Identity with the sādhaka-deha

The other day I was attending Satyanarayana Dasaji’s Bhāgavata class and something came into my head when I heard it said that we are not these bodies.

So I asked him the question, “If a devotee’s body is spiritualized when he takes initiation, then would he not identify with it as the sādhaka-deha?”

Babaji’s answer was no, the spiritual identity is internal, we do not identify with the material body. I told him I would prepare my argument and submit it to him when it was ready.

My thinking goes like this: Vaishnavism is all about identity. “I am a servant of God.” That identity exists as a servant in the material body, which once we become sādhakas ceases to be, strictly speaking, material. This is the sampradāya-siddhānta: Since all the senses are engaged in devotional service, the body can no longer be called material. There is only one energy of God, which serves different functions, parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate. The appearance of difference is illusion.

So, this means that the identity one cultivates as a servant of God in the sādhaka-deha is also real. Otherwise, how would it be possible for one to identify with the sādhakāśrayālambana when reading or hearing about the lives of the great saints. A sādhaka, by definition identifies himself as one like unto the great saints of the past, and especially their own guru. No Vaishnava would ever think of his guru as having a material body, so neither should he think that his identity as a sādhaka is material. It is because of this identity, which is cultivated as the essence of the bhakti path, that one can marvel and experience pleasure (rasa) on hearing about the spiritual achievements of the saints and sages of the past, and thereby be inspired to aspire to be more like them.

Identity is the aham. If I say "I am this body" in terms of its material identifications, then that is mundane and a source of bondage, but if the mind identifies with the archetypal sādhakas of the tradition, exemplar of whatever particular station of life, his identification is not with the bhoga-deha, a body produced of a karmic past and meant for the enjoyment or suffering of prior actions, but one that is being recreated in the image of the past saints. The body is not looked upon in terms of its sexual attractiveness, or is it created in the image of the rich and powerful of this world, but in the image of a pure devotee, in both its external and internal characteristics.

So even though to the external vision, the sādhaka-deha is just another gross material identification, from both the rasa and siddhānta point of view, it is not a material identity, and so to say, "I am Jagadananda Das" is not a materially conditioned statement.

Then what is the range of possible identities? For instance, "Jagadananda Das" is a sādhaka who does not in any way resemble Rupa Goswami or any other sādhaka of our experience. He was born to a family of meat-eaters who had no concept of spiritual sādhanā, etc., etc. But Jagadananda has a long story of how he received grace from his gurus and from other devotees, and thereby his own sādhaka-deha story is being written. And the purpose of his own story is so that he can marvel at himself, and thereby get rasa, where he himself is his own sādhakāśrayālambana. When that process is complete, then his perfection in identification as a sādhaka will be complete. With that, the external energy ceases to be seen as "external." From this we can see that in this way historical reality in all its infinite manifestation is assimilated to the spiritual reality.

At that point, perhaps, identification with the siddha-deha will start to become a reality. Does this mean that at this stage one abandons identification with the sādhaka-deha, abandoning it as one abandons a boat after crossing a river? Only inasmuch as one becomes absorbed in the siddha-deha. For others, each instance of a sādhaka-deha that fits the description of it in Rupa Goswami's definition of the sādhakāśrayālambana lives eternally for as long as it becomes a source of rasa for those who follow that model of the ideal.

But it is a mistake to not recognize that we exist in multiple identity universes, which will have to be the subject of another article.

See also automythology.


Mahaprabhu Gaura said…
Last year I was speaking with a Catholic theologian, who insisted, that our spiritual body will be exactly as our material one, with which we progress spiritually.

As he couldn't hear anything else regarding such arguments, I calmed him down by agreeing,that our Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, being inclusive to various theological doctrines, also encompasses such view.

We have devotees in earthly bodies entering Heavenly planets, heavenly sages entering Vaikuntha in their bodies, etc. Our previous acaryas may appear to us in their sadhaka-deha, rather than manjari-deha, etc.

In spirituality there are many legitimate and perennial ways, but the siddha-anta (the ultimative conclusion) states the difference between the eternal spiritual body (avatara-deha), descending from that reality and 'spiritualized' material body (sadhaka-deha), not to equate.

truth speaker said…
To learn how all things are ultimately spiritual and how karma is really yajna read this article I authored that explains the true nature of karma. Karma is more than just reactions of good and bad actions,,,Karma IS yajna. Anything that is used in the service of God (krishna) is spiritual.

Unknown said…
Thanks for an interesting article.

The key words here appear to be the active verb "identify" and the concept or resulting construct called "identity". What you are saying, Jagat-ji, implies that the process of sadhana itself causal and that one's identity comes from identifying one's self with a desire. Not surprisingly, this gives me some insight into how Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur may have really meant the term 'sahajiya' to be applied to the so-called apasampradaya lines of Vaisnava culture.

The act of identifying with the expectation of possessing an identity as a result of identification is presumptive of a causal relationship. What it asserts to cause is the creation of an attachment by dint of desire, the establishment of relevance. It's a mental projection that is then encountered in the mirror of mind as a product of imagination. Perhaps now I finally understand why I just cannot accept the description of bhakti sadhana by some as "fake it till you make it." That is what the ethos you are describing feels like.

Whereas, if the sadhaka is focused on service and the recursive outflow as compassion of the inflow of grace, then the seva is not about his identity at all. He's like a baby who is not conscious of any body other than the extremities that are of use to him. He is not fascinated with his siddha-svarupa in the least, unless of course the seva that has been identified for him/her involves the use of that svarupa for the fulfillment of divine lila. The sadhaka-deha then would be nothing more than a utility. A desire to keep it maintained well enough for seva would really be the ultimate pure necessity.

It seems to me that identifying the physical body as the sadhaka-deha could lend itself to sahajiya moods that would ultimately seek to prematurely enjoy high concepts and sidetrack the sadhaka in fantasy. How can having any attachment to the physical body other than utility be of value in sadhana-bhakti? That is the result of identifying - projecting images onto the mind.

On the other hand, being identified is not the same thing at all. Being chosen, receiving mercy, is the process of being identified by our desire. Why should one ever need to imagine what one's siddha-deha looks like, what to speak of what one's sadhana-deha looks like? They are only of relevance to the relationships that are established, are they not? Perhaps this is why the manjaris are so special. They absolutely resist any requests to play with Krishna. Then what need would they ever have to look into their own reflection with any thought other than how they might adorn themselves so that they blend into the scenery of the kunja?

My understanding is that what the sadhaka is hoping to do is to receive the mercy to be identified by a type of seva. They will be known for this special seva and they will become devoted to that seva. Perhaps it is helpful to think of the analogy of the disciple being in the guru's heart rather than the guru being in the disciples heart. In the latter, it is all about the disciple. In the former, it is all about the guru (associate of Radha and Krsna).

The servitor has no need to identify but to be identified. I feel that is the secret to success on this path.

Radhe Shyam

(Apologies for the haphazard reply. I hope it makes some sense.)
Unknown said…
This is one of the reasons why in CV the sadhaka won't ever be able to complete the utpatti-krama.
Jagadananda Das said…
Your reply is somewhat technical, Ananda Gopal, because our actions, etc., all spring out of a sense of identity. Who am I? is Sanatan's first question. Mahaprabhu's answer is "You are Krishna das." So what does that mean? Yours is an attempt to answer that second question. But, as Jiva Goswami says, just to think you are a servant of God is really all that is needed. Everything else will follow that.

Second point is that this was an attempt to explain the psychological aspect of rasa, which according to Rupa Goswami can only come out of identification.
Jagadananda Das said…
What's with all the devotees becoming Buddhists? You are a real being, not an aggregate of material factors. Dukkham is not our real or inevitable state of existence. Love is real and transcendental to limited existence.

That being said, you are correct.
Unknown said…
So is the body not made out of material aggregates?
buddha dharma never states dukkham is our " real" or inherent mode of existence, this is a misunderstanding. If we have to have a soul, it might as well be vidya (rigpa), it is after all, permanent, unconditioned, a knower, stainless, and free from the three realms. But If we don't have to have one, vidya (rigpa) still has these characteristics. It is our essenceless essence.

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