All this parampara business mess... why do I bother?

I suppose it was inevitable that once I started getting into Bhaktivinoda Thakur's life story that it would end up in trouble. I don't like it. It disturbs people's minds in the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON. And in a way, I understand that for them, this is a mere technicality. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur and his disciples have proved their validity as spiritual masters by their scholarship, their valiant preaching and by their personal character. You cannot discount them all on the basis of what seems like a mere technicality. So that leaves me (and my guru) looking a little foolish to them.

But I can't help myself. It bothers me. Even if ISKCON and the Gaudiya Math go from success to success and conquer the entire world, I will still feel the same way.

Because for me, the ultimate conclusion of the meat-eating story is that there is no stronger evidence anywhere than Bhaktivinoda Thakur's personal account shows not just that he was the initiated disciple of Bipin Bihari Goswami, but that this relationship was solid, significant and meaningful to both guru and disciple, and that no one in the world, not even Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, can break, minimize or depreciate that connection.

There is of course other supporting evidence, but that simply supplements what is given in the Thakur's own account, that on taking dīkṣā from him, dayā to the jivas manifest in him. jīva dayā krishna nāma, sarva dharma sāra.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur makes it clear that he judged Bipin Bihari Goswami to be someone who (1) had knowledge of the correct siddhānta, and at the same time (2) met the requisite standards of sadācāra, and (3) was empowered to produce in him "mercy to all living beings" which was manifested by his giving up meat eating. What else does one want from a "bonafide" guru?

tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam

Bhaktivinoda Thakur was 42 years old at the time and already very knowledgeable in the scriptures himself. He had written several books on Vaishnavism, including songs of a devotional nature. To think that his assessment of his guru was such that it would necessitate his rejection at a later time undermines the authority we invest in him as a member of our śikṣā-sampradāya.

The opinion that the Thakur at some time rejected Bipin Bihari Goswami is a serious charge that has no foundation in any written materials anywhere.

According to my gurudeva, Bhaktivinoda Thakur did not approve of his son's critical attitude towards his own guru. This is why Bhaktisiddhanta did not take initiation from his father. There is no other reason.

The entire edifice of the Gaudiya Math is built on Bhaktivinoda Thakur's writings. The main books published by the Gaudiya Maths, with a few exceptions, are all his contributions. In other words, Bhaktisiddhanta's primary śikṣā-guru was Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Jiva Goswami says clearly in Bhakti Sandarbha that the śravaṇa-guru in most cases becomes the dīkṣā-guru. But something did not allow that natural sequence to take place.

So is dīkṣā of no importance other than as a kind of confirmation or formal acceptance of the teaching? In Bhāgavatam (11.3.48), dīkṣā is equated with anugraha, or mercy. The special nature of our sampradāya is that dīkṣā is a way of connecting to the avatar generation. Since we have a very high concept of Chaitanya as the incarnation of God who descended with his eternal associates, the dīkṣā-paramparā is very much a way of connecting to that avatar generation.

Does it make a difference that I belong to a line that culminates in Ramai Thakur of Baghna Para and Jahnava Mata, Nityananda's shakti? Why does Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself show such special affection for Jahnava? Why is that affection not detectable in the Gaudiya Math or ISKCON?

Because they don't have that connection. Love means mamatā, a sense of ownership and belonging to that original avatar generation. This is called sambandha-viśeṣa, “a special relationship,” a term used several times by Jiva Goswami in relation to dīkṣā (Bhakti-sandarbha 283-284),

Of course, I don't really know the full story of why Bhaktisiddhanta decided that he needed to do things the way he did - we have heard so many stories, but none of them explains it better than that Bhaktivinoda himself would not give him initiation because of the disagreements -- whatever they were -- between Saraswati Thakur and Bipin Bihari Goswami Prabhupada.

Rejecting a dīkṣā-guru is not an easy matter in our sampradāya (Bhakti Sandarbha 207). It is considered a sign of fickleness, like getting divorced. People in ISKCON do not look upon me as anything other than a traitor and apostate. They think of me as an aparādhī. But I ask them to understand that the upset they feel at my action is probably not one-tenth of what Akinchan Lalita Prasad Thakur felt at his older brother's denial of the importance of the initiation that his father took from Bipin Bihari Goswami..

Bhaktivinoda never rejected his dīkṣā-guru, nor did he replace him with Jagannath Das Babaji as a śikṣā-guru  The Bhakti Sandarbha (238) says that if one's dīkṣā-guru is alive, one can still take a śikṣā-guru with his permission as long as it does not interfere with his service to him, and indeed that to take such association is desirable (śreyaḥ). If for some reason the dīkṣā-guru refuses, then rather than giving up the opportunity to associate with an advanced devotee, one can override his authority and "worship him from a distance" (ata eva dūrata evārādhyas tādṛśo guruḥ). It is admittedly not a pleasant situation to be in.

Is there any possibility at all that Bhaktivinoda Thakur would not have received such permission from Bipin Bihari Goswami, when Jagannath Das Babaji was universally accepted as a siddha by everyone in the Vaishnava universe? In other words, there was no such conflict. And anyone who claims that Bhaktivinoda replaced one with the other is committing serious guror avajñā.

The only reason given in Bhakti Sandarbha (238) for rejecting a guru is that he has become a "hater of Vaishnavas" (vaiṣṇava-vidveṣī). If such a thing were the case, I believe that this would have been made abundantly clear somewhere. But there is no evidence of any such a thing, indeed the opposite Personal animosity might have existed but being a vaiṣṇava-vidveṣī is seriously heavy stuff and indicates a complete abandonment of bhakti. That is clearly not the case here.

According to this standard, even if there were faults in Bipin Bihari Goswami -- I have heard several suggestions -- that does not mean that his role as the one who gave Bhaktivinoda Thakur a connection to the avatar generation was broken.

But if Bhaktivedanta Swami was my śravaṇa-guru, as I claim, then does it not follow that he should also be my dīkṣā-guru, especially since that relationship was formalized? Does it mean that I rejected Prabhupada because I thought that he was a vaiṣṇava-vidveṣī or that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was?

No. I made an adjustment, considering that my initiation from that sampradāya was illegitimate because it was not a dīkṣā line, but a so-called śikṣā-sampradāya. In other words, it is a new sampradāya that does not have the kind of connection to the original associates of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that Bhaktivinoda Thakur had through Bipin Bihari Goswami and the Baghna Para line, in a single voice honored him with the title, the name by which we all know him today. The only remedy for this was to reestablish that link with Bhaktivinoda Thakur through my guru Akinchan Lalita Prasad Thakur.

Inasmuch as Bhaktivedanta Swami and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati led me to my guru, they are my śikṣā gurus and worthy of my eternal respect. I know my own sentiments in this regard. I respect every one of my gurus as manifestations of the One Guru. This is central to my understanding of spiritual life and I would not dare put myself in the situation of not seeing the Guru in everyone from whom I have received direction, knowledge and guidance in this lifetime.

The concept of a śikṣā sampradāya is not altogether without foundation. There is a great importance to the tradition of teachings shared by Gaudiya Vaishnavas, but since the śikṣā of Rupa Goswami (BRS 1.2.74) and Jiva Goswami (Bhakti-sandarbha 210) includes initiation we cannot cavalierly replace one kind of tradition with another without a serious inconsistency. This is because there can be many śikṣā-gurus (Bhakti-sandarbha 202), but only one dīkṣā-guru, so how can an "unbroken disciplic succession" be based on something so diffuse?

Put another way, paramparā means "tradition." You can have all kinds of traditions, like a popular tradition; e.g., it is a popular tradition to take bath in the Yamuna on certain days of the year. Different kinds of teaching tradition exist. The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition was that one takes initiation in a line of gurus and their disciples that continues up to the avatar generation.

Bhaktisiddhanta broke with that tradition. But in doing so, he implicitly accepted it by restarting a new dīkṣā-paramparā that starts with him. Gaura Kishor Das Babaji's relation to him then becomes like that of Madhavendra Puri or Ishwar Puri to Mahaprabhu. There is nothing beyond that . Even in Gaudiya Math and ISKCON people know that a paramparā is based on dīkṣā and that is why the Ritvik doctrine will not fly.

For the most part Gaudiya Vaishnavas do not accept self-appointed gurus, and that is one reason why the Ritvik doctrine is unlikely to achieve success, even though the Ritviks try to use the śikṣā sampradāya concept as an excuse for "jumping over" as Prabhupada himself called it.

The fact is that just as Bipin Bihari Goswami would have approved of Jagannath Das Babaji, he also would have approved of everyone else in the so-called śikṣā-paramparā. What is missing from that paramparā's śikṣā is that every one in it had a dīkṣā-guru in a dīkṣā-paramparā. So if one rejects the dīkṣā-paramparā, then what is the meaning of the śikṣā-paramparā? The Gaudiya teaching tradition is that one takes initiation from a guru in a continuous line of dīkṣā gurus, just like Bhaktivinoda Thakur did.

The power of the Holy Name – which is independent of initiation -- goes on within the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON, in large part due to the mercy of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. After all Bhaktisiddhanta was his son and received a great deal of love from his father, as well as all the other benefits that came of being the son of a greatly knowledgeable and influential saint. But the rejection of the Guru-paramparā means that there is a defect in the entire GM and ISKCON, that ultimately will show itself when devotees seek entry into the higher reaches of bhakti.

That is why I say the "sins of the father are visited on the children." The guror avajñā ultimately is passed on like an original sin or a particular DNA sequence. If you are genetically disposed to heart disease, it may not happen right away, but susceptibility means that it is more likely to strike at some time. Something like that.

Naturally, ISKCON people look at me as the one in the wrong because they cannot believe that Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta are not completely without any defect. No matter how highly elevated anyone is, though, I don't believe that anyone is meant to be entirely beyond critique, without going against the principle of Guru-tattva and recognizing the action of the Divine Samaṣṭi Guru in them. One still has to be a sāra-grāhī.

[And so I may disagree even with Bhaktivinoda Thakur because he did accept the Madhvacharya connection and the four sampradayas "tradition." Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself says in Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā that he did not consider his view of history to be final and that with new evidence people might correct him and he did not oppose that. So I feel that he has thereby given me the right to adjust my understanding with the finding of new evidence. This is another case of his being “modern.” And in the case of the Madhva sampradāya, there seems to me to be overpowering evidence to show that this connection was fabricated out of political expedience. But I digress.]

I don't expect ISKCON people to understand where I am coming from. How could they? And they for the most part don't need to. Let them function at their level of adhikāra and they will do fine. It is wrong of me to go on their territory to tell my Truth. If they want to read what I have to say, there is plenty of it on this blog. And there will be more, as I have found that one of my major articles on this subject was never published here. So that will be coming soon. It is a 25-year-old article, so I may have to make a few changes and additions, but it was an important article at the time.


Jagadananda Das said…
Something I did not say. Going against the current is often the way that new things arise. Without breaking eggs one does not make an omelet, so goeth the proverb. Without having made the radical break with tradition, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati is unlikely to have had the effect that he did.

Anonymous said…

"Will it not then be no small defence, if we be able to show that the true lover of learning is naturally made to aspire to the knowledge of real being, and not to rest in the many particular things which are the objects of opinion, but goes on, and is not blunted, nor ceases from his love of truth till he comes into contact with the nature of everything which is, by that part of the soul whose office it is to come into contact with a thing of this kind. But it is the office of that part of the soul which is allied to real being; to which when this true lover of learning approaches, and is mingled with it, having generated intellect and truth, he will then have true knowledge, and truly live and be nourished, and then he becomes liberated from the pains of parturition, but not before.”

- Plato (Circa 423-348 BC)

Thank you for your writing Jagadananda Das.

Yours in the love of truth,



Quote from 'The Republic of Plato'
Prem Prakash said…
"Even if ISKCON and the Gaudiya Math go from success to success and conquer the entire world..."
What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?

"People in ISKCON do not look upon me as anything other than a traitor and apostate."
While this is accurate, I think those people haven't taken the time to sincerely read what you have written about Prabhupada. You have made it abundantly clear how much you love, appreciate, and respect him. Going against the current may, in an ironic twist, be the best way to demonstrate he actually brought you to Krishna consciousness.

Jagadananda Das said…
As usual, Prem Prakash, you are far too kind. It is heartening to have the support of an objective observer. Jai Sri Radhe. (But thank goodness I am on a different subject again.)
Vaiyasaki Das said…
Dear Jagat,

I have read your blogs about the siksa/diksa issue and although there were some contradictions in your exegesis, it is not for me to discuss these with you publicly as these are delicate issues and need to be handled with discretion and sensitivity.

Therefore, as we do go back a long way, I would like to extend an invitation to you to come to my home for lunch one afternoon. Then, if you are open we can have a vaada discussion. Surely, there is no point in a jalpa discussion.

I live in the Burja residential area where Krishna and Balarama were fed dahi and makhan by the brahmana ladies.

I look forward to hearing from you so we can plumb the depths of spiritual truth.

Your old friend,

Vaiyasaki Das...
Jagadananda Das said…
Jai Radhe, Vaiyasaki Prabhu.

It will have to wait a while as I am currently in Birnagar. I will be back in Braj at the end of September. But thank you for the invitation, I will try to take it up when I am back in Vrindavan.

Of course, one thing that I wish to make clear. Though I have investigated this issue and tried to make some sense of it, I am really quite tired of it. I have made my personal decision, which is why I wrote this article. I am tired of disputing the issue, and as one devotee here said to me yesterday, Lalita Prasad Thakur recognized the greatness of his brother, whatever he may have said on occasion about him. He would not allow his disciples to blaspheme his older brother because "Bhaktivinoda Thakur's blood flows in his veins."

Great souls like yourself who have dedicated themselves to Sankirtan are worthy of my eternal respect and veneration. You are blessed by the Holy Name, so I do not wish to insult the Holy Name by minimizing the individuals who blessed you and empowered you. If you feel that this is my intention, then it would not be particularly productive to tangle, rather than to share with each other our common faith and love for the Holy Name, whose much lesser servant I am.

Quite frankly I am tired of being cast in the role of "enemy and offender." Life is rarely a straight line and the way Guru Tattva blesses us each individually is not always the same. God's purpose in this world is multifaceted and his intention is not truly known

Jai Radhe.
Ramananda Das said…
Pranams Jagadananda!

I'm enjoying to read all this discussions coming up about Bhaktivinoda (even the controversy with my Gurudev). However, here you come to say that Bhagavata parampara is just a siksha parampara and there is no diksha parampara in it. This is usually what is told by almost all aderents of traditional parivars. My gurudev approach to this is that there is a diksha and siksha parampara inside Bhagavata parampara, but that siksha is proeminent. He goes on at his "5 essential essays" book to show how diksha parampara and siksha parampara are conected at Bhagavat parampara.

I do believe that Srila Bhaktissidhanta Saraswati Prabhupada took diksha and siddha-pranali from Srila Gourakishora Maharaj. This makes him a member of Nityananda parivar, considering of course he changed many things to be effective at preach.
Ramananda Das said…
For a long time I want to ask you if you personaly heard DIRECTLY from Sri Lalita Prasada, he telling that Srila Bhaktissidhanta Prabhupada diksha was not bonafide? Subal das (Steve) tells that Sri Lalita Prasada told Srila Bhaktissidhanta to invent the history that he was initiated by Srila Gourakishora Das Babaji and to invent a new parampara. I personaly feel this don't fit right because Sri Lalita Prasad was supportive of Gaudiya Math in the beginning, so this would make not only Srila Bhaktissidhanta look like a cheater, but Sri Lalita Prasad too.
Jagadananda Das said…
I don't know what Subal heard except as he tells it. It may be so, since the problem was that Bhaktisiddhanta had not received mantra diksha or siddha pranali from his father. But I would take that with a grain of salt. There is a lot that I do not know and I am hoping to investigate further. There are not many people left with extensive knowledge who might be able to help with these things.

But I heard from Prabhu that the problem was that BSS wanted BVT to renounce his guru because he did not like certain things about him. Probably the disagreement at Balighai with some tobacco thrown in for good measure. BVT did not agree and this was a cause of some bad feelings in the family. Anyway, that is as much as I can say right now.

As far as Gaur Kishor is concerned, there are many stories about this, but if he took initiation and received siddha-pranali, then there would have been no reason to not communicate it to his disciples or to replace it with a shiksha parampara. I believe I have stated this quite clearly in this article.

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