Nityananda Prabhu and Sakhya Rasa in the Bhagavata Guru Parampara

The Bhagavata guru parampara conception of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura includes Nityananda Prabhu. So the claim that all the acaryas in his Bhagavata guru parampara are in manjari-bhava is false. Nitaicanda is in sakhya rasa. And he initiated many disciples and distributed this bhava. It was prominent in the first two generations of the sampradaya. And literature exclusively dedicated to the culture of sakhya rasa with reference and deference to Rupa Goswami’s work appears as late as the 18th century. With O My Friend!, its ongoing influence to this day is further documented. These are the objective facts.

Furthermore Nityananda-rama has done more than anyone else in terms of bringing attention to Mahaprabhu and his pursuit of Radha bhava. Rupa and Ragunatha defer to him, without whose mercy no one can approach Gauracandra and Radha Vrindavancandra. Such is the nature of Ntiai’s fraternal love for Gaura. And through his sakti expansion in Vraja, Ananga-manjari who appears in Garua lila as his consort Jhananva devi, Radha dasya has also been widely distributed.

So Nityananda Prabhu is indirectly and directly involved in bringing attention to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Radha bhava that he is about, and the blessing of unnatojjvala rasa he bestows. But Nitai himself is steeped in sakhya rasa, and thus it is inevitable that this sentiment will also appear in the sampradaya from time to time, and really to some extent at all times. And again, history bears this out. When it does appear, and especially when it does in a prominent manner, it should be celebrated for what it is.

Those influenced by sakhya bhava are not in competition with manjari-bhava and there is no need for manjari-bhava upasakas to militate against it. Indeed, under the influence of sakhya bhava Nitai’s sector has done more to promote gopi-bhava than any other sector. Nitai started the worship of Gaura. It is under his influence that Caitanya Bhagavata and Caitanya-caritamrta were written. The road to gopi-bhava goes through him. As Narottama Thakura sings, heno bine nitai bhai radha krsna paite nai.

Jaya Nitai!

The Ideal of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas

The ideal of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas is to attain lila-seva in the circle of Sri Krsna’s Vrindvana lila. Thus they engage in an appropriate sadhana, one that aims at attaining a spiritual form in which to serve Sri Krsna in divine love, a gopa or gopi form. This sadhana thus involves pursuing an ideal that members of that lila exemplify. It is termed “raganuga sadhana,” which literally means “following those who have raga for Krsna.” Those who have raga for Sri Krsna are his gopas and gopis, who are eternally liberated entities. They are called “ragatmikas,” “those in whom raga is inborn.” So again, raganuga sadhana means to follow in the footsteps of the ragatmikas.

Just as those who attain the ideal of ragatmika bhakti never loose sight of it, similarly and necessarily, those whom they follow to attain this status also never loose sight of it. Indeed, the following by which one attains the ideal is something that also eternal. So to follow eternally, one needs someone to follow who is always there, not someone who is unreliable.

When Sri Krsna says that those who attain my abode never return to the material world, he is saying that this abode is of an eternally perfect nature. He says it twice, once in comparison to the worlds of the demigods. From there everyone falls. By contrast, from his abode no one falls. This is what he says in the 8th chapter of the Gita. The second time he says that those who attain my abode never return, he is pointing out the luminous nature of his abode. Here luminosity—sun, moon, fire—is used to imply that his abode is devoid of darkness/ignorance. In other words, because of its luminous nature one going there never experiences darkness. This is what he says in the 15th chapter.

So in each instance that Krsna says this in the Gita, he is not qualifying the nature of his abode to say that only those who attain it through sadhana having previously been in ignorance never return to ignorance after attaining it. He is not saying that while perfected sadhakas never again experience ignorance, my eternal associates (ragatmikas) do, which of course would make no sense.

For that matter, the abode of Krsna in essence consists of the ragatmikas love for him. That love and Krsna himself are one and different. There is no meaning to love of Krsna without Krsna, and no meaning to Krsna without love of Krsna. Just as Krsna himself does is not subject to ignorance, similarly love of Krsna—prema—is not subject to corruption. If it were, Krsna himself would not be perfect. Krsna is himself and and love of himself—Radha Krsna. The two are philosophically inseparable. Krsna is not subject to ignorance and neither is love of Krsna.

In other words, those who follow those who are never subject to ignorance, upon attaining their association, are never subject to ignorance. That is what the Gita says. Again, Krsna is not alone. Attaining him means attaining the association of his eternal associates. That is what love of Krsna involves.