Who is rupanuga?

One of the main contentions in this debate has been over the definition of who is rupanuga. This posting will go into details on the inner workings of priya-narma sakhas (PNS), as this is essential in making up ones mind whether PNS are rupanuga or not.

Rupa Goswami

The history of the term rupanuga

It was first used by Srila Ragunatha Dasa Goswami in his Manah Siksa, text 12. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura wrote a commentary on Manah Siksa that he called Bhajana-Darpana-Bhasya. Later he wrote a book called Gitamala where the chapter “Rupanuga Bhajana Darpana” is found. In that chapter he mentions the word in several of the songs. Later Sri Ananta Vasudeva Prabhu, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta composed pranama mantras for both Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur containing the word.

Definitons of Rupanuga in the debate

The most narrow understanding for those who favor madhurya-rasa would be that one follows Rupa manjaris inner mood.

All the inhabitants of Vraja – including the gopas, gopis, cows, calves, animals and birds – are ragatmika. Sadhakas who follow the moods of these inhabitants of Vraja in order to attain their bhava are called raganuga. Amongst these raganuga sadhakas, only those who specifically follow the internal mood of Sri Rupa-manjari are rupanuga. Thus, every rupanuga sadhaka is also a raganuga-sadhaka, but raganuga sadhakas are not necessarily rupanuga.

Rupanuga sadhakas are those who with the external body follow the process of bhajana as shown by Srila Rupa Gosvami, and simultaneously with their internally conceived spiritual body (siddha-deha) follow the moods of Sri Rupa Manjari as she eternally serves Sri Radha-Krsna in Vraja. Only that sort of raganuga sadhaka is called a rupanuga Vaisnava.

Acarya Kesari Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami, His Life and Teachings, seventh part.

KBMs definition of Rupanuga is certainly a lot broader:

Our paramaradhyatama Srila Gurudeva, Srila Bhakti Vedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja said Srila Swami Maharaja’s glory is that he is a Rupanuga Vaisnava, and that is certainly true. Whichever bhava any of our acaryas has, he had to take from Srila Rupa Gosvami’s moods and ideas, for any rasa. Therefore all acaryas in our parampara are called Rupanuga, although each one will not cross beyond the area of his own rasa; all follow Srila Rupa Gosvami, but there is some special part or department that not all touch.

 

… Sometimes Srila Gurudeva also said that Srila Swami Maharaja is Rupanuga in the internal sense, “serving like Sri Rupa-manjari.” We can compare this with how Srila Swami Maharaja repeatedly told his disciples that his own god-brothers were all kanistha-adhikaris.

KBM: In the transcendental world all is very sweet

Do priya-narma-sakha have madhurya or not?

The first time it’s revealed that priya narma sakhas have two rasa: sakhya and madhurya is in the note by  BV Suddhaidvaiti Swami in “An answer to Sripad Nemi Maharaja from BV Suddhadvaiti Maharaja from Krishna Balaram Mandira“:

Smti Krishna-priya dd is quoted as having said that Srila Prabhupada is not a rupanuga devotee. What she actually said is that as a ragatmika priyanarma sakha, he’s following Rupa manjari in almost everything, as Srila Gurudeva himself said. Those sakhas are Radha’s dasa (see Radha Krishna Ganodesa Dipika 198); they touch manjari-bhava and mahabhava and madhurya-rasa and are therefore rupanuga. They also assist the sakhis in their seva, nikunyajuo ratikeli siddhaye, but, they are helping the nikunja-lila from outside the kunja. They’re rupanuga but they cannot serve in every single way like the manjaris.

This is confirmed in the note on Rupanuga bhajana sthalli by KBM:

His intimate seva has two sides: madhurya and sakhya.
… Yes he´s rupanuga and in madhurya-bhava and manjari mood as a member of the kinkari group of Srimati Radhika. (See Gurudeva´s hindi translation of Radha-krsna ganodesa dipika, 194 to 198) in male form.

KBM specifies even further who can be considered rupanuga in Open the door for dhira-samira:

Yasoda Mata, Nanda Baba, Subala, Madhumangala, Lalita, Visakha, the asta-sakhis – their position cannot be taken by any person. They are fixed.  They are all yuthesvaras or yuthesvaris;  under them are many, many followers.  Therefore these persons are not Rupanuga. Lalita and Visakha, Subala, Yasoda – they are not Rupanuga. They are senior.  But their followers can take direction from Rupa-manjari and be Rupanuga.

Our Srila Swami Prabhupada is a follower of the senior priya-narma-sakhas like Subala and Madhumangala.  Because of this he has gopi mood like them, and because he is of her level, he also has Rupa-manjari’s mood.  He is Rupanuga because he follows both Rupa-manjari and Rupa Gosvami.

Later Nemi Maharaja, clearly having done some research comes with the following statement: Krishna’s confidential cowherd boy friends

The priya-narma-sakhas know the most confidential secrets of Krsna’s pastimes with the gopis. Their love for Krsna is almost as intense as the gopi’s love. [Ujjavala-nilamani]
There are no confidential topics whatsoever about which these priya-narma-sakhas do not know. (RKGD 42)
The special prerogative of the priya-narma-sakhas is to assist in Krsna’s madhura-lila. Like dasas, they decorate Krsna with forest flowers and render service such as fanning Him. [JD 633]
The priyanarma-sakhas deliver messages to the Vraja kisoris. They approve of the Vraja kisoris’ love for Krsna. When the Vraja kisoris quarrel with Krsna, the priyanarma-sakhas take Krsna’s side, but when the kisoris are absent, they are expert in supporting the side of the yuthesvari of whom they have taken shelter. They also whisper secret messages in Krsna’s ear. These are the anubhavas that are unique to the priyanarma-sakhas.[BRSB 231]

1) Are priyanarma-sakhas really in madhurya-rasa?

Priya-narma-sakhas are in sakhya-bhava
Our scriptures make it clear that, despite their involvement in Krsna’s amorous pastimes, and their absorption in sakhi-bhava, the priya-narma-sakhas are in sakhya-rasa. Verse 20 of BRSB describes priya-narma-sakhas as asrayalambana (the shelter) of sakhya-rati and JD 679 confirms this.

One attains sakhya-bhava by following priya-narma-sakhas
Since the priya-narma-sakhas are in sakhya-rasa, one may attain sakhya-rasa (and not madhurya-rasa) when one follows them.
One whose ruci is towards sakhya-rasa serves Krsna by following the bhava (sentiment) and cesta (endeavors) of one of Krsna’s priya-sakhas such as Subala. [JD 535]
This is confirmed in JD 537, 819, and in NOD 16.

Madhurya-rasa is between Krsna and the gopis
It is also clear from the scriptures that madhurya-rasa is only possible between Krsna and the gopis.
Kama-rupa bhakti “is only found in the female residents of Vraja.” [JD 530]
The only ones who are situated in the madhura-rasa of Goloka are the vraja-ramanis. [JD 669]
This is confirmed in JD 532, 610, 641, 706; in BRSB 191, 231; and in CC Ml 19 183-184.
The reason why madhurya-rasa is only for those with a female spiritual body is obvious:
On the platform of conjugal love, the devotee offers his body in the service of the Lord. Thus on this platform the transcendental qualities of all five rasas are present. [CC Ml 19.232]

Priya-narma-sakhas are eligible for madhurya-rasa to some extent
In Jaiva-dharma, after Brajanath had realised his svarupa in sakhya-rasa as an assistant to Subala, Gosvami Maharaja prepared to speak about madhurya-rasa. Brajanath was somewhat apprehensive, but Gosvami Maharaja reassured him.
Gosvami: The priya-narma-sakhas are eligible for srngara-rasa to some extent. I will keep your qualification in mind and speak whatever is appropriate for you, and I will say nothing unsuitable. [JD 641]
Gosvami Maharaja then spoke generally and not at all confidentially, which shows that priya-narma-sakhas are not such confidential participants, and cannot (for example) follow Sri Rupa Manjari in all respects.

Priya-narma-sakhas may experience the ecstasy of amorous love as part – and not as the whole – of their mood
In another statement, Subala is addressed thus: “My dear Subala, the damsels of Vrindavana who had the opportunity of enjoying Krsna’s kissing must be the foremost of all the fortunate women in the world.” In this example, the ecstasy of fraternal devotional service is the whole, and the ecstasy of conjugal love is the part.

Conclusion
It is evident from the above that priya-narma-sakhas are in sakhya-rasa, and not madhurya-rasa, and that one who follows them attains sakhya-rasa. They are eligible for madhurya-rasa and mahabhava only to some extent, not fully, and their experience of madhurya-rasa is a part within the whole of their main mood of sakhya-bhava.

The conclusion of Nemi Maharaja is interesting in that nothing of what Nemi Maharaja writes contradicts the statements of KBM – with one exception. KBM goes even further in their understanding of the mood of PNS:

Srila Swami Maharaja is in the mood of a sakhi, he feels internally that he is a sakhi, but for the sake of lila he has the body of a male. For example, sometimes Subala dresses as a sakhi and behaves like a sakhi. This is’ sakhi rupena’, and in this way he likes to give happiness to Radha Rani.
BV Damdar Maharaja: SAKHI RUPENA BUT NOT SAKHI

When priya-narma-sakhas become absorbed in tadatmika-bhava with Srimati Radhika, they enter in madhurya-rasa because She is madhurya-rasa-siromani. They taste something of Her mahabhava. At that time, they have gopi-bhava. They completely lose their sakha mood and male identity, and experience tadatmya with Radhika like manjaris. This is tat-tad-bhava-icchamayi, nothing like a sambhogamayi relation with Sri Krsna
KBM: They are unable to touch Srila Gurudevas heart

There is no contention about PNS being in sakhya bhava from KBM, even though Nemi Maharajas conclusion seems to indicate it.

Is priya narma sakhas manjaris?

Nemi Maharaja: Krishnas cowherd friends

Priya-narma-sakhas are not rupanuga
Priya-narma-sakhas sometimes serve Srimati Radhika, but that does not mean that they are rupanuga in the sense of following Sri Rupa Manjari. Anuga means “following” and it also means “constantly”, so to be rupanuga, one must have the same mood and nature as Sri Rupa Manjari, and one must be with her all the time, following her in every respect. The priya-narma-sakhas do not fulfil these conditions. For one thing, they have a different permanent relationship (sthayi-bhava) with Krsna; priya-narma-sakhas are in sakhya-bhava, whereas Sri Rupa Manjari and others in manjari-bhava relate primarily with Radha, and only secondarily with Krsna, through Radha, and as Her Beloved. The manjaris spend most of their time with Srimati Radhika, unlike the priya-narma-sakhas, who spend much of their time with Krsna. [See Vraja-vilasa-stava 22, and NoD 42]

Priya-narma-sakhas help all the gopis
Another difference between Sri Rupa Manjari and the priya-narma-sakhas is that Sri Rupa Manjari’s mood and permanent relationship is specifically to Srimati Radhika, rather than to Krsna. However, the priya-narma-sakhas help in Krsna’s amorous pastimes with all the gopis, not just Srimati Radhika and Her party.
One gopi addressed Radharani thus: “My dear Krsangi [delicate one], just see how Subala is whispering Your message into Krsna’s ear, how he is delivering the confidential letter of Syama-dasi silently into Krsna’s hand, how he is delivering the betel nuts prepared by Palika into Krsna’s mouth, and how he is decorating Krsna with the garland prepared by Taraka. Did you know, my dear friend, that all these most intimate friends of Krsna are always engaged in His service in this way?” [NoD 41]
When there is competition between Krsna and the gopis, Sri Rupa Manjari will side exclusively with Radha, whereas the priya-narma-sakhas side with Krsna against the gopis.
After the Holi festival, Madhumangala loudly shouted, “Hee! Hee! O Subala and my friends, we have won! Today Krsna has broken the pride of the famous daughter of King Vrsabhanu.” [Ananda-vrindavana-campu 229]

Priya-narma-sakhas can have mahabhava, but not the adirudha-mahabhava of Radha’s group
The rati of the narma-vayasa associates reaches up to anuraga, but the rati of Subala and others reaches up to mahabhava. [JD 753]
See also Ujjvala-mani-kirana 46.
Priya-narma-sakhas cannot have the adirudha-mahabhava of Radha’s group
Adhirudha-mahabhava is seen only in Srimati Radhika’s group. [Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana 46]

The problem with Nemi Maharajas argument is that he claims that PNS can’t be rupanugas because they are not manjaris. Despite all the service and intimacy where Nemi Maharaja even accepts that PNS has some semblance of madhurya rasa, it’s clearly not enough for him to think that PNS can be called rupanugas.

It even seems like Nemi Maharaja is contradicting himself:

They are eligible for madhurya-rasa and mahabhava only to some extent, not fully, and their experience of madhurya-rasa is a part within the whole of their main mood of sakhya-bhava.

… Yes, it is true that some priya-narma-sakhas are inclined to Radhika’s seva, but that does not mean they are in madhurya-rasa, as we have seen.

Nemi Maharaja

Again, there is no contention that PNS aren’t in madhurya rasa, but that they do have a semblence of it. All agree that PNS is not manjaris, they are sakhas.

So I’m wondering if Nemi Maharajas reaction is to this statement from KBM:

They completely lose their sakha mood and male identity, and experience tadatmya with Radhika like manjaris. This is tat-tad-bhava-icchamayi, nothing like a sambhogamayi relation with Sri Krsna

Though, I find it strange that Nemi Maharaja doesn’t directly state it considering he does go into other statements of KBM.

So who do PNS serve?

They are eligible for madhurya-rasa and mahabhava only to some extent, not fully, and their experience of madhurya-rasa is a part within the whole of their main mood of sakhya-bhava.

 

….. It may be that priya-narma-sakhas sometimes come under the guidance of Sri Rupa Manjari (I have not read this in shastra), but they certainly do not serve in madhurya-rasa. In any case, the statement “Srila Swami Maharaja is of this category” is completely false, because there is literally no such category. The category of rupanuga priya-narma-sakhas in madhurya-rasa is an empty category that they have concocted themselves. It is not just a false category; it is simply a contradiction in terms.

Nemi Maharaja: Krishnas confidential cow herd friends

If PNS are eligible for madhurya-rasa and mahabhava to some extent, what do they need these moods for if they do not use them to serve?

“The special prerogative of the priya-narma-sakhas is to assist in Krsna’s madhura-lila” (Jaiva-dharma, Chapter 29, page 621). In other words,the special service of the priya-narma-sakhas is to assist in Radha-Krsna’s madhurya-lila.The priya-narma-sakhassthayi-bhava is angi-rasa. And madhurya-rasa is anga. When anga-rasa is mixed with angi, that anga-rasa should increase the taste of rasa. Otherwise, that anga-rasa (madhurya-rasa) becomes useless.

KBM: Be honest, see deeply

Nemi Maharaja uses the following example:

5. Priya-narma-sakhas can understand and participate in the pastimes in madhurya-rasa to a limited extent.
Some sakhās, such as Madhumaṅgala, Subala Sakhā, Kokila, Bhṛṅga, and other priya-narma-sakhās, who have a semblance of mahābhāva, only assist these pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa from a distance, because they are also forbidden to enter the kunjas. On the other hand, all the gopīs can enter the kunjas. [Coming second edition of Origin of Rathayatra, as translated from the Hindi Jagannatha Rathayatra, Chapter 10]
Even Yaśodā-maiyā does not know about these confidential pastimes. Only Yogamāyā Paurṇamāsī-devī, Vṛndā-devī, Dhaniṣṭhā, and Kundalātā etc. know of them. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s priya-narma-sakhās such as Subala and Madhumaṅgala know something about them, but even then, they do not have entrance into those pastimes. [ibid.]
They have “a semblance of mahabhava”, whereas we have already seen that gopis have mahabhava, and those in Radhika’s group have adhirudha-mahabhava.

 

But again KBM agrees with the example of Nemi Maharaja in Open the door for dhira-samira:

Yasoda Mata, Nanda Baba, Subala, Madhumangala, Lalita, Visakha, the asta-sakhis – their position cannot be taken by any person. They are fixed.  They are all yuthesvaras or yuthesvaris;  under them are many, many followers.  Therefore these persons are not Rupanuga. Lalita and Visakha, Subala, Yasoda – they are not Rupanuga. They are senior.  But their followers can take direction from Rupa-manjari and be Rupanuga.

Our Srila Swami Prabhupada is a follower of the senior priya-narma-sakhas like Subala and Madhumangala.  Because of this he has gopi mood like them, and because he is of her level, he also has Rupa-manjari’s mood.  He is Rupanuga because he follows both Rupa-manjari and Rupa Gosvami.

So again, there is no disagreement on who can’t enter these pasttimes, but KBM states that their followers can take direction from Rupa-manjari (a point Nemi Maharaja doesn’t mention).

Conclusion
Nemi Maharaja has a very strong stance in his conclusion against KBM where he claims that all KBM is stating is false, contradicts sastra and misrepresent Gurudeva. But as I have shown above, there is no contention between their arguments, except that KBM goes further into their understanding of the service and mood of priya narma sakhas.
The biggest difference of understanding is that KBM have a very wide definition of Rupanuga, but in terms of accepting PNS as rupanugas Nemi Maharaja shows a very narrow definition of it where he doesn’t accept the speciality of PNS, especially those who assist Srimati Radhika.

Further considerations

Can we say that those who follow his teachings, but have a different mood is rupanuga? If we look away from the debate of what rasa Srila Prabhupada has: If an acarya comes in another mood, like sakhya-rasa but he’s not a priya-narma sakha, can we still call him rupanuga?

It would be strange if all the devotees in kali-yuga only have manjari mood (and we know this isn’t a fact considering Gurudeva had a couple of Rama bhaktas as his disciples), furthermore we have Nityananda Prabhu and Baladeva Vidyabhusana.  The devotees with another mood would certainly know of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the teachings of Rupa Gosvami, and they would be able to talk about manjari mood, though in a neutral way.

But calling devotees in other moods rupanuga would water out the definition of rupanuga to the point that it has lost its meaning.

According to their qualities they are following Rupa Goswami.

KBM: Gurudeva never said Swamiji is a manjari

“Those who follow Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu under the guidance of the sakhas, like Subala, Sridama and all others like them, desiring to serve Lord Krsna like them, will also not be called rupanuga. They will be called raganuga.” (Narayana Maharaja on Oct 12, 1996, Varsana, Disappearance day of Srila
Prabhupada)

If we look at the term rupanuga  as a homonym (having different meanings) then may be this is how rupanuga reveals itself.

For those who follow in the footsteps of manjari-rati, rupanuga is defined in the strictest sense:

Rupanuga sadhakas are those who with the external body follow the process of bhajana as shown by Srila Rupa Gosvami, and simultaneously with their internally conceived spiritual body (siddha-deha) follow the moods of Sri Rupa Manjari as she eternally serves Sri Radha-Krsna in Vraja. Only that sort of raganuga sadhaka is called a rupanuga Vaisnava.

Narayana Maharaja

When I do a quick search in the vedabase on how Srila Prabhupada used the term rupanuga, it seem to be in the sense of following Rupa Goswamis teachings:

The present Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is also based on the authority of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda. We are therefore generally known as rūpānugas, or followers in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda. It is only for our guidance that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī prepared his book Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, which is now presented in the form of The Nectar of Devotion.

Preface to Nectar of Devotion

Consequently we always request members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to publish as many books as possible and distribute them widely throughout the world. By thus following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, one can become a rūpānuga devotee.

Purport to CC Madhya CC Madhya 19.132

Srila Prabhupada seem to have the strictest definition of rupanuga in the purport of CC Madhya 8.246:

Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī are the most exalted servitors of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.  Those who adhere to their service are known as rūpānuga devotees.

From O my friend:

On still another occasion in which Prabhupada entertained a discussion of his svarupa or spoke directly about it, Hrskesananda asked Srila Prabhupada about the nature of the disciple’s relationship with the guru in our sampradåya:

hd: Gurudeva, what about rupanuga-bhakti? What is the eternal relationship between us and you?
acbsp: (Prabhupada quotes the second half of sloka 6 of Gurvastakam.) Guru is serving under his master and you all can do likewise. In nitya-lila every devotee thinks like that, that my master is the most dear to Radha-Krishna.
hd: So that means that my relationship with you is eternal, that it will continue in nitya-lila?
acbsp: Yes.
hd: As manjaris?
acbsp: Down to sakhya.
hd: But for rupanugas isn’t it always manjari-rasa?
acbsp: That is the highest; but in the spiritual world there is no such distinction.

The term rupanuga seem to be little used in Srila Prabhupadas writings. I’m wondering if the usage of the term became widespread with Gurudeva and is therefore one of his many glories.

In O my friend the question of how to understand Rupanuga is discussed in more detail:

Another objection we hear is that our sampradaya is the rupanuga line; we follow srila Rupa Goswami, who, as we know, is Rupa-manjari in his siddha-deha. Thus everyone who is a rupanuga must pursue manjari-bhava. Those who take this position remind us that srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s pranam-mantra celebrates him as very averse to anything different from srila Rupa Goswami’s mood: rupanuga-viruddhapa-siddhanta-dhvanta-harine. But if we take a close look at that mantra, we see that it says that Srila Sarasvati Thakura would not tolerate any statement contrary to srila Rupa Goswami’s teachings/siddhanta (viruddhapa- siddhanta). It does not say that he never tolerated any mood different from Rupa Goswami’s. Tattva (siddhanta) and bhava (one’s spiritual sentiment) are two different things. In siddhanta all Gaudiya Vaisnavas are one, but their spiritual sentiments, or bhavas, may differ.
Some may argue that rupanuga in its narrowest sense means to follow Rupa Goswami in all respects, including adopting manjari-bhava. However, all Gaudiya Vaisnavas follow Rupa Goswami’s teaching, his siddhanta. Everyone follows Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. How could srila Sarasvati Thakura, as a rupanuga, decry other bhavas of Vraja? Vraja is that place where, according to srila Jiva Goswami in his introduction to Gopala-campu, everything is accommodated, everything harmonized. The variety of bhavas among devotees is not a fault; it is an ornament.

This is what we find when we read Srila Rupa Goswami’s teachings, beginning with Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. So in that perhaps broader sense, all Gaudiya Vaisnavas are rupanugas. This undermines the claim we sometimes encounter that sakhya-rasa devotees may be raganuga bhaktas but not rupanuga bhaktas. Instead of following Rupa Goswami, or Rupa-manjari, we are told, those devotees follow Gauridasa Pandita, who they say is a raganuga acarya but not a rupanuga acarya. Such narrow thinking may be accepted in some circles. However, as we see above, Gauridasa Pandita’s followers certainly do follow the teachings, the siddhanta, of srila Rupa Goswami, which makes them rupanuga devotees in the broader sense.

So there seem to be some recognition that the term rupanuga can have different meanings according to what bhava one have/aspire to.

Update 12th September 2015:
The quote from Narayana Maharaja (Gurudeva) about being rupanuga means following Rupa *manjari* seem to be special for Gurudeva. It seems like for all other acaryas rupanuga means following Rupa *Goswamis* teachings. So what does this mean? Does it make Gurudevas rupanuga definition into preaching tactic?


The history of the term rupanuga has been provided by Syamananda Prabhu.

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