One person who received sannyasa from my Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, has changed from being a sannyasi to accepting babaji vesa and a new name from Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda.
Just to be clear, I have never heard of Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda before this situation and I have never read his books. I also don’t know the sannyasi, I have only seen him during festivals.
This is controversial and generates a lot of discussions in the sangha. So whenever I encounter something I know little about, I always try to approach it without judgment and caution.
So the first thing is to figure out what my Gurudeva and the parampara say about this. This fragment of a lecture tells me what the difference between sannyasi and babaji vesa is:
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: We are not speaking about giving bābājī-vesa. He never gave bābājī-vesa to anyone who was previously given sannyāsa. Our Guru Mahārāja also gave bābājī-vesa, and Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also gave bābājī-vesa to some, but they never changed anyone from sannyāsa to bābājī.
There is almost no difference between a sannyāsī and bābājī, in the sense that the mantra of both is the same. The main difference is that the bābājī is mostly a bhajanānandī (a renunciant who mostly concentrates on his personal bhajana, spending less time in preaching activities), and the sannyāsī is a goṣṭhyānandī (a preacher who is also engaged in bhajana). Only those who don’t know the principles of either can change their dress. We should not change.
So there really isn’t much difference in terms of meaning except the dress signifying that one focus more on one’s personal bhajana. Of course, I believe there is room for a sannyasi to focus on his personal bhajana as well for longer periods of time if that is needed, but okey.
If there is any philosophical difference between Sri Ananta das Babaji and the Guru parampara, I don’t know.
Today the sannyasi gave a statement:
Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga Jayatah!Jaya Sri Radhe!Dear Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis, please accept my humble pranams.I am updating my status to share with you my joy of all the great mercy that as been bestowed upon me recently. By the mercy of Srimati Radhika and Her dear maidservants in our glorious Rupanuga Vaisnava lineages I have been blessed in the most unexpected and most glorious way. I am asking for your blessings and prayers as I continue with my spiritual quest to attain the eternal service of Srimati Radhika.After the departure of our most beloved Gurudeva, Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja, I have been praying for direct guidance in my life of someone who could help me realise what he so expertly instilled a greed in me to realise, the transcendental mood of the maidservants of Srimati Radhika, manjari bhava. Such persons are indeed rare in this world and to meet even one is astonishing. He taught us that if even a drop of greed for these moods comes into our hearts our lives are a success. I cannot say how much greed he gave me but I can say that I want nothing else and have wanted nothing else for many years. So you can imagine my great happiness when I met yet another great Guru and maidservant of Sri Radha who has captured my heart just as Srila Gurudeva, Srila BV Narayana Goswami has done. By the causeless mercy of Radha Kunda Mahant, Sri Ananta das Babaji Maharaja I am proud and overjoyed that such expert guidance is continuing in my life.I realise that this may seem a very radical decision to some of you and that many of you will reject me even after years of close friendship and service to Sri Guru and Gauranga but I pray you will read on a little more and hear my reasons and perhaps you will bless me even if you cannot accept me any longer.All my life I have pursued Love of God. First as a Christian wanting to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength as is the main teaching in that faith. Although I knew very little about God I wanted this above all else. In the mid 80’s I met the Hare Krishnas and was delighted to learn that God is indeed Krishna. Now I was learning so much about Him and His associates. This was and continues to be the greatest revelation of discovering my relationship to Him and His associates. You can well imagine how my Christian colleagues took that “radical” news. I was shunned to say the least. Then after many years of learning more and more about Bhakti I prayed for a Guru like Srila Prabhupada, who in my eyes and heart was like Jesus Christ.Such a great personality finally came into my life in the transcendental personality of Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja, Srila Gurudeva. Instantly he captured my heart and mind and I dedicated myself to his service and pleasure sincerely and fully. Many glorious years of enlightenment followed as he showered me with his mercy. He awakened in me the feeling that I could certainly be a maidservant of Srimati Radhika and encouraged me to fully dedicate myself to this goal. He told me to see that everything I do is connected to that goal. And so, with what I knew and with the boldness that comes with greed for something, I pushed on without compromise. I had been taught that such a Guru needs to be a pure self realised soul, as Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (4:34). After my most beloved Gurudeva disappeared from this world my heart longed to again be under such guidance. Gurudeva is always present in my heart and is guiding me still from within. Every day more and more mercy comes from him showing me the way forward. We need to always be in sadhu sanga, the association of those who have the mood we aspire for and are affectionate to us, thus giving us a taste of the transcendental love of God they have in their heart.Then two years ago I did something that was officially shunned by the Institution around Srila Gurudeva, I read the books of Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda. The wonderful thing is that I found the exact same mood of my dearest Gurudeva in his books and became very happy, as you might imagine. Then last year I had the good fortune to meet him and my heart immediately recognised Sri Guru! There is no doubt in my heart and mind and I feel Srila Gurudeva, BV Narayana Goswami’s blessings strong as ever to take shelter of him for my further realisation. I know many strongly disagree with this conclusion but I know Guru when I see one. I was ostrecised for leaving ISKCON to come to Gurudeva but soon had my faith confirmed with his association. And now the sanga of devotees that followed Srila Gurudeva officially have rejected me and plan to convince all of you to do the same. I am deeply sorry for any pain this is causing or confusion but I can only follow the flow of greed in my heart towards my goal. I am endeavouring to see that everything I do is connected to my goal of realising my identity as a maidservant of Srimati Radhika. How could I ever reject such an opportunity even at the expense of losing so many sweet friends and well wishers?
And so if you unfriend me I understand and only pray that you bless this little jiva will one day find her way back home to Godhead.
All glories to Srimati Radhika!
All glories to Sri Gauranga!
All glories to Sri Nityananda!
All glories to Sri Rupa Goswami!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
All glories to Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja!
All glories to Sri Ananta das Babaji Maharaja!
I have been indeed blessed that they have all blessed me beyond my dreams but in answer to my prayers.
My new name is Madhavananda das and I am wearing Babaji vesha to please Sri Guru.
It’s a lovely statement, and usually I would become happy if a person has found genuine sadhu-sanga. People advancing spiritually is a joyous occasion and makes me happy.
Here’s the thing that makes it hard to reconcile:
If there is little difference between babaji vesa and sannyasi vesa, why change dress? Wouldn’t the act of changing dress be a let down of the one giving sannyasa and also the guru-parampara?
Doesn’t the act itself show that one has gone outside the guru-parampara?
(And let me just comment on this statement “And now the sanga of devotees that followed Srila Gurudeva officially have rejected me”. I only speak for myself, but to reject a person is an immature action. The mature action is to welcome a person and deal with something from situation to situation. Krishna wants us all, though sometimes we walk off path, sometimes we follow the path but on the grass and rocks beside the path and sometimes we walk in the wrong direction. Though in my experience is that when those “big” words like rejection is used, it generally doesn’t mean rejection, but that one has been disallowed doing something for a while.)
The sannyasi linked to an article on vnn.org about Srila Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj who was a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja. Hriday Bon Maharaja apparantly gave up sannyasa for babbaji vesa, then took up sannyasa again.
So how to reconcile these things?
Update on 27th january 2014
There’s a sound file where Gurudeva makes some statements about Sri Ananta Das babaji. But I can’t for the life of me understand what he’s saying because of the bad sound quality.