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.

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.

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).

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

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.

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.

Overview of theories and claims: Rasa of Srila Prabhupada

There are several theories: cover, inclusion, multiplicity and vision. What the theories have in common is that they are theories from the madhurya-rati-side to explain why Srila Prabhupada was expressing sakhya-rati in the Jaladuta prayer (and elsewhere).

The saktyavesa (cover) theory actually comes from Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and Mukunda Prabhus contribution builds upon this. The theory propounds that 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.

The inclusion theory comes from Gurudeva which says that Srila Prabhupada could express sakhya-rati because all five sthayi-ratis are included in madhurya-rati.

“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 Madha 19.232

The multiplicity theory is presented by Sripad Nemi Maharaja where he argues that an acarya can be in and manifest several rasas. He reasons that just as we see in Gaura-lila that several people were present in the body of for example Sri Ramananda Raya, the same might be true for Srila Prabhupada. A manjari inside Srila Prabhupada may then have related with Gurudeva, whereas a cowherd boy within him wrote the Jaladuta prayer and all the other things.

The vision theory argues that those who aspire for a certain rasa will see their guru accordingly. Here an example from Jaiva-dharma is quoted:  Babaji Maharaja appeared to Brajanath as “the personification of Subala”, and to Vijaya Kumar as “as the personification of Sri Lalita-devi.”

In the debate there have been made a multitude of different subjects:

Who is rupanuga?
The main contention in the debate have been who can be called rupanuga where there are different definitions of rupanuga.

Higher, lower and mixed rasa
There is a division of rasa for lila, and what mixing is there between the different rasa?

Preaching tactic
Did Gurudeva trick us when speaking about the rasa of Srila Prabhupada? The example case used is of Jiva Gosvami who only spoke about svakiya bhava.

Who said what?
There’s a multitude of statements from Sridhar Swami, Gour Govinda Maharaja, Bharati Maharaja used on both sides of the table.

The absolute vs relative view of Gurudevas words
Is there a difference between those supporting manjari versus sakhya bhava in how they intepret Gurudevas words?

Is there other lines in our Guru parampara? Especially, can our parampara only contain acaryas in madhurya rasa? Does jivas with other moods belongs in a different line?

The service of priya-narma sakhas (PNS)
What are they doing in Vraja? How intimate does PNS serve? Do they have madhurya mood and if so, how does it differ from manjari mood?

Relation between the different moods
Can acaryas with a non-madhurya rasa preach about madhurya-rasa?

What has Gurudeva actually said?
Does the editing of Syamarani didi and team change Gurudevas words and meaning? Is Gurudevas words open for interpretation? The usage of definitions: Manjari bahava, sakhi-rupena, gopi bhava, madhurya-rasa.

Summary of the debate
It’s possible to track some progression of understandings in this debate by both parties. The understanding of Gurudevas preaching tactic and the service of Priya narma sakhas, alternative understandings. What new understanding has become prevalent from this debate.


I have for the last few days read through all of the documents in the timeline to create this overview.

I want to go through all of these theories and claims from all sides of the debates. I want to show what both sides says and their siddhantic evidence for their claims.

I’m probably missing some points as well.

This post builds upon a comment by Syamananda Prabhu where he lists the different theories. He contributes so much information and help, that thanking him is almost getting old.

Bhakti Rakshak Sridhara Maharaja on compromise and harmonize

Sripad B. G. Narasingha Maharaja on the disappearance day of Srila Sridhara Maharaja 2004

“He was very generous, to share his wealth with one and with all. He was not stingy. He was very gracious, kind and harmonizing. You may come and say: “Oh, this devotee said this, this devotee said that!”. Most people will then just jump and say: “Oh, then he should have a beating”. Immediately they will jump to one side. Srila Sridhara Maharaja would hear whatever you had to say, and then ask “Now, what does that other fellow have to say?”. Like in a court, let’s hear both sides of the story. He would not side with any party, and many times both parties are wrong. Then he would give a lesson, good for both parties. Not that he would just take a right or a wrong. Sometimes there was a right and a wrong. But even in right and wrong, is it always necessary to prove right and wrong? If you are such a black and white character in your dealings, you will always struggle with people. Maybe right, maybe wrong, harmonizing is the way to live peacefully. Not compromising. That’s a different thing. That’s when you put down your principles. But harmonizing should be one of your principles. There is a difference between compromise and harmonize. Harmonize is when you take it to a higher level. Compromise is that it goes to a lower level. Someone says this, and you come down, and you say “Ok” and we agree on some things down here, that’s compromise.  Srila Sridhara Maharaja was a harmonizer, not a compromiser. He would try to harmonize for the benefit of everyone. You can defeat someone. Generally when you defeat someone, they don’t fall at your feet and tell you you’re right. They just shut their mouth in anger and go away. And they continue to talk their nonsense.

Krishna consciousness is not a debate thing. Yes, you have to put the other argument strongly in its place. But then you have to give a positive argument that is attractive. Of course many people are stubborn. They are both put in their place, and being shown something attractive, but they don’t change. They just remain in this particular space. Srila Sridhara Maharaja was always giving positive encouragement. It doesn’t help to just punish a child. If it stops there, you broke the kid’s mind in half. Like, “What do I do now?”, stuck on a ledge. You have to correct, show the right thing and then give some encouragement about doing right. With Srila Sridhara Maharaja, at the end there was always this positive, glowing, encouraging outlook about any situation.”

Compliments of Syamananda Prabhu

Misconceptions in the debate

“After Mahaprabhu had taken sannyasa from Keshava Bharati in Katwa, he became overwhelmed with love for Krishna and started to run toward Vrindavan. With the help of some cowherd boys, Nityananda Prabhu tricked him into coming to the banks of the Ganges. Nityananda wanted to show him to the people of Nabadwip and wanted to bring him to Shantipur. When Mahaprabhu saw the Ganges, he thought that it was the Yamuna and became ecstatic. Meanwhile, Advaita had heard that Nityananda had brought Mahaprabhu there and came by boat across the river with new clothes for him. Mahaprabhu was astonished to see Advaita, wondering how he could have known that he was in Vrindavan. Advaita answered by saying that Vrindavan was there wherever Mahaprabhu went and that the western flow of the Ganges was the Yamuna. When he heard these words, Mahaprabhu realized that he had been tricked to coming to the western bank of the Ganges across from the town of Shantipur. Advaita had him take a bath and dressed him in the new cloth and then took him to his house where he stayed for several days.”
Srila B.B. Tirtha Maharaja, from Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates.

There seem to be some common misunderstandings in those who oppose KBM, and a reader of the blog summed them up nicely:

  1. A group of devotees thinks that KBM is saying the following: Srila Gurudeva said one thing, but he meant (to say) another thing. The reality is, that the two groups differ in their understanding of what Srila Gurudeva has actually said.
    In other words, it’s not about changing Gurudevas words or that he lied, but that his words are open for interpretation.I myself struggled very much with the preaching tactic argument, but I now understand that Gurudeva never lied. Gurudeva just spoke in a concealed manner.
  2. Selectiveness of what devotees decide to follow from Srila Gurudeva’s instructions and statements of other maha bhagavats like BV Rakshak Sridhar Maharaja etc. The KBM ban and public statement is a good reminder of this.
  3. Who is senior? What birth is considered more auspicious? Can we measure seniority? The take is that Madhusudana Maharaja is junior to many devotees.
  4. For many (including myself) this is the first time we experiencing politics of this kind.
  5. This is a transcendental topic and as such can not be black or white. Transcendental topics are not that one sweet in a package full of sweet, they are the whole package full of sweets.
  6. A belief that if one holds the wrong conceptions, ALL one’s devotional service is lost and/or if one oppose siddhanta ones spiritual progress will be checked.
  7. If you don’t surrender to KBM, you cannot touch Gurudeva’s heart. This is something I haven’t read from KBMs communication.
        A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one’s mind becomes attached to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
      Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta Ādi 2.117

What is your take on this?

Further deliberations on the debate of Srila Prabhupadas rasa

This is a response by Syamananda prabhu to three of the many good points raised by Balabhadra Prabhu in comments to recent posts on this blog.

1. How can you expect senior devotees (diksa disciples of Srila Prabhupada who have taken shelter of Srila Narayana Maharaja) to take lessons from junior devotees (the preachers of KBM)?

2. Why would disciples of Srila Narayana Maharaja support their views by quoting Srila Tripurari Maharaja, when it is a fact that Srila Narayana Maharaja had Srimati Syamarani Didi oppose the points of Srila Tripurari Maharaja earlier on?

3. How can this statement of Srila Narayana Maharaja be explained to be a preaching strategy: “Any Acarya who is a follower of Sri Rupa is never in sakhya rasa. An Acarya who is in sakhya rasa will come in another line from Sri Nityananda Prabhu”.


Dandavats to my Guru and every other vaishnava, according to their position. May they all be pleased with this presentation.

Response to point 1:

To answer the first point I attempted to step into the shoes of those senior devotees by looking at myself in relation to a junior godbrother of mine, Kishore Krishna Prabhu. He joined the ashram just last year whereas I have been here for four years. He chants more japa than I do, does more service and he has corrected me a number of times, for which I have sometimes borne a grudge. Today I had the opportunity to render menial service to him, by the mercy of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. That service gave me the blessing to be able to respond to points 2 and 3.

Response to points 2 and 3:

Shortly before passing away from the world, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada rested his feet on the chest of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara-Deva Goswami as the latter sang to him the song Sri Rupa Manjari Pada. The other disciples of Srila Saraswati Thakura saw this as a sign that Srila Sridhara Maharaja had been admitted as the protector of the Rupanuga-varga. Srila Sridhara Maharaja humbly commented on this: “They say that I am the protector, but I think that I am a gatekeeper. Who will go in, he wants to see. So, I am not giving passport or visa to anyone and everyone.” After this several godbrothers, some of them senior, came to Srila Sridhara Maharaja for siksa and some of them sannyasa, reasoning that if they get the sannyasa mantra from him, it will be their entrance to Radha dasyam. Among them were Srila Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaja, the diksa and sannyasa guru of Srila Bhakti Vedanta Narayana Goswami Maharaja, and sannyasa guru of Srila A. C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada.

After the passing of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, some of his disciples took shelter of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Among them were Srila Prabhupada’s diksa and sannyasa disciple, Srila Bhakti Vedanta Tripurari Maharaja. Srila Sridhara Maharaja considered Srila Tripurari Maharaja to belong to what he called the maha-mandala, meaning the followers of Srila Prabhupada that desired to be under the guidance of Srila Sridhara Maharaja but were in no need of joining his institution for stability. Srila Sridhara Maharaja instructed several of them to start their own missions, including Srila Tripurari Maharaja. Srila Sridhara Maharaja knew that Srila Tripurari Maharaja was aspiring for sakhya-rasa and encouraged that.

So there we have the very Rupanuga-varga-raksaka making an acharya out of a follower of Subala. Srila Tripurari Maharaja has among his followers devotees who aspire for madhurya-rasa, and because of his connection to Srila Sridhara Maharaja he is empowered to help them. He even helped his godbrother and co-acarya, Sripad Bhakti Gaurava Narasingha Maharaja, to compose a stotra glorifying Srila Prabhupada as a gopi, despite being aware of Srila Prabhupada’s actual rasa.

This Sripad Narasingha Maharaja attended a lecture of Srila Narayana Maharaja in the early 90’s that he afterwards transcribed and published on his own initiative. This was the first publication in english of Srila Narayana Maharaja’s hari-katha. Srila Narayana Maharaja complemented Sripad Narasingha Maharaja for having done real vaishnava seva.

Not long after this, Srila Narayana Maharaja attracted a greater following and set out for his first world tour. His life airs were charged with instructions from two of his siksa gurus: Srila Swami Maharaja Prabhupada and Srila Bhakti Jivana Janardana Maharaja. The instruction from Srila Prabhupada was to help his disciples and the instruction from Srila Janardana Maharaja was to boldly declare the supremacy of manjari bhava. In the United States, many temple authorities were unsettled by this revolutionary force, and not being ready to embrace it, they banned him from their temples. Only one temple showed vaishnava hospitality, and that was the temple of Srila Tripurari Maharaja in Eugene, Oregon.

During his days there the two Maharajas had private discussions. In one of them Srila Tripurari Maharaja acknowledged the main emphasis on madhurya-rasa in our lineage, but stated that there is also sakhya-rasa. Srila Narayana Maharaja agreed and said that Srila Akincana Krishna Dasa Babaji had personally told him of his affinity for sakhya-rasa. He then added that he does not emphasize sakhya-rasa. Another day they were walking along the river near the temple and Srila Narayana Maharaja started telling the pastime of Balarama killing Dhenukasura. At one point he stopped, looked at Srila Tripurari Maharaja and said: “What happened next, Maharaja?” Srila Tripurari Maharaja then told the rest of the pastime, delighted at Srila Narayana Maharaja’s encouragement of his sakhya-rati.

After this, in Vrindavana, Srila Tripurari and Narasingha Maharajas were approached by devotees who felt unhappy behind the wall of an institution that had banned Srila Narayana Maharaja from their temples. They asked the two Maharajas to come and try to convince the authorities. The two Maharajas did go, but were not allowed to present their case. Another time Srila Narayana Maharaja called Srila Tripurari Maharaja to his temple. When Srila Tripurari Maharaja arrived, Srila Narayana Maharaja expressed a concern that some of the western devotees had problems with his presentation that sambhoga and vipralambha are equally important. Srila Tripurari Maharaja replied that he did not see any controversy.

After the debate between Srimati Syamarani didi and Srila Tripurari Maharaja regarding the rasa of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Narayana Maharaja expressed to Srila Tripurari Maharaja that although he maintains his own view, he was satisfied with Srila Tripurari Maharaja’s conviction.

Some months after Srila Narayana Maharaja had passed away, Sripad Bhagavata Maharaja posted a quote about manjari bhava on facebook without citing the author or source. Srila Tripurari Maharaja, who is friends with Sripad Bhagavata Maharaja pointed out that the siddhanta in the quote contradicted the siddhanta of Srila Rupa Goswami. Sripad Bhagavata Maharaja then revealed that Srila Narayana Maharaja had written it and edited his post, adding author and source. Srila Tripurari Maharaja then said that it must be an editing mistake, because Srila Narayana Maharaja, being a Rupanuga vaishnava, would never contradict Srila Rupa Goswami. Sripad Bhagavata Maharaja appreciated the discussion which became to 408 comments. One of the main debaters were Sriman Prem Prayojan Prabhu.

Four years later Sriman Prem Prayojan Prabhu admitted that Srila Tripurari Maharaja was right. Having thus sharpened his understanding of Srila Rupa Goswami’s siddhanta he soon after took part in the discussion between KBM and the rest of Srila Narayana Maharaja’s sanga, by presenting two articles about the relationship between priya-narma-sakhas and madhurya-rasa. In those articles, he made the point that the sthayi-rati of a priya-narma-sakha is not a sankula of sakhya and madhurya. Srila Tripurari Maharaja acknowledged that that was a good point.

So, Srila Tripurari Maharaja and Sriman Prem Prayojan Prabhu both learned from each other about their own rasas. This is what the Bhagavad-gita calls bodhayantas parasparam kathayantas ca mam nityam. Krishna says that his devotees always talk about him and enlighten one another about him. Let’s continue that.

With joy,
Syamananda dasa, Audarya monastery.

Reference: The above mentioned FB thread of Sripad Bhagavata Maharaja 

Gurudeva on the future of the sanga: Rasa of Srila Prabhupada

Bhagavat Maharaja links to a beautiful note on the future of the sanga. It’s very relevant to our current situation and on the ban of the KBM preachers.



by Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja

[A Darsana in Srila Narayana Maharaja’s Quarters]

Badger, California: May 17, 2003

[At a darsana in Badger, in May of 2003, some of the senior devotees came to Srila Narayana Maharaja to express their concern that all may not go well in his sanga after his departure from this world. They had some proposals. Here are some of the exchanges that took place at that darsana:]

[Devotee:] We want to present our conclusions and recommendations.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] I am old now, and at any time I may pass. But I am not very anxious. I know Kala (Time Personified). Now you can go and discuss, and make some proposal. But don’t make it in a controlling mood. Try to always do everything with love and affection.

One thing more you should know. You should not be anxious if anyone comes and goes. I have heard that at the time of Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura thousands came and went. At the time of my Guru Maharaja, so many expert and very learned, intelligent persons came and left. You know Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja – thousands came, and are still going and coming. No one can do anything about this. So we should not try very hard, and we should try to reconcile.

I want that we should make some committees for book distribution and publishing and for social work also, because without social work we cannot have government approval in India or anywhere. In this life we will have to also do social work – like feeding the poor, giving clothing, giving medicine, helping children and making schools. We should make some proposals.

[Devotee:] What you are saying about Kala (the time factor) and the influence of Kala – most of the senior devotees have seen this also.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] Not like me.

[Devotee:] You have seen it millions of times more.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] I have some realization. You should think that I have hundreds of times more than you; so you should not think your advice is so important.

[Devotee:] Some of the senior devotees are very concerned for the work you have done, on our behalf and for the whole world. We are concerned that it will be preserved, now and in the future, as much as possible. Kala may come and change it all.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] I know that you want this, but if you are not developing your own Krsna consciousness, you will never be able to do anything. So try to develop.

[Devotee:] We need this sanga to develop. For so many years we have tried to practice on our own, and now we have found a home where we can have like-minded devotees; so we are concerned.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] I know you will try, but at last you will see: “Oh, zero.” I know this. This world is controlled by Kala (Time) and kali-yuga. Kali-yuga will not give you permission to do all these good things. You will make a plan, and in a moment the result will be zero.

[Devotee:] Should we try though?

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] You should try. To try is bhakti. But I never want that rules and regulations should govern bhakti. Some persons forcibly tried to give lessons and control other devotees by kicking them out of the mission. I told them that this is against bhakti. When they did not want to follow my advice, I told them it was better for me to resign; and still I will help in all ways. Now I am satisfied.

Try to realize. Do bhajana and don’t be engaged too much in these things. I am never involved in this.

You should realize my mood, and if you don’t realize it you will have so many troubles. I have served my Gurus a little, and that is why I do some little bhajana. That is why I can reconcile all these things, and I never become unhappy. I have never been unhappy in my entire life.

[Devotee:] So you are saying we can try, but our bhakti should not be disturbed.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] Yes, you should do that; and I will be happy.

Editorial Advisors: Sripad Madhava Maharaja and Sripad Brajanath dasa
Typist: Janaki dasi
Editor: Syamarani dasi
Proof-reader: Krsna-kamini dasi


Cheat me if it helps me: Rasa of Srila Prabhupada

When I asked Narayana Maharaja (Gurudeva) for diksa, his secretary Madhava Maharaja asked me: “Do you chant 16 rounds everyday? Do you follow the four regulative principles?” Which I did at the time. So Gurudeva said yes.

Looking back I now see how unfit I was for diksa. I’m unable to chant 16 rounds everyday and are unable to completely follow the regulative principles. I’m work in progress. So I wonder, did Gurudeva make Madhava Maharaja ask since I was so unfit? I have no doubt that he was directly under Gurudevas orders here, but if I had said the same thing to him – would it have heavier reactions toward me?

Tripurāri Swami: “We have been trying harder and harder, Śrīla Prabhupāda, to make our techniques of distribution more honest and to be straightforward and not to cheat so much as some of the methods in the past.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda: “No, the thing is that Kṛṣṇa’s service is so sublime that even if we cheat, we are not culprit. But because we have to deal with the worldly men, we have to go according to their rules and regulations on cheating. Otherwise, a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, he never cheats. He never cheats, whatever he does. The mother says to the child, ‘My dear child, if you take this medicine I will give you this laḍḍu.’ The child is deviated. He is not able to digest the laḍḍu, but the mother sometimes cheats, and when he takes the medicine, the laḍḍu is not delivered. Similarly, we have to say so many things very pleasing to him. But our business is let him take this medicine. That is our tactic. That is not cheating. If the mother helps the child drinking medicine, then afterwards she does not supply the laḍḍu, that is not cheating. Somehow or other, that is the instruction of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Tasmāt kenāpy upāyena manaḥ kṛṣṇe niveśayet. Somehow or other let everyone be Kṛṣṇa conscious. The other rules and regulations will act as the servant, but the main business is to bring one to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We are not meant for cheating anyone; we have no such business. But to lead one to Kṛṣṇa consciousness we may sometimes say some things, and that is not cheating.”

The problem with the absolute view of Guru, is that it limits the Guru. If someone is on a mission from Goloka to share the highest siddhanta with the lowest people, they are free to do whatever they want to make that happen. They should be able to say: “All the acharyas are manjaris” even if it’s not true. As Gurudeva told Lilasuka prabhu: “Mercy is independent from whatever the truth might be”.

When Gurudeva accepted me as his disciple, the real and only sankalpa (vow) I gave was this: I would always stay loyal to Gurudeva. Even if I disagreed with him, I would never leave him. He is my beloved Gurudeva.

I’ve spent months mulling over the preaching tactic argument. I saw it as a betrayal and that was something I was unable to accept. Then I realized how this would have played out in real life if I had been close to Gurudeva. What if he one day brought me to his room to tell me that he had lied to me about the nature of Srila Prabhupadas service. I would be heartbroken, then I would get angry. But since I had given my vow, I would continue staying and serving as best as I could. At some point I would come to the point of acceptance, then the spirit of understanding would blossom within me.

There is a world of difference between the person who asked Gurudeva for diksa and the person I am today. Since I received diksa, my consciousness has slowly evolved. Now I understand that my vow of loyalty, can better be described as a lifelong vow to work on spiritual progress. I owe everything to my Gurudeva.

So what if he may have cheated me? If he had told me he lied to me, he subtly implies that I have evolved. I have been raised from a kindergarten level to.. well, something higher at least.

There is something refreshing and a lack of anxiety with this view. Guru are not like “Oh, what if I say this and people will have misconceptions forever?”. They trust that it will all be figured out over time.

But to lead one to Kṛṣṇa consciousness we may sometimes say some things, and that is not cheating.

This post is inspired by Syamananda Prabhu, who provided the quote and I have even stolen sentences/opinions of his. Let’s hope this cheating is beneficial.

Diversity: Rasa of Srila Prabhupada

I’ve been caught up in the whole absolute vs relative issue, that I haven’t looked at the big picture. How much diversity is it within the Gaudiya Vaishnava community on philosophical issues? On what philosophical issues? How are we to understand and treat diversity? Does Krishna allow for diversity or is it all strictly siddhantical with one infallible truth?

Syamananda prabhu pointed out to me in a comment that Nemi Maharaja argues that KBM is in a different line from us:

It appears that the proponents of the sakhya-rasa theory have aligned themselves with a different line of descent from Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada, through through Srila Bhakti-jivana Janardana Maharaja to BV Madhusudana Maharaja. That is a matter of personal choice, but there are some special considerations in that case.

Nemi Maharaja

I’ve never heard of Sri Srimad Bhakti Jivan Janardan Gosvami Maharaja until now. Though, he’s credited in both our and isckon calendars. A little search tells me that he founded Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mission in 1987(?) (was founded by Sri Srimad Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaj). Here’s a great lecture about His glories. It’s interesting to note the story where Narayana Maharaja took siksa from Jivan Janardan Maharaja.

In this lecture he uses so many titles: Gurudeva (Narayana Maharaja), param Gurudeva (which I think is Jivan Janardana Maharaja), Srila Prabhupada (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura). It’s enough to make my head spin, and it seem to further confirm the point of the last blog post where BSST is titled Prabhupada.

So what makes Jivan Janardan Maharaja in a different line of descent? What special consideration is there?

I received some input from a reader that I’m adding:

Srila Bhakti Jivana Janardana Maharaj has his own mission, but i don’t remember exactly the name of it. it is not called Sri Krsna Caitanya mission.

Sri Krsna Caitanya Mission was founded by my Srila Gurudeva Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaj

links are here:

Srila Bhakti Jivana Janardana was the ONLY disciple who was by Srila PRabhupada allowed to discuss intimate pastimes of the Lord, such as Rasa lila etc.
he was the only one.

Otherwise Srila Prabhupada never allowed his discples to discuss this matters.

Such prominent Disciple was Srila Bhakti Jivana Janardana Maharaj.

Those who have even a glimpse of a relationship with him are directly being allowed into the Highest places. according to their own svarup of course, but touching all are allowed who come in touch with him.

Update 07th August 2015:
Syamananda Prabhu directed me towards a post by Anantacarya prabhu about the different lines in our sampradaya: SRILA BV NARAYAN EXPLAINS WHERE WE WILL FIND ACARYAS IN THE SAKHYA MOOD

“Any Acarya who is a follower of Sri Rupa is never in sakhya rasa. An Acarya who is in sakhya rasa will come in another line from Sri Nityananda Prabhu. If he is in vatsalya rasa, he comes in pusti marga from Vallabhacarya. He will come in the Sri Sampradaya if he is in aisvarya mood.”

So from this, how can it be stated that SP is in sakhya rasa when SP received diksa from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura? What other line from Nityananda prabhu?


There’s also this:

Paramananda Das I do not have the files of the discussions with Srila Sridhara Swami and his disciples. When I first discussed with Srila Narayana Maharaja in 1989 about Sthayi bhava , I questioned him that time if Srila Prabhupada was in priya narma sakha mood. He did not deny it. Later when Tamal Krsna Maharaja went there and the gopi bhava club tried to ban me from seeing Srila Narayana Maharaja, another story came out. Srila Gurudeva revealed my sthayibahva to me. I have gotten all I need from Srila Gurudeva.