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Friday, May 29, 2009

Who is a Vaiṣṇava, rāgānuga-rebels, the role of Śrīdāma, Gosthyanandi vs Bhajananandi, the deities' vows and the beginning of karma.

Bhakta: 'Some devotees say that all religious persons in the world are Vaiṣṇavas."

Advaitadas: "That is not what the śāstra says. Haribhakti Vilāsa (1.55) says clearly:

gṛhīta-viṣṇu-dīkṣāko viṣṇu-pūjā-paro naraḥ
vaiṣṇavo’bhihito’bhijñair itaro’smad avaiṣṇavāḥ

'The learned call those human beings who took initiation into Viṣṇu mantra and are dedicated to Viṣṇu puja 'Vaishnavas', while all others are Avaishnavas."

Viṣṇu is God but God is not Viṣṇu for everyone - only to the Vaiṣṇavas.Viṣṇu is not a vague concept of some light or some omnipresent power as the main religions in the world will suggest, but a concrete person - will they tell you that God lies on a snake bed, has four arms, has a complexion of rainclouds and is named Hari, Nārāyan, Mādhava, Viṣṇu and Govinda? If they do they are Vaiṣṇavas, if they don't they are not Vaiṣṇavas."

Bhakta: 'Can you explain further why (mostly western) rāgānugā-devotees fail in such large numbers?"

Advaitadas: "In addition to those I mentioned in my blog of May 16 (the curious and the sentimental), another class of potential failures are the rebels. Many devotees are unsubmissive by nature and they think they can escape from humble surrender by becoming 'equal' to Kṛṣṇa through rāgānuga practise; a shortcut to avoid humility and surrender. Of course eventually their false pride will catch up with them and they, too, will sink."

Bhakta: "In Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Gaṇoddeśa Dīpikā, Śrīdāma is said to be Rādhā and Anaṅga Mañjarī's elder brother. Yet he is also a dear friend of Kṛṣṇa's. How does he deal with Kṛṣṇa's affair with his sister(s)?"

Advaitadas: "He is not involved in it. In Govinda Līlāmṛta (7.111-113) the eight friends' kuñjas around Śyāmakund are named - Subala, Madhumaṅgala, Ujjvala, Arjuna, Gandharva, Vidagdha, Bhṛṅga, Kokila, Dakṣa and Sannanda - Śrīdāma is not one of them, he should not get involved. When, in Vidagdha Mādhava's first Act, Kṛṣṇa describes how gorgeous Rādhā is, Subal warns him that Śrīdāma, who is also present at the discussion, and whom Rūpa Gosvāmī describes as being embarrassed by it, is Rādhā's brother, and it was inappropriate of Kṛṣṇa to speak about Rādhā in this manner in his presence."

Bhakta: "Who is the greater devotee, the bhajanānandī or the goṣṭhyānandī?"

Advaitadas: "There is no such division given in the Goswāmīs' books. Each devotee is both bhajanānandī and goṣṭhyānandī. There is no preacher who does not do his own sādhana and there is no sādhaka who does not do any preaching at all. At most, some devotees may be more into preaching than into sādhana or more into sādhana than into preaching. Anyway, creating such divisions between devotees has led to a lot of unnecessary aparādha and false pride - 'bhajan is greater than preaching / preaching is greater than bhajan'. While Kṛṣṇa Himself does not choose sides. He simply says yo mad bhakta sa me priya (Bhagavad Gītā 12.14, 16, 17 and 19) 'Whoever is My devotee, He is dear to Me." Bas.

Bhakta: "If you have Gaur Nitāi deities, do the deities, who are bhakta-avatāras after all, also fast for 4 months during the caturmāsya?"

Advaitadas: 'There are several answers to that question - if you are single it is better not to have deities anyway, especially if you perform a 4-month vrata, because you cannot distribute the food you offer, but do not eat yourself, to others, unless you have daily guests. You may have to dump the prasād or let the deities fast, that will be sevāparādha in either way. If you have a big ashram you can distribute the prasāda you are abstaining from to guests, but that's not possible if you are single, in the west. Another reason not to have deities when you are single is that if you get sick no one will serve the deities and that will be sevāparādha,  too. The third answer to this question is that we in Sītānāth's family are not in favour of Gaura Nitāi deities anyway because that was not really Gaura's own purpose, and it creates a very confusing picture to the newcomers - 'Who are these Vaiṣṇavas actually worshipping - Caitanya or Kṛṣṇa?'

Bhakta: "But in Advaita Prakāśa, chapter 20, it is said that Mahāprabhu told Gaurīdās Paṇḍita to make Gaur Nitāi deities.'

Advaitadas: "Look at the context - Gaur-Nitāi were in Ambikā Kālnā, Gaurīdās Paṇḍita's Śrīpāṭ, but They wished to move on, and his heart broke. So to console him personally, Gaur Nitāi told him to make deities of Them. That was not meant as a rule for the entire sampradāya. Similarly, Viṣṇupriyā survived her separation from Gaura with her own, strictly personal deity of Him. Gaura Himself has said throughout, though, that we should worship Kṛṣṇa - ārādhyo bhagavān vrajeśa tanaya ......śrī caitanya mahāprabhor matam idam.

Bhakta: "From which age does someone start making karma?"

Advaitadas: "There are no artificial age-limits for that. As soon as an individual is physically able to sin and starts committing sin, he/she will be liable. Toddlers do not have sex or drink alcohol, because their bodies and minds are not ready for that yet. Some start early and some start late, but whenever sin is committed one is liable."

Bhakta: "What if one sins due to bad association?"

Advaitadas: "Then, too, one is liable. The best examples are Karṇa and Duḥśāśan - Karṇa was a potential bhakta, eldest Kaunteya and dānavīra - the greatest donor. Yet, because he became an unconditional friend of the demon Duryodhana he was killed. Duḥśāśan, Duryodhan's younger brother, was, according to Mahajan Bhīṣma, also a good boy, but because of his great love for Duryodhan he attempted to disrobe Draupadi, for which Bhīma tore off his arm, killed him and drank his blood. That is why the śāstras say time and again one must beware of asat saṅga, bad company."

Bhakta: "So there is no minimum age for making karma?"

Advaitadas: "As long as a child obeys the parents, the parents are responsible, but when a child starts making his own decisions and performs acts which his parents and his faith have forbidden, he/she will be liable."


  1. you approve that single people esp in the west should not have deities. So then they should eat sinful food that is not offered to Krishna? Is this the best way to spiritual progress?
    what should be the diet of one who has no deities and lives in the west?

  2. Anon, I have said nothing of the kind. One must always offer all one's food to Krishna, and only eat Krishna prasaad. There are other ways of doing that as a single person - offer food to a picture of Krishna, or touch it to one's neckbeads. As I hope you know, there are 32 sevAparAdhas, or offences to the deities. I hope you will agree too, that it is an offence not the serve the deity when, because one is single, one gets sick, goes on a journey or dies and there is no one left to serve the deity. It makes common sense to me. Besides common sense, it is also stated in shastra (Advaita Prakash) that Advaita Prabhu, who initially was a brahmacary, was told by his Guruji Sripad Madhavendra Puri, to marry to qualify for the service of his deities Sri Sri Radha-Madan Gopal.

  3. "Touching to one's neckbeads" - I never heard that before. Is that something mentioned in Sastra, or an instruction you heard from Sri Sadhu Baba?

  4. The only place where I have never heard it was ISKCON. This is practised by all other Vaishnava-groups I know. Sadhu Baba just confirmed it to me in April 1984, after I heard it from all other Vaishnava groups previously. He also said I could use dried-up Tulasi leaves as an alternative.