Pravartaka, sadhaka, siddha

This article was written in answer to some questions from a Swami Prema Ananda. I revised it subsequently to make it less like a letter, but it still tends to feel like one.

The tripartite system of sādhakas has been frequently referred to on these pages. I recently made a decision that I will no longer use the term kaniṣṭha, as this is generally considered by orthodox Vaishnavas to be somewhat insulting, and is frequently used to condemn someone as not being very advanced. Someone recently told me a nice story about Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj, though, which should put that into perspective.

It seems that Sridhar Maharaj was talking about different levels of adhikar (or qualification for spiritual life) and, following the Bhagavata’s description of the kaniṣṭha being primarily interested in the worship of God in the temple, cited Puri Maharaj as an example. Some of Puri Maharaj’s followers were there, and eager to find insult in Sridhar Maharaj’s words, went and told Puri. But instead of being insulted, Puri Maharaj said, “Ah, Sridhar Maharaj has said that I have some qualification for spiritual life. How he has honored me.”

So, indeed, I also wish to say that the kaniṣṭha stage is a necessary part of the process and it is unlikely that one who has skipped the disciplines of that stage will have the foundation that makes later stages possible. The failed kaniṣṭha may make a show of liberal or universalist views, but will in fact be missing the essential element needed for prema, which is bhakti. So, with this in mind, I will henceforth try to use the term pravartaka.

I have discussed the three stages and how they compare to the orthodox view of three stages to some extent in the series Ahangrahopasana and Aropa, especially Part IV. I realize that is a bit of a difficult set of articles for most people, even though it is essential for an understanding of how Sahaja sādhanā works. Eventually, the articles that came near the beginning of this blog, including that series, will one day hopefully form the basis for a book.

Some ask about the relationship of Sahaja Vaishnavism with the Kashmiri Shaivism system, I really don’t know enough about it to say much at this time. Threefold divisions are common in Indian sādhanā pranalis, and it would not be surprising to find parallels, though I would expect differences as well. I have been analyzing the similarities and differences between orthodox and sahajiya systems, which is really within a single system, so subtle and not-so-subtle differences are to be expected.

The pravartaka stage is about cultivating devotion to the specific deity, i.e., Radha and Krishna, in a way that one becomes immersed in the symbolic language of the process. It includes both the vaidhī and rāgānugā bhakti, so the idea of visualization of līlā, etc., also belongs to this stage.

The sādhaka stage is about cultivating bhava or feelings. Bhakti is essential a culture of emotions in relation to the Divine Person. This is really where the orthodoxy and the sahajiya systems differ. The Sahajiya sādhanā includes the culture of love with a specific sādhanā partner. In union or separation, these partners proceed by a sophisticated process of analogy, recognizing that their love itself is a manifestation of Radha and Krishna’s presence, visualizing them in their own being, and serving them through service to their own love.

For the orthodox, the stage of bhāva is the attainment of spiritual self-identity, i.e., an awareness of their sthāyi-bhāva or fixed relationship with Krishna. So, for them, bhāva is the primary sādhya. I would say that the two kinds of bhāva are related but not exactly the same. The Sahajiya idea is that the sādhaka is engaged in bhāva-sādhanā, while the Orthodox Vaishnava holds that bhava is one of the attainments of practice. Therefore, the distance between bhāva and prema is not so great. For the Sahajiya, I would say that the distance is greater, because the distinction between the personal love and the Divine Love represents a formidable challenge. So to put it another way, the bhāva-sādhanā of the sādhaka stage ENDS with the bhāva understanding of the Orthodox.

As to the third stage, prema, it is more or less the same in both the Sahajiya and Orthodox systems. At least, I should say, in the Sahajiya system that I am following, and according to my understanding. There are many little confusions here, though, and so I will not go into too much detail, except to say that I see the attainment of prema to have a kind of fourth step involved here, which requires a synthesis of the universal with the particular, i.e., with the particular form of the Divinity (which for us is Radha Krishna). So once again, there is a kind of beginning and end division for the siddha stage of the Sahajiya practice. There is a culture of prema and rasa, but since these have to be cultivated from the abheda position. The following table shows it somewhat, if you look at the division I have made in the uttama stage:

By "unified orientation", I mean a synthesis of all three previous stages. So the dualistic orientation of the kaniṣṭha or pravartaka is synthesized with the non-dual orientation of the sāttvika uttama (1) to attain the stage of fully transcendent (śuddha-sattva) uttama, or premika bhakta, where a full realization of Bhagavan as non-dual is attained.

Gaudiya Vaishnavas are acintya-bhedābheda-vadis, which means that we hold equally that God is non-dual and yet filled with variegatedness. We add the word acintya (inconceivable) to this in order to stress that all things, whether in the material or spiritual world, are contained within God, or within the mind of God. The realization of oneness with God is attained through love, which is the most intense “stuff” of the spiritual energy.

I am just reading a book by the famous Gopinath Kaviraj which I came across in a Rishikesh bookstore, quite by surprise. It is called Sri Krishna Prasanga. Gopinath Kaviraj is very well known for his work on Tantra, but this book is not only about Krishna, it is written, as the author himself states, from the standpoint of faith.

It is actually a translation from the original Bengali into Hindi, so it is a little slow going, but I found the introductory pages rather interesting, especially since the subjects I am presently reading in the Bhagavat-sandarbha are also related to this territory of Krishna’s shaktis.

At any rate, Kaviraj states, without any shastric quotes, that the internal potency is the basis of all other potencies, which is exactly what Jiva is saying in Bhagavat-sandarbha. The way he expresses it, though, is quite nice. He says that God’s energies are spread out everywhere; all three--sat, cit and ānanda -are fully manifest in Him, but the closer they are to His personal center, the more deep and intense they are; the further out you go, the more diffuse. So in the deepest center of the Lord’s being, ānanda is found in full, but as one expands outward, ānanda becomes increasingly diffuse. Then as one enters the tatastha region (of the jiva), the chit shakti is present, but ānanda decreasingly so. Finally one comes to the outer circle of inert matter in which there is existence, but no consciousness or joy, except inasmuch as God’s own presence is there. This image confirms the image of the fire given in the Vishnu Purana.

एकदेशस्थितस्याग्नेर्ज्योत्स्ना विस्तारिणी यथा।
परस्य ब्रह्मणः शक्तिस्तथेदमखिलं जगत् ।।

Kaviraj also confirms what I have been saying for some time, that the three aspects are directly related to Bhagavan (in the center), Paramatma (chit) and Brahman (sat only), respectively. It also nicely clarifies the meaning of the following Gita verse--

मया ततमिदं सर्वं जगदव्यक्तमूर्तिना।
मत्स्थानि सर्वभूतानि न चाहं तेष्ववस्थितः॥

I pervade this entire creation in my unmanifest form. All created beings are situated in me, but I am not situated in them. (Gita 9.4)

To the extent that we tiny sparks of consciousness experience love, relationship and the consequential growth towards God, or the experience of becoming something more than what we just are, that is how much we progress towards ānanda  In the material world, however, that happiness is limited, and so we talk about tamas, rajas and sattva as being somewhat parallel to these three aspects of God's being.


Anonymous said…
Hello Swami! Welcome to the blog! Jagat is a very kind and tolerant teacher. I hope you will enjoy your visits here.

I'd like to share something, and if it's inappropriate I'll ask Jagat to not post it, or people can please critique it, if you feel it is off base. Thanks!

The little bit I intuit about "Sahaja" is that it means [three definitions I have seen for it]: "simple", "natural", "like-minded". Perhaps Jagadananda can tell us the root word it derives from, how the word evolved, and so on.

I also know there is a Sahajana tradition in Buddhism and that places in India that are now Hindu centers of worship were once Buddhist centers of vast monasteries. It is possible that there may have been some cultural cross-over between the two traditions,

i.e. Buddhism has a tradition where you meditate on God and Goddess joined in union above your head, then you visualise the amrita drips down on your sahasrara chakra.

If you are very sinful the amrta, after it drips on your own head comes out blackish. You are to meditate on the amrita dripping on your head and down off of your body until it runs clear.

After a while you will notice that the amrta runs clear if you have been following all of the restraints and observances, Yamas and Niyamas, very carefully.

So it is like an impetus to become more pure. You can self-assess and get immediate feedback with how clear the amrta runs in your meditation. It's kind of an amazing phenomenon, in my opinion.

The Deity that the Buddhists visualize is called Yab-Yum or has many other names. You can see this deity in Asian art museums, it is very beautiful.

You mentioned the Shiva tradition, there is similar practice in Shiva Siddhanta school: one meditates on Ganesh at the muladhara chakra, Murugam at the svadishathana chakra, and Shiv-Sakti on top of the head at the Sahasrara Chakra.

I have found there to be similarities between all three schools and perhaps is the same thing but with different names, just adjusted for the sadhakas of various traditions.

As far as seeing the Deity or object of worship, there are different ways to do this. One way is in the visualizations previously described.

Another way is to immerse yourself in the Niyamas or observances of Yoga. Some include scriptural study [siddhanta sravana], japa [recitation], tapas [austerity], dana [giving], hri [remorse], santosha [contentment], astikya [faith], Isvara-pujana [worship], vrata [vows], and mati [develop a spiritual will and intellect].

If you do this, in my experience, this is another way you can see the Divine everywhere. But I must warn you: just be careful that you really want to see the Divine, or you may get what you wish for!

In my experience, by intensely doing all of these Niyamas, as well as avoiding the ten Yamas [restraints] then you will see the Divine everywhere.

In the tradition I followed at the time, it was Gaudiya Vaisnavism, so I was seeing the Divine in relation to the meditations of that branch of Hinduism. If I saw river it was Jamuna, if I saw naughty little kids it was Krsna, Balarama, and his cowherd boyfriends, and if I saw beautiful kumari girl it was a gopi or an incredibly benign and merciful, yet shy and sweet goddess. Amazing!

And also you may meet someone becomes like Radha or Krsna for you. I actually did not know that all these things would happen. The tradition I followed the leader said, "Chant and be happy your life will be sublime".

But if you meet someone like Krsna you life will not become sublime. Well because he is a rascal and nobody really emphasized that part to me. Was presented he is God, you must worship him and so on.

So just be careful if you do these things you may get what you wish for! For me I am not interest in getting to know a God who is a rascal. I myself have turned to another Istha Devata.

And it was frankly very scary to have alot of inner things happen to me without being able to explain the phenomenon rationally and scientifically.

Good luck to you on the path; I just wanted to let you know that--in my experience--you can see the Divine in other people by strictly following the Yamas and Niyamas of any bhakti-based tradition.

From what I understand, alot depends on your past life sukritya. Check your astrological chart for that, it has many indicators there of how successful you will be in meditation and final liberation in this lifetime.

Best wishes to all on the path and if I have said anything wrong, I hope someone will correct me as I am not an expert, just a layperson.

Svacchandanath said…
Namaste, Jagatji and Anonymousji :-)

A special thanks to Jagatji for your lenghty and thorough answer. I have made a print-out of it and am trying to decifer the sanskrit terms (I notice that each tradition uses sanskrit terms in their own way and many of the vaishnava terms are unfamiliar to me).

And now over to something completely else... (Monty Python)

In trika-shaiva (Kashmir Shaivism) there is a term called "svatantrya" and this is described to be the Lords Supreme Free Will.

In the Shaiva Adi-Nath Yogi tradition there is a term called "svecchachara" or "svecchacharya", meaning "doing ones own will".

How I understand it is that Svatantrya explaines the free will from the stance of the Lord, and Svecchacharya explaines the free will from the stance of the individual Jiva (or Anu).

In Zen Buddhism they talk about the Tathata, the man walking in "suchness", and the Bauls and Sahajiyas talks about the "Sahaja Manusha", the spontanious man.

All these terms - Svatantrya, Svecchacharya, Tathata and Sahaja - seems to me to point to one common phenomenon. When the God-Realized person (wether in unity or proximity to the Lord) reach moksha or liberation, he/she starts behaving in a natural and spontanious way in total accordance with the Lords will (svatantrya). But from the perspective of individuals still living under the veils of maya, these Siddhas may seem to follow only their own free will (svecchacharya) and they may seem to behave in an unorthodox way.

I have noticed on the vaishnava-pages and discussion-forums that there seem to be a lot of discussion and bashing of each other. This reminds me a bit of how christian ministers preach (I do not say this to offend anybody, it is just a percieved notion).

In the tantrika shaiva communities (or at least in the tantrika communities I have been in contact with) the yogi knows that the scriptures (Tantras and Shastras) are but roadmaps to the divine. They are not divine themselves. The divine has to be directly experienced, and in doing so you may notis that the roadmap was incomplete. Therefor the direct experience are treashured more than scripture.
How is it in the vaishnava community? Is it the same, or are the scriptures viewed as infallible? In a tantric view one would say that all scriptures are written by men and may therefor have faults in them. How does the sahajiyas relate to scriptures and direct experience?

And lastly...

The spring has come to Norway and as I walk outside and chant the Nama Mahamantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, I feel that Krishna and Radha is dancing all over the place. I experience them as dancing in the world outside me and in my heart inside me.

I am familiar with the dieties Shiva and Durga, but they represent the ideals of the yogi. Krishna and Radha I experience as the dieties of the Bhakti.

In the Kaula Upanishad I have read "In the world a Vaishnava, at home a Shaiva and in secret a Shakta".

Well, joy to the world - Haribol!

Outside in the nature I feel blissful. How can this creation, coming out of the divine play of Krishna and Radha/Shiva and Shakti/ Purusha and Prakriti be anything other than a blessing. Let's cherish life and let's cherish death. I think its is beautifully expressed in the ecclesiastes:

"To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under heaven:

"A time to be born
and a time to die;

"a time to plant,
and a time to pluck what is planted."

Thank you once again. I really enjoy this blog.

Love from Prem Ananda
Anonymous said…
Jaya Premanandaji!

I´m also a neo-sannyas who received the name "Swami Anand Rekkas" or the "bliss dancer". Before becaming a neo-sannyas I have explored some other paths like Thelema (True Will) of Aleister Crowley and some time after the raganuga-bhakti-sadhana. Crowley at the supreme master of Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) gave the essence of all instructions, at Liber Agape, "Inflame thyself in prayer!" This was his instructions to sadhakas of Sex Magick. The prayer was to set the participants in the proper mood of the cerimony.

Then I became more interested at bhakti-yoga. So I discovered the Hare Krishna movement and became a bhakta. Researching more deep I found that there was the esoteric teachings of raganuga-bhakti. I started to do lila-smarana (meditation of passtimes). I never believed that sex was only for procreation, so I became a rebel at Hare krishna movement. Then I became a neo-sannyas, more like a play, not that I consider Osho my guru (and yet he is like a Baul/sahaja-siksha guru to me).

At a big meeting here in Brazil I meet Pitambar (Premananda Das Babaji) and he give-me initiation. He says that he see sex as spiritual and give-me a lot of crazy wisdom teachings. You can see his autobiography "Ecstasy Matrix" here:

You can also see a summary of his sahajiya ideas here:

Hey Jagadanandaji, I hope that you didn´t mind making advertising of my sahajiya ideas here. I like to read your blog and there aren´t many places where we can discuss this. Why don´t you create a sahaja-ning? I think this can serve to find sahaja-partners as you would like.


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