The cover theory: saktyavesa

The saktyavesa (cover) theory comes from Srila Sridhara Maharaja (SSM), and Mukunda Prabhus contribution builds upon this. The theory propounds that since Srila Prabhupada was empowered by Nityananda Prabhu, this empowerment covered his natural (manjari) mood when he composed the Jaladuta Prayer so he could express sakhya rasa.

yatrāviṣṭo janārdanaḥ
ta āveśā nigadyante
jīvā eva mahattamāḥ
Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛta, verse 18

A living entity who is specifically empowered by the Lord with knowledge or strength is technically called āveśa-rūpa. As stated in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 7.11), kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana: unless a devotee is specifically empowered by the Lord, he cannot preach the holy name of the Lord all over the world. This is an explanation of the word āveśa-rūpa.

History of the saktyavesa theory

During Srila Prabhupadas presence and afterwards there was a common understanding that SP was in sakhya-rasa, though most westerners didn’t have a clear understanding of the different rasas.

“A short time later there was some objection to Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s referring to our Guru Maharaja as being in sakhya-rasa. Some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples for some reason took objection to Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s statement. Srila Sridhara Maharaja was shocked by the immaturity of those disciples who objected. The consideration of rasa was obviously not a topic that those disciples were familiar with. Indeed their harshness in dealing with Srila Sridhara Maharaja reflected their extremely neophyte state of Krsna consciousness.

At that time Srila Sridhara Maharaja made reference to the effect that because of the special empowerment of Sri Nityananda Prabhu that our Guru Maharaja might have couched his madhurya tendencies in deference to Lord Nityananda.

The idea given by Srila Sridhara Mahraja was that it is possible that our Guru Maharaja was in madhurya rasa, but out of deference to Nityananda by whose potency he was influenced for his preaching campaign, Srila Prabhupada may have veiled his madhurya sentiments. Therefore some of the sakhya influence of Nityananda Prabhu was shown outwardly, keeping madhurya in the backgound.”

Narashinga Maharaja: My Guru is Radharani

KBM also writes about this in their statement “In the transcendental world all are very sweet”:  Parampujyapada Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja said that Srila Swami Maharaja was in sakhya-rasa and following that this type of attack came from a neophyte section of Srila Swami Maharaja’s followers.


Mukunda prabhu comes with arguments to show how saktyavesa was the reason why Srila Prabhupada could compose stotras showing sakhya-rasa. KBM argues that all gurus receive empowerment from Nityananda prabhu for preaching and the theory has no siddhantic precedence and contradicts with Rupa Goswamis definitions. That one can not act in opposition to ones mood.

The rebuttal from Bhaktivedanta Suddhadvaiti Swami further points out that Srila Prabhupada expressed sakhya-rati in the Jaladuta prayer, which was his prayer for empowerment. In other words: The sakhya-rati was there before the saktyavesa empowerment.

Evidence from the source itself

From our affectionate guardians p. 38 – 19:
Sridhar Swami: I consider him saktyavesa-avatara, and it is confirmed in his writings on his spiritual journey through the Atlantic. How he landed there in America, and the nature of his beginning the movement, his intense degree of dedication to Krsna and dependence, and how much he made himself empty of any other desire than the order of his gurudeva quite empty that Krsna came down to help him, and it is corroborated that Krsna worked on his behalf. In his poem, “Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krsna,” we find him pleading with Krsna, “My dear Brother, Your good fortune will come to You only when Srimati Radharani becomes pleased with You.” Seeing his gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, as Radharani’s delegation and his order as Her divine service, he humbly submitted that he did not feel himself worthy or fit to discharge the divine service, so he enlisted Krsna in the service of his guru. He had completely dedicated himself to the purpose, he was so earnest in his prayer to Krsna that he may discharge the duty that he has been given by his Guru Maharaja , that divine force, power, came down to help him. Otherwise, it is impossible. It is not a thing of the ordinary level that anyone can do–take the highest thing [Krsna consciousness] to the lowest position [fallen souls] so extensively. It cannot but be the divine power, embodied and in a great intensity and magnitude! So, saktyavesa-avatara, I cannot but take him to be so.

Much of the same statement can be found in “O My Friend” Chapter 3, but more elaborated:

“I think he has given the hint in his own autobiography. When he was going to America, on the journey he expressed his feeling to play with Krishna in sakhya-rasa: kata bane chutapachuti bane khai lutaputi sei din  kabe habe mor, “Running and frolicking in the many forests of Vraja, I will roll on the ground in spiritual ecstasy. O when will that day be mine?” This was his “Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krishna.” When he was passing through the Atlantic, he gave vent to feel- ings that may be the salient points in his Vraja lila. It struck me like that, Vrndavana sakhya-rasa.

When he departed from this consciousness of worldly preaching propaganda, then he is there. It is clearly expressed in these sayings there in the Atlantic. He discovered the unmanifest (aprakata) pas- times in Vrndavana, and in Vrindavana he established Krishna-Balarama and Gaura-Nitai. That is indicative of sakhya-rasa. From this we can conclude that he is in sakhya-rasa, and he has entered into those pastimes. This is my understanding about his present position. He has expressed himself, his eternal position, the acme of his aspiration. In Vrndavana he has established Balarama and Krishna and Nitai-Gaura, and he is saying like that, Nitai-Gaura are Krishna and Balarama. It’s almost clear that he comes from that group. And now he’s again there. Hare Krishna.

He expressed his own position in eternal lila in his poem. I conjecture like that. Hare Krishna! In his diary in Bengali he wrote, “Today I cooked some baticaccari. It was quite delicious. So I ate something. Today I expressed my inner feelings to my friend and wrote a poem about that.”

And that friend came to his aid. He was so earnest in his prayer to Krishna that he might be able to discharge the duty that had been given to him by his Guru Maharaja that Krishna came down to help him, his friend helped him in this propaganda work. So saktyavesa-avatara. I take him; I cannot but take him to be so.

 Addressing Krishna he wrote, “You are my eternal friend. Forgetting You, I have come to this world and I have been suffering the kicking of Maya, the goddess of misconception. If You come to help me in this campaign, then after finishing this I can again join You. When I shall be united with You again. I shall wander along with You the whole day in keeping the cows in the forest. Running this side and that side in the jungle, in the forest. And then, lutaputi, to fall on the ground in different shows of play. I aspire after that day. I have got this good chance to serve my Gurudeva. For that reason my heartfelt appeal to You is that You please come to help me. I am Your eternal servitor; therefore, so much aspiration I have got for You. You, no other, are my only resort.”
So after performing this service, he aspires after a life in the cow-keeping lila of Krishna, and he is appreciating that sort of friendly service of Krishna very much from the core of his heart, his aspiration after finishing his worldly preaching campaign.

I take it that Nityananda Prabhu has given some special recognition to the section of the suvarna-vanik community from which Swami Maharaja has come. He has special grace for that particular section and the preaching about Gauranga, and this is mentioned in the scriptures. The suvarna-vanik are the most favorite section of Nityananda Prabhu. It is mentioned in the sastra, Caitanya-bhagavata. I thought that Nityananda Prabhu is also in charge of preaching about Mahaprabhu’s glory. So I took it that Nityananda Prabhu must have awakened some special dedication in him in his last days which helped him to inundate with such an inconceivable magnitude, the whole of the world.

But that does not mean that he was nothing before such delegated power came in him. That delegation may only come in a proper place, just as in other saktyaveca-avataras, the sakti accepts a particular place and that is not an ordinary thing. One must be a proper receptacle to receive that. Saktyavesa. Does it mean that when the delegation comes it will enter some bad thing? This supposition is mischievous, and those that will make this mischief out of my statement regarding the delegation of Nityananda entering him will diminish faith. They will prepare the field for becoming atheists. This is suicidal, to propagate in that line.

And the sakhya-rasa is also not to be neglected. Dasa Goswami, who is thought to hold the highest position of madhurya-rasa, our prayojana acarya himself says, sakhayam me namasta nityam. What does it mean? Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Is it an intellectual field that we can pass resolutions, pass remarks in any way we like in our fashion? No. Dasa Goswami, who is posted in the highest position of the prayojana-tattva, the acarya of prayojana in madhurya-rasa of Radha dasyam, he says that I will try to show my reverence to sakhya. It is not a play thing. This is very rarely to be found. We must go to that plane and then we should deal with these things. Sakhya-rasa is a very small thing? What is this? From a distance I want to show my respect to sakhya-rasa. That should be the tendency of a real devotee, and not to disregard all these things.”

This prayer was composed by Sripada B.S. Govinda Maharaja who is a disciple and successor acharya of Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Sami:

nama om visnupadaya krsna-presthaya bhutale
svami sri bhaktivedanta prabhupadaya te nama
gurvajnam sirasi-dharyam saktyavesa sva-rupine
hare-krsneti mantrena pascatya-pracya-tarine
visvacarya prabaryaya divya karunya murtaye
sri bhagavata-madhurya-gita-jnana-pradayine
gaura-sri-rupa-siddhanta-sarasvati nisevine
radha-krsna-padambhoja-bhrngaya gurave namah

I offer my humble obeisances unto His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna on this Earth, having taken shelter at His lotus feet. Taking the order of his guru on his head, he became empowered by Nityananda Prabhu to act as a saktyavesa- avatara. He distributed the Hare Krsna mantra all over the Eastern and Western world, delivering and uplifting all fallen souls. He is the best of millions of jagat-gurus, because he is the personification of divine mercy. He has distributed the sweet nectar of Srimad Bhagavatam and the transcendental knowledge of Bhagavad-gita all over the world. He is constantly engaged in exclusive devotional service to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Rupa Gosvami, and Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. I offer my humble obeisances unto Srila Prabhupada, who is like a bumblebee always tasting the nectar of the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha and Govinda.

In talk with Srila Sridhar Maharaja:
Maharaj, it has been clear now, in a way, that Prabhupad (Srila Bhaktivedana Swami Maharaj) was in the sakhya rasa?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: At least temporarily he has showed like that. What he has expressed there in that journey there, it is almost clear that he liked that sort of lila best, but it may be, it might have been suppressed purposely; it also cannot be denied, maybe. That is one thing. There may be such a possibility, and he has given, he has said that Radharani was his gurudeva. His gurudeva was Radharani, but he himself was thinking that perhaps madhurya rasa should not be distributed in the first installment. That might have been his view.

Because his preaching was mostly helped by Nityanananda Prabhu, Baladeva, so influenced by their tendency, their mood, he might have for the time being had that footing. And another thing: there is another sign that he showed affinity for sakhya rasa. In Vrndavana, he has installed Baladeva, Krsna Balarama, and Nitai Gaura. Sakhya rasa preference. That also may be with the previous idea: that generally, by the influence of Nityananda, Nityananda and Baladeva has helped me to preach the lila of Krsna in such a broad way, so in gratitude, he might have place that vigraha.

Mukunda prabhu

Mukunda Prabhu  (MP) has written three posts on this subject: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.  I will only add the specific things I find relevant to the subject of saktya avesa.

Mukunda prabhu begins by going through the Jaladuta prayers, where verse 8 and 9 is of interest:

MP Reflection on verse 8: receiving the prayed for power of Nityananda Srila Prabhupada Prays relating to Krishna not as the supreme personality of Godhead but as his eternal companion a mood of Baladeva toward Krishna and Nityananda toward Mahaprabhu.

 MP reflection on verse 9: This is the verse that is the lynchpin of those who advocate the prayer to be Sakhya Rasa well that’s absolutely correct as confirmed by Srila Sridhar Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Maharaja , Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja yes Srila Gurdeva also acknowledge this verse to indicate Sakhya as he stated everything is there in Madhyura rasa, and alternatively it is absolutely the mood of Sri Nityananda whom Srila Prabhupada is manifest the shakti of and following the tenor of the prayer from the beginning it is apparent that Srila Prabhupada prayed and received the shakti of Nityananda. Keep in mind his early absorption at Radha Damodar where he used cry at the Samadhi of Sri Rupa Goswmi/ Rupa Manjari he declared this his eternal home.Now Aboard the Jaladhuta about to arrive in America he recieved the complete empowerment of Nitai.  Srila Prabhupada’s own words

Unless you take shelter under the shade of the lotus feet of Nityananda…“radha-krsna paite nai”…it will be very difficult to approach Radha-Krsna. This Krsna consciousness movement is for approaching Radha-Krsna, to be associated with the Supreme Lord in His sublime pleasure dance. That is the aim of Krsna consciousness. So Narottama dasa Thakura’s advice is, “If you actually want to enter into the dancing party of Radha-Krsna, then you must take shelter of the lotus feet of Nityananda.”

So this expressions in this verse are manifest from Srila Prabhupads Avesha in Nityananda.

MP goes into the talk SSM had with a devotee where he dives into the phrasing of SSM which is very ambigous:

Srila Sridhar maharaja says exactly what our Srila Gurudeva said “At least he has TEMPORARILY SHOWED LIKE THAT” Now he makes reference to the Prayer written on the Jaladuta ” WHAT HE HAS EXPRESSED THERE IN THAT JOURNEY” Then Srila Sridhar maharaja says ” IT IS ALMOST CLEAR THAT HE LIKED THAT SORT OF LILA BEST” why say “ALMOST CLEAR” why is it not absolutely clear. “BUT IT MAY BE” by saying this he saying there might be other consideration. “IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED PURPOSELY” Obvious question is what might have been suppressed purposely?
” IT CANNOT BE DENIED” what can’t be denied? ” THERE IS ONE THING THERE MAYBE SUCH POSSIBILITY AND HE HAS GIVEN, HE HAS SAID THAT RADHARANI IS HIS GURUDEVA” This is a reference to the first verse and refrain or main theme of the prayer aboard the Jaladuta.

krishna taba punya habe bhai
e-punya koribe jabe radharani khusi habe
dhruva ati boli toma tai

I emphatically say to you, O brothers, you will obtain your good fortune from the Supreme Lord Krishna only when Shrimati Radharani becomes pleased with you.
“BUT HE HIMSELF WAS THINKING MADHURYA RASA SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN IN THE FIRST INSTALLMENT”. So what was being suppressed it was not Sahkya rasa because he was expressing that in the 9th verse it’s clear. So according to his own words above Srila Sridhar Maharaja is saying the mood he has in Relation to Raadharani and Madhurya rasa is what is being suppressed and Srila Sridhar maharaja says “HE HIMSELF WAS THINKING ” (he meaning Srila Prabhupada) had made this consideration not to openly give Madhurya rasa in the first installment.

 MP then uses the example of Nakula Brahmacari to show how saktyaavesa can take possession of the body of a devotee.

The response from Krishna Balaram Mandir


The first two paragraphs below in regards to the saktyavesa theory is interesting because they explain how one should approach towards sastra.

KBMs paper: Conclusions on sthayi-bhava (svarupa) & Nityananda-sakti-avesa
However, as there can be apparent inconsistencies and contradictions between them or even in their own statements on a given subject, we cannot pin down their absolute position according to the words they gave in one situation or another without risking to selectively choose only the parts which favor our own view.

Therefore, finally the sastra has to match, and it just doesn’t here. There is no scriptural precedent for a manjari-upasana sadhaka to become absorbed in the bhava of nityananda, or sakhya-bhava. It does not discount our beloved holy masters, Srila Gurudeva, Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja, and Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, if we insist that Srila Rupa Gosvami’s definitions are the basis upon which everything we have to discuss depends. Rather than offend them, this will please them so much. So we cannot accept the words of any acarya as more than circumstantial needful-doing or his own subjective transcendental mood if they contradict Srila Rupa Goswami’s conceptual framework, and especially his definitions. Otherwise we are no longer Rupanuga in any sense at all.

What is Sri Rupa’s definition of sthayi-bhava?
aviruddhan viruddhams ca bhavan yo vasatam nayan
su-rajeva virajeta sa sthayi bhava ucyate (BRS 2.5.1)

“That bhava which, controlling other favorable bhavas and contradictory bhavas, presides in the manner of an efficient ruler, is called sthayi-bhava.”

 Avesa is one thing and svarupa, or sthayi-bhava, is another. Sthayi-bhava rules like a powerful king. If a king is defeated, then he is no longer king; if sthayi-bhava is overtaken by another mood, it cannot be called sthayi-bhava. Sancari-bhavas may occur, a temporary ‘avesa’ may occur, but that cannot contradict or overtake the sthayi-bhava. If Srila BV Swami Prabhupada can break his manjari sthayi-bhava to absorb in Nityananda’s mood, that means manjari-bhava is not his sthayi-bhava. The mathematics of rasa here is non-negotiable, as we shall demonstrate below.

On the basis of his understanding of Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja’s commentary, Mukunda prabhu is presenting as permissable in rasa-siddhanta that in verse 8 of his Jaladuta prayer Srila Prabhupada is praying in ‘nityananda-avesa’, which is represented to mean here not just that he was specially empowered for preaching but that his manjari-bhava was temporarily covered by the mood of Nityananda. Certainly avesa can occur, as in the example given of Pradyumna Brahmacari as an avesa-avatara of Sriman Mahaprabhu.

Mahaprabhu is however the object of Pradyumna’s worship, but if Srila Prabhupada is a manjari, then what to speak of Nityananda/Balarama Prabhu, even Sri Krsna is not the object of his worshipful absorption. From this angle, this idea of ‘nityananda-avesa’ can only mean here that Srila Prabhupada is a cowherd boy ecstatically identified with the mood of his worshipful deity Nitai/Baladeva due to intense loving absorbtion. Consider the example of Mineketana Ramadasa, who due to sakhya-prema would become absorbed in the mood of Nityananda during kirtana; Nityananda was said to enter him at that time.

There is admittedly a problem with this proposal of Srila Prabhupada’s sakhya-bhavamayi identification with Sri Nityananda, however. We do not see any example of a devotee experiencing avesa identification with their istadeva and simultaneously lamenting in the mood of a sadhaka. Rather, such avesa is a type of supreme meeting within separation; by vipralambha-bhava the devotee has come so close to his istadeva that he has forgotten himself altogether, so how will he hanker for the perfectional stage of prema-seva? Who then, if Srila Prabhupada is in avesa, is praying? Even Nityananda Prabhu Himself, when He came to Vrndavan, Srngara-vata, although being absorbed in great distress of separation from His Kanhaiya, did not come in any sadhaka-avesa. Nityananda does not pray that “I have forgotten You and now maya is kicking me. O when will i be with You…” He is Bhagavan, and His mood does not come down to sadhaka level.

If this is not enough to satisfy you to close the argument, then consider the next point. We were citing Srila Rupa Gosvami’s definition of sthayi-bhava as reigning king; any mood or avesa that may come must be compatible and nurturing to the devotee’s sthayi-bhava, or else the very definition of sthayi-bhava is destroyed. For example, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada explains in his Sarartha-darsini that when the gopis were searching for Sri Krsna when he disappeared from Rasa-lila, they became so absorbed in remembrance of Sri Krsna that they fully identified with Him and enacted His pastimes. However, when the role of Yasoda was required for such enactment, no gopi could take that role without contradicting her own sthayi-bhava, so Yogamaya manifested a gopi in ‘yasoda-avesa.’ It can be posited that sakhya-bhava is not incompatible with madhurya-rasa like vatsalya-bhava; one gopi could experience a passing virudha-bhava of balaram-avesa within that lila…

First of all, such lila-anurodha (momentary passing identification with the object of worship, Sri Krsna here) is only possible for those gopis of sambhogamayi nature, who have a direct relation with Sri Krsna. Such absorption in Krsna nourishes their permanent mood as his lovers, but manjaris would not experience that avesa because it is fully contrary to the nature of their tat-tad-bhava-icchamayi or bhavollasa sthayi-bhava,

centered exclusively on Srimati Radhika. For a manjari to enter Krsna-avesa – what to speak of Balaram-avesa – would kill their ‘king’; their sthayi-bhava cannot accommodate that virudha-bhava avesa. Even if such a virudha-bhava came, it cannot conquer and overtake sthayi-bhava in the way proposed by Mukubda prabhu. The only avesa a manjari will experience is that of Srimati Radhika, being tadatmika with Her and fully indentified with all She feels and desires.

In conclusion, what Srila BV Swami Prabhupada is expressing is not a sancari-bhava, not a passing wave in the ocean of his heart. The longing to attain his ultimate goal is expressed in classical Gaudiya fashion – “O when will that day be mine??” This is the mood of a sadhaka lamenting for his perfectional stage. If he was absorbed in the identification of Balarama or Nityananda, like the gopis were absorbed in krsna-avesa when Krsna disappeared from Rasa, then Srila Prabhupada would say ‘I AM stealing Krsna’s lunch and roaming forest to forest grazing cows, I AM doing that seva…” Rather, he is praying for an eternal seva relationship, not expressing a passing nityanada-bhava.

It is impossible according to Srila Rupa Gosvami’s rasa-siddhanta. Sri Uddhava ji exactly resembles Sri Krsna, and the gopis try to embrace every other black thing – bumblebees, clouds, tamal trees – but not Uddhava, because inside of prema is full knowledge. In no circumstance will prema cross its limits or department. In no circumstance can Srila Prabhupada pray as he has if he is a manjari.

The actual meaning of Srila Prabhupada being glorified as nityananda-saktyavesa is that Nitai’s power entered him so that he could deliver the entire world, as he has done. And the actual meaning of his Jaladuta prayers is exactly what he say.

Suddhadvaiti Swami: A rebuttal to Mukunda Dasa’s commentary on Srila Swami Maharaja’s Prayers on the Jaladuta from Krishna Balaram Temple

Without Sri Nityananda Prabhu’s empowerment, His avesa, no one can perform the function of guru. Nityananda is akhanda-guru-tattva, so all sad-gurus are nityananda-sakti-avesa, or nityananda-prakasa, not only Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja.
Every disciple can say that about his own guru.
Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja is also Nityananda Prabhu’s sakti-avesa, but never one time expressed any desire to go cow-grazing with Sri Krsna, or be a cowherd boy. Svarupa is one thing and avesa is another. “Nityananda-avesa” does not cover a Vaisnava-guru’s own mood.

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