Gaura Nagar Bhava

Gadadhara-prana, a contemporary advocate of Gaura Nagar Bhava who arguably has done more to bring it to the attention of Gaudiya’s of our time than anyone else, has reasoned that in Gaura Nagar Bhava, as opposed to Radha dasyam, one actually gets to have direct union with Krsna in the form of Gaura! I was shocked to read this from his pen, as it betrays a pitiful understanding of Radha dasyam on the part of someone who had studied it for decades. It is the very lack of direct union with Krsna that places Radha dasyam above sambhogeccha madhurya rasa.

It appears that Gaura Nagar Bhava has nothing to do with the internal or external reasons for Mahaprabhu’s appearance. While some advocates of Gaura Nagar Bhava acknowledge the validity of Radha dasyam (which would be difficult to disagree with), they place Gaura Nagar Bhava above it. I can’t relate to that, nor does it make any theological sense to me to do so.

Srila Rupa Goswami’s description of svapna sambhoga is not in reference to Gaura Nagar Bhava. I believe that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur listed Gaura Nagar Bhava as one of the 13 apasampradayas of his time. As for following it, if is actually a spiritually viable reality, in the least that would require association with someone in that bhava through whom a samskara for it would be imbibed. But again, my position and that of my lineage is one of following Vrndavana dasa and Krsnadasa Kaviraja, who do not entertain it. And for whatever it’s worth the vast majority of Gaudiyas feel the same way.

Common explanations of Gaura Nagar Bhava are a “concerted doctrine” drawn from the padas and not a specific teaching about it, how to attain it, where it manifests, and so on, outlined by the authors of the padas themselves. Much of it is difficult if not impossible to verify and speculative conclusions are drawn from it.

The poems of some of the associates of Mahaprabhu bear the stamp of Gaura Nagar Bhava, but what is often presented is based on an elaborate theory put together, not by those associates, but by much later day devotees. It involves a fair amount of speculation.

At any rate, many prominent acaryas and even seminal authors reject it. The Goswamis do not go there at all. And then a few appear to accept it theoretically, while fewer still embrace and follow it. And those who follow it today make preposterous claims. They make it out to be the highest, secret ideal of everyone. Somehow direct union with Prabhu Visvambhara in a spiritual dream land has upstaged Radha dasyam of Vraja, which includes no direct union with Sri Madan Gopala. Jaya Radhe!

Bhakti-tattva-viveka

There is no svarpa sakti inherent in the tatastha sakti. One’s svarupa is a bhava deha. Bhava is a blessing.

The sutras say that the mukta attains its own form. However, careful reading, study, and service to liberated souls reveals that this merely refers to the fact that the mukta attains its own nature of sat cit ananda. And the same chapter (4.4.1) goes on to explain that among those who so attain their nature, some do so in the context of desiring bodies for lila during their practicing life. And only those muktas attain appropriate bodies for lila seva, while others do not. Their will to attain such is realized by the grace of the svarupa sakti that bhava is constituted of. The sutras explain that such bodies and families, etc. are manifestations of bhava responding to the pure will of the mukta.

The baddha jiva is sesa bhuta parasya. It (bhuta) is a part and parcel (sesa/remainder) of the Paramatma (parasya). This implies that it has a natural affinity for or bond with its source. This is inherent in the jivatma. And that is part of its potential for love. Its ananda, however, is not like that of the svarupa sakti, which has both the power to dispel maya and overwhelm Krsna. Unto itself the ananda of the jivatma does not have the power to do either of these. But because is does have the inherent potential to love, when it is blessed by the svarupa sakti, it can enter the love lilas of Bhagavan with an appropriate spiritual body.

Bhakti comes only from bhakti. And bhakti is a blessing and it is the essence of the svarupa sakti.

From the Govinda Bhasya tika of Baladeva on 4.4.2:

“Therefore mukti is indeed the manifestation of one’s own form, which consists of remaining in one’s own natural condition, free from the body, etc., which is a product of karma. This bodiless condition, free from pleasure and pain, is mukti.”

So as you can see, “attaining one’s own form” in this section of Govinda Bhasya (svena rupena abhinispadyate) refers to a bodiless condition, not a bhakti svarupa, which is a particular blessing of Bhagavan upon his devotees, who desire to engage in liberated lila seva. “Svena rupena,” “one’s own form” refers to ones nature as an atomic jivatma constituted of sat cit ananda. It does not refer to a lila svarupa. That, again, is a blessing from Bhagavan in response to the devotee’s desire to engage in lila-seva.

Sri Nimbarka agrees with Baladeva Vidyabhusana on this.

Regarding the words “svarupa jnana” as they appear in Bhakti-tattva-viveka, the word “svarupa” is seldom used in reference to siddha deha or spiritual form in sakhya or madhurya rasa, etc.—a form of lila seva. That is a very particular use of the word. More readily it refers to the nature of the atma, or the constitution of the jiva. For example, in Cc we find “jivera svarupa hay nitya krsna dasa, “The jiva is an eternal servant of krsna.” This statement has nothing to do with a bhava deha or a form for participating in Krsna lila. It is not about dasya rasa. It speaks to us as to the subordinate nature of the jiva. It is by its nature (svarupa) a dependent entity.

BVT defines his term svarupa jnana thus: “… intrinsic knowledge (svarupa-jnana) concerning the sadhaka (the practitioner), sadhana (the practice) and sadhya (the object of achievement) is non-different from the inherent nature of suddha-bhakti.”

So svarupa jnana here refers to knowledge concerning the nature of bhakti, its sadhana and sadhya. BVT writes “Even for Vaisnavas who are duly initiated into the genuine sampradaya, the vasti-prabha or illumination of one’s eternal identity arising from the diksa-mantra that they received from their diksa-guru will not appear until they are fortunate enough to receive instruction on this intrinsic knowledge (svarupa jnana, or knowledge of the sadhana and sadhya of bhakti-devi).”

Knowledge of one’s eternal identity in bhakti (vastu-prabha) will not arise unless one receives, not only diksa, but also svarupa jnana, or knowledge concerning the nature of bhakti, its sadhana and sadhya.

But the idea of an inherent svarupa originates in BVT. However, careful reading of what he writes reveals that he is writing about one’s potential for bhakti, not a bhakti svarupa with hands and legs in seed form buried inside the jiva.

The jiva must be defined in terms of its potential. It is “tatastha,” and thus it is never unto itself. Its identity is determined by its association. And its eternal identity is determined by its association with Bhakti-devi, or the ingress of samvit and hladhini sakti of Bhagavan’s svarupa-sakti into the jiva/sadhaka. The ananda of the jivatma “in potential” is one with bhakti. In other words, its capacity to love is fully realized in conjunction with the ingress of bhakti. Just as a young man has the potential to be “more” when he has fallen in love with the right girl. Its potential is not brahmananda, but rather bhakti-ananda.

That said, not everyone reads or listens carefully. And certain aspects of the philosophy may not seem as important at one time as they do at another, or to some audiences as they do to another. Thus ideas can be passed down and slightly mis-presented because there may not have been a great need to look carefully at them.

The so called “fall of the jiva” is an example. In previous times and in the Eastern environment, anadi karma was just accepted, as it should be. But bring the teachings to the West and it sets off alarms. Incidentally, the idea of an inherent bhakti svarupa is related to the fall of the jiva. Thus sometimes we find modern acaryas speaking about it in what appears to be contradictory terms—contradictions between what they themselves have said and between what they have said and what previous acaryas have said on an issue. Such is the case with this issue, as it is with the fall of the jiva issue.

So as times change and topics that previously were not contentious become so for whatever reason, it becomes important to sort out the siddhanta on them. In other words, sometimes certain circumstances arise that cause us to look very deeply into a particular philosophical issue that was not looked into with the same scrutiny previously, and as a result, clarification will come. And that may involve explaining why it seems as though, or why it is, that one acarya said it differently from his or her previous acarya(s), and under scrutiny, also said it the same way.