Yogapīṭh, Gaura Līlā, Sādhu Saṅga and Nityānanda Trayodaśī
Bhakta: 'What is Yogapīṭh practise?"
Advaitadas: "It means the sacred meeting place of Rādhā Kṛṣṇa. It is not a concoction, it is mentioned in Govinda Līlāmṛta (21.94, with reference to the Vedas) and in Sankalpa Kalpadruma (51) by Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda. It is a ritual diagram in the shape of an 8-petalled lotus flower. It has been developed into an elaborate ritual, involving two diagrams, one of Navadvīpa and one of Vṛndāvana, in which you have to offer so many articles like sandal pulp and flowers to so many characters inside the diagram. In the whorl of the lotus are Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, and each of the petals houses one sakhī; under each sakhi serves again one main mañjarī. There is a mirror-model of Navadvīpa, where Mahāprabhu stands in the whorl, surrounded by all His associates. The practise has been elaborated upon by Gopal Guru Goswāmī and Dhyānacandra Goswāmī of the Vakreśvara Paṇḍit parivāra."
Bhakta: "But in your parivāra you don't practise the Navadvīpa-yogapīṭha, right?"
Advaitadas: "We don't practise either of them; it has not been given by Advaita Prabhu and we will not add things ourselves."
Bhakta: "In Nārada Pañcarātra there is a description of all kinds of circles existing around Lord Nārāyan in Vaikuṇṭha. Is there some sort of parallel there?"
Advaitadas: "Yes, that may be the text that is referred to in that Govinda Līlāmṛta verse (21.94) I quoted just now. The Goswāmīs presented us with a rasik version of these ancient tāntrik rituals (tantra here means Vedic ritual, not the sexual practises)."
Bhakta: "But we are not in circles around Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, right?"
Advaitadas: "If your Guru gives you this Yogapīṭh practise then you must take your position within the diagram, at least during the time of pūjā. As I said, it is mentioned in śāstra - in chapter 7 of Govinda Līlāmṛta you find a description of the 8 sakhīs' groves around Rādhākuṇḍa, each in a fixed corner of the kuṇḍa. They have exactly the same position in the Yogapīṭh in Vṛndāvana (situated roughly where the Govinda Mandir is, in the north of town). Its current form is a pretty recent practise."
Bhakta: "I heard that if you don't practise Yogapīṭh you cannot attain Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa or realize your mañjarī svarūpa."
Advaitadas: "I have not seen that in śāstra or heard it from my Guru. It's hard enough as it is - there are 10 offences to the name, 32 offences in service and 6 offences to the Vaiṣṇavas - that is 48 hurdles already. That should be enough."
Bhakta: "Professor Dimock, in his presentation of Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta, says: "Kṛṣṇa did not have the experience of Rādhā to the full. For a while He was with Rādhā, but He did not experience fully what She was experiencing, so He became Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in a single body, etc." That does not sound correct."
Advaitadas: "No that is not correct and that is why Sādhu Bābā cautioned against reading Kṛṣṇa-kathā from non devotees. They cannot understand due to a lack of spiritual insight which is only gotten through bhakti practise - bhajatāṁ prīti pūrvakaṁ dadāmi buddhi yogam tam (Bhagavad Gītā 10.10) "I give buddhi yoga (spiritual intelligence) to those who do my bhajan with love." This buddhi is different from mundane intellect. It is expanded consciousness. They have no dīkṣā and perform no sādhana, without which it is simply impossible to understand these things. bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvan yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ (Bhagavad Gītā 18.55) Kṛṣṇa was not with Rādhā for a while. Swarūp Dāmodar has given three reasons for Mahāprabhu's descent - succinctly it boils down to one - wanting to understand Rādhā's feelings for that. Was there any conclusion to that? Is it written at the end of Caitanya Caritāmṛta, 'Yes, now He understood it!'? No. If Kṛṣṇa were able to understand Rādhā's love then Gaura-līlā would be temporary, a once-only mission. Yet all pastimes of the Lord are eternal, including Gaura līlā. He tries to understand, but cannot, eternally so. Otherwise what would be the use of Gaura-līlā "
Bhakta: "Prof. Dimock concludes that two become one in Mahāprabhu, Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa."
Advaitadas: "Not only he, even most Vaiṣṇavas have that mistaken understanding. Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa, accepting the feelings of Rādhā. That is quite something else from a merger. Look at it like this - your father is English, your mother is English, so genetically you are 100% English, yet for many years you have accepted the feelings and culture of India. So now are you English or Indian? You are English, accepting the mood of an Indian. If one of your parents were Indian and the other English, you would be a half-breed, as what Dimock and many Vaiṣṇavas misunderstand about Gaura. Gaura is Kṛṣṇa, cent percent, but He accepts the feeling of Rādhā. rādhā bhāva dyuti subalitaṁ naumi kṛṣṇa svarūpam. Returning to the topic of intellectuals vs devotees, devotee association is crucial. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says ādau śraddhā tathā sādhu saṅga'tha bhajana kriyā First there must be faith, then association with sādhus and only then one can commence bhajan. Furthermore, in his commentary on these verses Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says that even before that faith occurs one requires association with devotees. Without devotee-association there is neither the commencement of bhakti nor its continuation or survival. You can distribute millions of books but they can only give a first prompt to a candidate. The candidate will have to seek out a personal explanation from a living devotee in order to understand the philosophy."
Bhakta: "Did Advaita Prabhu offer Tulasī-leaves to His Śālagram Śilā to invoke the advent of Śrīman Mahāprabhu?"
Advaitadas: "tulasī dala mātrena jalasya culukena vā - He offered water and Tulasī yes, but not to a Śālagrām. Not a single biography of Advaita Prabhu mentions Him having a Śālagrām. He had dual deities of Rādhā-Madangopāl only."
Bhakta: "One Vaiṣṇava told me that there is difference between the historical dates of a scripture and the content."
Advaitadas: "Transcendental devotional stories are not always historical facts, nor do they need to be. They are in fact far far superior to matters or events that fit in time- and space-frames. They are meant to give us meditation on Kṛṣṇa, and attraction to Him. In many cases, especially hagiographies, like those of Advaita Ācārya and Śrīnivāsācārya (in the beginning of Bhakti Ratnākara) it is very clear that they are impossible to fit into a chronological sequence. This does not mean that the stories are not true or that they are fabricated or made up. Same thing with hagiographies of Gurus and sādhus."
Bhakta: "How to break fast after Dvādaśī if the next day is Nityānanda Trayodaśī?"
Advaitadas: "The whole complication has been created because people have introduced the advent days of Adwaita Prabhu and Nityananda Prabhu as vrata (fasting-) days, which they are not according to the Haribhakti Vilāsa. That includes Rādhāṣṭamī too. If one would not fast on Nityānanda's day you could easily break the Dvādaśī-fast that often precedes it. Ekādaśī prevails over non-śāstric vratas, no doubt."