu (Yoga Pitha) along with his full blessings for success to Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. It was Saraswati Thakur who sent his disciples (particularly A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada) out to preach the holy name all over the world and establish Gaudiya Vaishnavism and that is a fact. If you are reading this article you are doing so by the grace of Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur and the grace of his disciples - because it is they who have brought Krishna consciousness to the west and to the internet.
A brief look into the history and essential
meaning of the ISKCON
and Gaudiya Math parampara.
by Swami B. G. Narasingha
Prior to writing the first article "Saraswati Prabhupada Parampara I" I was shown a correspondence from Premananda das to Aghraya Prabhu wherein the anti-party representative (Premananda das) made specific derogatory statements about Saraswati Thakur and his parampara. That is reproduced here as follows:
Premananda das wrote, "What is the connection between Bhaktisiddhanta and Bhaktivinod Thakur that you speak about? Of course there was connection, they were father and son. But not Guru and disciple. Bimala Prasad did not respect Srila Bipin Bihari Goswami, and Srila Bhaktivinod was very unhappy about this show of disrespect. For this reason Bhaktivinod didn't give Bimala Prasad diksa. Bhaktivinod was also unhappy about Bimala Prasad's heavy critique of many Gaudiya Vaisnavas."
"You say that Srila Bhaktivinod found the leading Vaisnava in Srila Jagannath das Babaji and not in his diksa Guru. This is false!!... Jagannath das Babaji was his siksa guru, but that doesn't mean that his position was higher than the diksa guru. I happen to be initiated into the diksa-parampara of Srila Bhaktivinod, and therefore I know what the parampara is. Jagannath das Babaji is not included in it.....There is no such thing as 'siksa-parampara', as something that is independent of diksa. In the other Vaisnava sampradayas the unbroken line of diksa is the Guru-parampara. There is no 'bhagavata parampara' there. In the Gaudiya line you won't find support for it either (outside of Gaudiya Math, ISKCON etc.). But this might be difficult to accept if you want to be a follower of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's line." (see VNN discussion forum )
It was this statement written by the anti-party which first caught my attention and fueled the first article (Saraswati Prabhupada Parampara) as a response to their misconceptions. Rather than ignore the statements of the anti-party as simply being offensive to both Gaudiya Math and ISKCON, as one might normally do when confronting foolish persons, I decided to answer their questions, counter their arguments and expose their misconceptions with reference to sastra and certain important histories in this regard. Now that the topic has come out in the open on VNN we feel that it is necessary to continue to expose all the misconceptions of the anti-party. There are no doubt hundreds of misconceptions in the anti-party and therefore our work may not be completed in this article or even in this lifetime.
After our first article appeared here on VNN the representative of the followers of Lalita Prasad Thakur wrote a few words on the VNN forum rejecting our original article and then summed it up by stating, "With these words I have demonstrated the invalidity of Narasingha Swami's accusations and misconceptions." (see VNN discussion forum)
We will not so easily concede this argument. The anti-party has failed to demonstrate anything substantial - nor have they countered any of our statements in the previous article wherein we have shown; 1) that the parampara of Saraswati Thakur is indeed drawn from Bhaktivinode Thakur and Jagannatha Dasa Babaji not Bipin Bihari Goswami, 2) that Bhaktivinode Thakur took diksa, for decorum's sake only, from Bipin Bihari Goswami, 3) that Bipin Bihari Goswami did in fact reject Bhaktivinode Thakur (printed in Gaurangasevaka Patrika in 1919) for the reason that the Thakur had preached what the Goswami considered an untruth regarding the birth site of Mahaprabhu being at Mayapur and not at Navadwip, 4) that Bipin Bihari Goswami offended Raghunatha Das Goswami by considering him as born in a lower caste, 5) that Saraswati Thakur defeated Bipin Bihari Goswami in the debate at Midinpur on Brahmins and Vaisnavas, 6) that Bipin Bihari Goswami had the character of the lower Vaisnava-adhikari, 7) that Saraswati Thakur reinitiated a leading disciple of Bipin Bihari Goswami thus showing his complete disregard for the idea that the Goswami was the guru of Bhaktivinode Thakur, 8) that Bhaktivinode was very pleased with the preaching of Saraswati Thakur and gave him his full blessings to defeat all types of philosophical misconception, to establish the birth site of Mahaprabhu at Mayapur and to establish the divine teachings of pure devotional service throughout the world (daiva-varanashram), 9) that ekadasa-bhava as practiced by the followers of Lalita Prasad Thakur is mental speculation, 10) that hari-nama is a superior process to ekadasa-bhava as explained by Kaviraja Goswami in his commentary to Krsna-karanamrta, 11) that the siksa-parampara is the sat-guru-parampara and not simply the line of bodily succession (diksa-parampara), and 12) that one receives entrance into the process of raganuga-bhakti at the time of initiation into the parampara of Saraswati Thakur.
All these points were substantially made in our first article but the anti-party has failed to refute even one of them properly. Rather they have simply resorted to jumbling a few words here and there with the hope of saving face. Of course it is a hard lump for the anti-party to swallow but they have accepted an illusory parampara of bodies and dead mantras.
We would like to give further explanation to some additional points regarding the misconceptions of the anti-party about the parampara of Srila Bhaktivinode, Saraswati Thakur, and the bona fide process to attain perfection in Krishna consciousness.
It is the opinion of the anti-party that Bhaktivinode Thakur was a conditioned soul (nitya-baddha), who was thus bewildered by the three modes of material nature and subject to the reactions of sinful activities in the beginning of his life. The anti-party states as their main source of reference on this point a short autobiography called Svalikhita Jivani wherein Bhaktivinode describes in brief the events of his life in chronological order up to his retirement. In that book scarcely anything is mentioned regarding pure devotional service. The book was originally a letter written by Bhaktivinode to his son Lalita Prasad when the boy was just 15 years old. Much is given to describe the Thakur's previous life style and habits before fully manifesting his mission and reason for descent. There Bhaktivinode describes his old habits of eating non-vegetarian food, his having been a Mayavadi, etc. This the anti-party claims is evidence that the Thakur was a conditioned soul prior to meeting Bipin Bihari Goswami.
The anti-party continues their line of thought and concludes that it was by the mercy of Bipin Bihari Goswami that the Thakur became a liberated soul - one qualified to receive Vraja-bhakti. This point they further try to prove by quoting the Navadwip-bhava-taranga wherein Ananga Manjari takes Bhaktivinode (Kamala Manjari) and introduces him to Rupa Manjari as a nava-dasi (a newcomer).
bolibe e nava-dasi sakhi lalitara
krpa kori' deho ebe raga-marge gati.
"Being questioned by Sri Rupa Manjari, my mistress Ananga Manjari will reply,' This new dasi will be engaged in Lalita Sakhi's service. Her name is Kamala Manjari, and she is very devoted to Sri Gauranga. Please be merciful now and give her entrance into the flow of spontaneous devotional service to our Lordships.'"
The anti-party say that this verse proves that Bhaktivinode was not a nitya-siddha (eternally liberated) soul, otherwise he would not have referred to himself as a nava-dasi. They further conclude that the Thakur having been introduced to Sri Rupa Manjari by Ananga Manjari further demonstrates that the parampara of Bhaktivinode is coming in the line of the Nityananda-parivad - from Jhanavi Devi to Bipin Bihari Goswami in an unbroken diksa parampara. Jhanavi Devi is Ananga Manjari in Krsna-lila and thus they say this demonstrates that it was by the grace of Bipin Bihari Goswami that the Thakura got entrance into the eternal pastimes of Radha Krsna via Ananga Manjari.
The conception of Saraswati Thakur however is diametrically opposed to that of the followers of Lalita Prasad Thakur. Saraswati Thakur considered Bhaktivinode Thakur as nitya-siddha, eternally liberated. He never for a moment considered Bhaktivinode as father - what to speak of considering Bhaktivinode a conditioned soul. Saraswati Thakur always considered Bhaktivinode as guru (sat-guru - eternal guru). In fact he always saw and spoke of Bhaktivinode as being in the highest plane of guru-tattva - as the delegation or representative of Sri Radhika.
As already mentioned in our first article Lalita Prasad Thakur thought of Bhaktivinode as "Babu" (father). The fact that Lalita Prasad Thakur saw Bhaktivinode as "Babu" is evident at the beginning of Svalikhita Jivani where he writes:
My honorable father ordered me not to misuse whatever was written to me by him. Such was his instruction to me. That is the reason that I cannot give this book to ordinary persons. Only one who has complete love and faith in my father can read this work. If anyone reads this volume and makes his own commentary that is against my father then he alone is responsible, not I.
Saraswati Thakur on the other hand did not consider Bhaktivinode Thakur as "father" - he only saw him as Guru. Nor did he see any so-called mundane thing about the life of Bhaktivinode to be an indication that the Thakur was ever a conditioned soul. Thus Saraswati Thakur gave no importance whatsoever to the book Svalikhita Jivani.
The quotation from Navadwip-bhava-taranga wherein Ananga Manjari takes Bhaktivinode (Kamala Manjari) and introduces him to Rupa Manjari as a nava-dasi (a newcomer) does show however that Bhaktivinode has an intimate friendly relationship with Ananga Manjari in eternal pastimes (aprakrta-lila). His being referred to as a nava-dasi (newcomer) does not prove that he was previously a conditioned soul but rather the description of his being a nava-dasi is given in the mood of showing us how a member of our sampradaya in the stage of perfection (swarupa-siddhi) will be introduced into the divine pastimes of the Lord. The anti-party has no entrance into this understanding because they are victims of a faulty process and they are averse to the practices of pure devotion (suddha-bhakti).
In any chronology of an authors works we would naturally expect that the latter works would reflect the authors deepest thought and development. In this regard we reference the last book written by Bhaktivinode Thakur in 1907, namely Sva-Niyama-Dvadasakam, 12 Verses of My Self-Imposed Regulative Principles. In the first verse Bhaktivinode makes especial reference to the line of Srila Rupa Goswami (Rupa Manjari) and the devotees of his disciplic succession. There he says:
harer nami presthe hari-tithisu rupanuga-jane
suka-prokte sastre prati-jani mamastam khalu ratih
The third line: harer nami presthe hari-tithisu rupanuga-jane makes special reference to the line of Rupa Goswami and his followers by the words rupanuga-jane. Bhaktivinode prays in his mood of natural humility that whenever and wherever he may happen to take birth he simply desires that his loving affection and attachment will remain unshaken for the line of Rupa Goswami and his followers.
The anti-party however does not give serious consideration to the position of Rupa Goswami in the disciplic succession of Bhaktivinode Thakur. Rupa Goswami simply does not figure predominately in their thinking or understanding of the process of raganuga-bhakti. The anti-party jumps over 269 verses of Rupa Goswami's Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu and tries to immediately enter into the internal sadhana of raganuga leaving the necessary practice of vaidhi-bhakti behind. This amounts to a spiritual dead end.
From the reading of the anti-parties literature one cannot glean even a particle of the proper conception necessary for raganuga-bhakti. One could read such books as "Why Did Caitanya Mahaprabhu Come and What Did He Come to Give" and "Navadwipa Vraja Madhuri" from cover to cover without ever realizing that the life of divine love which Sri Caitanya came to give is based on sacrifice! Enjoying the lilas of Radha Krsna "NOW" while one is still at the stage of bhajana-kriya (practice) and without proper qualification (anartha-nrvrtti, nistha, and ruci) is the odor that the anti-party reeks of. Before one can enter the plane of higher topics one must first embrace a life of divine slavery - that was the conception of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. The real ekadasa-bhava (siddha-deha ) is revealed in proportion to one's conversion from the disease of the enjoying spirit to that of a healthy serving disposition. Our actual initiation into raganuga-bhakti is initiation into the conception of divine slavery.
One must always keep the higher conception above and worship that from a little distance:
ragapata gaurava bange
mattala sadhu jana visaya range
This sloka was composed by Saraswati Thakur and it describes the particular type of posing which should be adopted by all sadakas (devotees at the stage of practice). From a little distance and below we should offer our highest regard to the highest quarter. An imitative show of the higher sentiments of divine love will only bring about a negative result in the practicing life of a devotee. Imitation is always to be avoided. The ekadasa-bhava practiced by the anti-party certainly falls into the category of imitation. (The imaginary ekadasa-bhava process practiced by the anti-party consists of receiving the following eleven points of information about one's so-called eternal relationship with Krishna from a so-called guru; sambandha-relationship, vayasa-age, nama-name, rupa-form, yutha-group, vesa-dress, ajna-orders, vasa-sthana-residence, seva-service, parakastha-highest aspiration, and palya-dasi-bhava-the mood of a protected maidservant.)
To support their misconception of receiving ekadasa-bhava at initiation the anti-party quotes the following verse from Bhakti Sandarbha , Annucheta 283, Text 20:
jnanam hy atra srimati mantre bhagavat-svarupa-jnanam,
tena bhagavata sambandha-visesa-jnanam ca
The words "divyam jnanam" (transcendental knowledge) here refers to the descriptions of the Lord's transcendental form in sacred mantras. Chanting those mantras establishes a relationship with the Supreme Lord. The term "visesa-jnanam" here refers to specific knowledge of a specific relationship with that Lord. The anti-party interprets this however to mean receiving ekadasa-bhava. How from tena bhagavata sambandha vishesha-jnanam ca is the ekadasa-bhava construed? It is only the stretch of their imagination. Ekadasa-bhava actually belongs to the prayojana-tattva (the highest stage of realization). The anti-party wants to cut off the word sambandha (the beginning stage of knowledge - fundamental knowledge) and establish their own interpretation thus making ekadasa-bhava a part of sambandha-jnana. They want to take up prayojana at the stage of vaidhi-bhakti leaving aside the abhidheya or means of attainment rather than undergo the real process of purification.
The followers of Saraswati Thakur are certainly not without divyam jnanam or visesa-jnanam. A significant proof of this fact is that the followers of Saraswati Thakur have penetrated into the meaning of the mantras, referred to by the above verse, such as brahma-gayatri, guru-gayatri, gaura-gayatri, gopal-mantra, kama-gayatri, and sannyasa-gayatri (the raga-marg mantra) to such depths that have never been revealed before. In the commentaries to these mantras the followers of Saraswati Thakur, by his grace, have established the acme of divine truths regarding the worship of Sri Sri Radha Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus they have demonstrated that their lineage is the divine succession of Vraja-prema in the parampara of Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Rupa Goswami. To satisfy our readers regarding this bold statement we invite you to read the book Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika published by Mandala Publishers.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught sambandha-jnana to Sanatana Goswami (Rati Manjari) and abhidheya-jnana to Rupa Goswami (Rupa Manjari) but we do not find in either case that Mahaprabhu gave ekadasa-bhava to either of them while imparting His general and specific instructions as it is assumed by the followers of Lalita Prasad Thakur. Yet if one follows sincerely the instructions given to both Sanatana Goswami and Rupa Goswami one will no doubt gradually come to the stage of prayojana (perfection) wherein ekadasa-bhava will be revealed.
Another interesting point to note here is that the verse quoted above from Bhakti Sandarbha appears in the section on Deity worship. There Deity worship is being recommended for householders and a reference is given there to the Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda wherein it is recommended that for wealthy householders the path of Deity worship is most important.
While discussing the defects of imitating ekadasa-bhava it should also be noted here that the anti-party frequently recommends the practice of sadharani karon as a stimulus to ekadasa-bhava. This sadharani karon is the process of attending drama performances known as rasa-lilas. Here the anti-party enthusiastically recommends that by watching such lila-dramas one's eternal loving sentiments (bhavas) for Krsna in Madhurya-rasa are aroused. This they say is achieved by identifying one's self with one of the actors and thus experiencing the sentiments being portrayed. Thus they sometimes make a show of shedding tears and manifesting other bodily symptoms of bhava. We point out here the obvious - the sadharani karon process is imitation. One may ask, "What is the harm if neophytes watch rasa-lila dramas?" The answer is that unless one is established in transcendence (nistha, ruci, or asakti) the viewing of rasa-lilas will only arouse one's mundane sentiments of love which are sentiments of prema (divine love) covered by lust. When this happens the whole thing is spoiled and one may loose his highest prospect forever. What to speak of losing our highest prospect - those who are the eternal residents of the Divine World will themselves block our entrance there due to our having committed offenses. When there is imitation, only offenses will be created. Those offenses will be recorded in that circle of the examiners of the upper quarter, and they will give a stamp of disqualification that we are criminal and unfit. This will go against us and hamper our future progress.
Our Guru Maharaja Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada once commented to us in Vrndavana about this sadharani karon process wherein he said, "One who has already realized rasa-lila he can go to see such performances - otherwise not." It is also a known fact that such lila-dramas must be performed by pure devotees in order for the actual sentiments (bhavas) to manifest. This point the anti-party also overlooks and eagerly goes to attend the lila-dramas performed by conditioned souls. Thus from start to finish it is a cheating process. A process of self-deception.
Some devotees in ISKCON are willing to concede that there are two branches from the parampara of Bhaktivinode. One being hari-nama and daiva-varna-ashram as represented by the line of Saraswati Thakur and the other being ekadasa-bhava (siddha-pranali) as represented by Lalita Prasad Thakur. These devotees for want of proper understanding sometimes conclude that these are two parallel paths - one coming from Bhaktivinode's diksa connection (Bipin Bihari Goswami) and one coming from his siksa connection (Jagannatha Dasa Babaji). This idea, however, is completely rejected by the Gaudiya Math. The siddha-pranali mentioned by Kaviraja Goswami in his commentary of Krsna-karanamrta is not the same as the siddha-pranali practiced by the followers of Lalita Prasad Thakur and thus the path of the anti-party is a rejected one. The Gaudiya Math does not consider the path shown by Lalita Prasad Thakur to be bona fide, thus the conclusion of the followers of Saraswati Thakur should be that there is only one authentic line coming down from Bhaktivinode Thakur and that is the line of Saraswati Thakura. This is the opinion of all the disciples of Saraswati Thakur; our Guru Maharaja A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srila B.R. Sridhar Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Daitya Madhava Maharaja, and Srila Bhakti Promod Puri Maharaja - just to name a few. Thus the disciples and followers of the above mentioned disciples of Saraswati Thakur should strictly follow the line of Saraswati Thakur and not be deviated by the flowery words of the anti-party and the short cut to "nectar".
The devotees should know that the anti-party, despite their sometimes quoting the books of the Six Goswamis to support their conception, is not in the rupanuga-parampara, the disciplic succession of Rupa Goswami (Rupa Manjari). The anti-party starts their parampara from Nityananda Prabhu to Jhanavi Devi down to Bipin Bihari Goswami. The Six Goswamis are not included in their parampara.
It is sometimes expressed by the anti-party that Saraswati Thakur was a mahabhagavat, a great devotee. This they say for convenience sake when trying to work themselves out of a corner. What they really think of Saraswati Thakur is evident in the statement by Premananda das quoted at the beginning of this article.
When the anti-party seemingly shows respect to Saraswati Thakur by saying that he is a mahabhagavat - it is actually a hidden criticism. The real meaning of what they say is that they only consider him a preacher of the yuga-dharma (hari-nama) and a devotee of the Narayana aspect of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu - not a member of the Vraja camp. In the conception of the anti-party, hari-nama is something different from raganuga-bhakti and thus they insinuate that Saraswati Thakura cannot give the proper conception of Vraja-bhakti although he did preach yuga-dharma very nicely. Thus, they say, his followers can only attain Vaikuntha-prema but not Krsna-prema in Vraja. The anti-party stresses here that since Saraswati Thakur did not receive ekadasa-bhava from Bhaktivinode that he was given entrance only to Vaikuntha.
By saying that Saraswati Thakur can only give Vaikuntha-prema the anti-party indirectly insinuates that Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji, a siddha-purusa and eternal resident of Vraja, Guna Manjari, did not bestow the conception of Vraja-bhakti upon his disciple Saraswati Thakur. It is here that the anti-party makes one of their biggest mistakes.
There is also a nice story in this connection regarding Saraswati Thakur being a Vaikuntha Man and a man of Vraja as well:
"Once a kanistha-adhikari Vaisnava spent some time at Mayapur in the association of Saraswati Thakur. After some days this man went to Navadwip to be in the association of Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji. Hearing that this man had come from Mayapur, Babaji was very happy and he inquired about Mayapur. The man replied that he would not go to Mayapur any more, because Saraswati and others there are Vaikuntha men. They are only interested in aisvarya mood - they are not in the Vraja mood. Hearing these words Babaji Maharaja was quite disgusted and he scolded that man for his foolishness and offense at the lotus feet of a pure Vaisnava. Babaji said, 'It is ridiculous for a sparrow to attempt to cross the ocean. If you are serious about living in Vraja, then give up your criticism of pure devotees. Do you think that you will get information about Vaikuntha from hell? Saraswati is in Vaikuntha and he is in Vrndavana as well. You are presently in the lap of the witch Maya. How will you know the Saraswati of Vraja? You do not possess the eyes to see how Bhaktivinode and Saraswati Prabhu have exemplified the performance of hari-bhajana with pure ecstatic emotion.'"
The highest ekadasa-bhava that one can achieve is that of a manjari maidservant in the camp of Srimati Radharani. This was actually the bhava of Saraswati Thakur. There is a short anecdote in this connection which shows that Saraswati Thakur (Nayana-mani Manjari) was indeed in manjari-bhava:
"In Navadwip there lived a very famous and revered Vaisnava saint named Vamsidas Babaji Maharaja. Vamsidas was accepted by all the Vaisnavas as a siddha-purusa (perfected soul). Vamsidas had a special affectionate relationship with Saraswati Thakur. Saraswati Thakur sometimes visited Vamsidas at his place of bhajana in Navadwip - seeing Saraswati approaching Vamsidas would shout in a very loud voice, 'Oh, a Manjari (Nayana-mani Manjari) has come! Will Radha come also? She will come, she will come!'"
The anti-party considers both Bhaktivinode and Saraswati Thakur to have been conditioned souls. Both these conclusions are thoroughly rejected by Gaudiya Math and ISKCON. The words of Vamsidas alone are sufficient to verify the position of Saraswati Thakur in manjari-bhava - provided that is - that one has faith in the words of great saintly persons:
deve para bhaktir, yatha-deve tatha gurau
tasyait kathita hy arthah, prakasante mahatmanah
"Only unto those great souls who have faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."
Our Guru Maharaja A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada used to say that Saraswati Thakur was "A Vaikuntha Man." The meaning of this statement is that Saraswati Thakur was beyond all mundane calculations and designations. He descended to this world at Sri Kshetra Jagannatha Puri to dispel the ignorance which covered the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and reveal the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. That is the meaning of the name which his father gave him, Bimala Prasad. Bimala Devi is the Yogamaya potency of Lord Jagannatha and it is Bimala Devi who reveals the pastimes of Jagannatha. Thus Bimala Prasad means one who has descended by the arrangement of the internal potency (antaranga-sakti). Due to a poor fund of knowledge the anti-party cannot see this truth.
The greatest defect of the anti-party is that they do not have complete faith that the holy name of Krsna can reveal one's siddha-swarupa (eternally perfected form). The anti-party actually lacks faith in the holy name of Krsna. Furthermore they consider that the attainment of divine consciousness is an ascending process - By practice alone one can not attain divine consciousness. Divine consciousness is the super-subjective plane of reality and He reserves the right to reveal Himself to His devotee. It is a descending process. The real knowledge of ekadasa-bhava is not the so-called knowledge of relationship, rupa, nama, etc. imparted to a conditioned soul by a so-called guru but the actual attainment of ekadasa-bhava is effected by the descent of the holy name - when one chants the name in pure unalloyed love and devotion without even the slightest trance of desire for kama (enjoyment) or moksha (liberation). This is the method of perfection recommended by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Siksatakam - param-vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam.
Bhaktivinode Thakur has himself chastized the mind of those who want to jump to the higher plane - neglecting the auspicious process of chanting the holy name. We find the following verse in Kalayana Kalpa-Taru, Song 18, Verse 4:
na manile su-bhajan, sadhu-sange
an korile nirjane smaran
na uthiya brksopari, tanatani phal dhori
dusta-phal korile arjan
"But your idea, dear mind, is to neglect the best and most auspicious process for worshiping Krsna, namely the congregational chanting of His holy names in the association of purified devotees. And you don't even bother to try to remember Him in a lonely place. Your attitude is just like trying to pick fruits forcibly from a tree by jumping at them from the ground. Instead of climbing the tree to properly pick the sweet, ripened fruits from the top of the tree, you will simply get the sour, unripe fruits by such a jumping process."
We can write hundreds of articles defeating the anti-party and sahajiya conceptions as Saraswati Thakur has given us the inspiration and courage to do so. He himself wrote hundreds of verses and gave thousands of lectures defeating all types of misconception so that sincere souls could traverse the path of pure devotional service. This however the anti-party considered a lower platform of service to the Supreme Lord. Unfortunately it is they who are the losers - as Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji said, "They do not possess the eyes to see how Bhaktivinode and Saraswati Prabhu have exemplified the performance of hari-bhajana with pure ecstatic emotion." They do not possess the eyes to see means that the anti-party is blind to self-manifest spiritual truths.
The real divine life of Saraswati Thakur is described in the following two verses:
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto you, who are the personified teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You are the deliverer of the fallen souls. You do not tolerate any statement which is against the siddhanta enunciated by Srila Rupa Goswami."
vilasatu hrdi nityam bhaktisiddhanta vani
"With his first step, He cut to pieces the whole plane of exploitation, and with his second, he crushed the speculation of scholars of salvation and liberation. With his third, he softened vaidhi bhakti with a touch of divine love (raga marga). Taking us beyond Vaikuntha, he has introduced us to the highest worship of Sri Radha and Govinda.
"With the softness of Vrndavana within, and the hardness of a devastator without, he created havoc in the world - fighting with one and all. Single-handedly fighting against the whole world, and cutting everything to pieces - that was his external attitude. And his second attitude was to stop the boasting research of the scholars and doctors of different schools of thought; and third, to minimize and slacken the grandeur of the worship of Narayana, and establish the service of Radha-Govinda as the highest attainment. He caused the domain of love to descend into this plane, with the service of Radha - Govinda, establishing the flow of divine love from the heart as all in all.
"That was his history - the real existence of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada. May his teachings dance eternally within the core of our hearts."