The siddha pranali business
and the spiritual form of the soul
Radha Krishna Lila
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: The siddha-pranali process is followed by a class of men who are not very authorized and who have manufactured their own way of devotional service. They imagine they have become associates of the Lord simply by thinking of themselves like that.
This external behavior is not at all according to the regulative principles. The so-called siddha-pranali process is followed by the prakrita-sahajiya, a pseudosect of so-called Vaishnavas. In the opinion of Rupa Gosvami, such activities are simply disturbances to the standard way of devotional service. Sri Rupa Gosvami says that learned acharyas recommend that we follow the regulative principles even after the development of spontaneous love for Krishna. — Nectar of Devotion 16
To speculate on what your eternal position with Krishna is, or to have some one tell you what it is, is a sign of a prakrta-sahajiya. You will know when you get to that platform. It is irrelevant in the practice of bhakti yoga to speculate on this. Srila Prabhupada says, “That will be revealed when you are liberated. Why you are bothering now?” (Morning Walk, 6-7-76, LA)
According to the Vedanta Sutra (4.4.1) and Sri Sanatana Goswami (Brhadbagavatamrtam, 2.2), a soul never gets given a spiritual body at any time. The spiritual body is an eternal and inseparable facet of the individual soul, the jiva-atma. The spiritual form of the self is eternally and inseparably connected to the individual self. My spiritual body is inseparable from me and, though dormant, my spiritual body has been with me for all of eternity. When a soul desires to render service to the Lord in his spiritual form then the dormant spiritual body becomes fully manifest. This is clearly stated to be the case in the Vedanta Sutra and in more recent texts such as Sri Sanatana Goswami’s book Brhadbhagavatamrtam. It is utterly wrong to think that a soul can be given a spiritual body.
Srila Prabhupada Conversations, Morning Walk, 6-7-76, LA
Prabhupada: In this sahajiya party, then preaching will be finished. Siddha-pranali. Then everything will be finished. Preaching will be finished.
Tamala Krsna: What does that mean, Srila Prabhupada, siddha-pranali?
Prabhupada: Siddha-pranali is nonsense. They have manufactured a siddha-pranali.
Ramesvara: [break] …the initiation that you are given your siddhas, your eternal position.
Prabhupada: They have learned it from these Radha-kunda babajis.
Tamala Krsna: From Radha-kunda babajis?
Prabhupada: Babajis, yes. After all, they’re fool, rascals, so whatever they say. Let them say all nonsense. They are disqualified. Sahajiya babajis, that’s all.
Ramesvara: Srila Prabhupada, when the devotee is in the original relationship with Krsna, his siddha-deha, why is it that he sometimes changes his original rasa with Krsna?
Ramesvara: Each one of us has an original relationship with Krsna, some as plant, some as tree, some as cow, some as cowherd boy. So if that is re-established, why should the devotee desire to change it?
Prabhupada: Well, that is spiritual kingdom. You can change if you like.
Tamala Krsna: It is not static, Prabhupada once explained. Love is not static.
Prabhupada: Generally, it is not changed. Just like mother Yasoda, she’s mother all the time, eternally.
Tamala Krsna: The question came in Bombay two or three years ago. Prabhupada said that it is not static. You can have (inaudible).
Hari-sauri: I always understood before that the rasa was fixed, but that within that rasa one may take different…, one may take a different line.
Prabhupada: That will be revealed when you are liberated. Why you are bothering now?
Prabhupada: A patient is thinking, “How shall I dance when I become healthy?” First of all, rascal, become healthy, then talk of all this. The rascals are thinking like that. You are patient; first of all cure your disease, material disease. Then talk of all this. Utopian. “When I will get rich, how I shall treat…. I shall…. Then my wife is disobedient and I shall kick her like this,” (laughter)
Ramesvara: That’s the point.
“A bhakta will naturally be attracted towards a specific bhava and mood of service. It is inherent within the bhakta. Everyone is different.” That is the whole point.
To speculate on what your eternal position with Krishna is, or to have some one tell you what it is, is a sign of a prakrta-sahajiya. You will know when you get to that platform. It is irrelevant in the practice of bhakti yoga to speculate on this. Srila Prabhupada says: “That will be revealed when you are liberated. Why you are bothering now?”
The Spiritual Form of the Self
by Sriman Muralidhar das
Following is a critique of the philosophy of the Radha Kunda babajis who teach that when a disciple comes to a guru he should be “given” a spiritual body of a manjari. In this article, the author carefully presents the teachings of Prabhupada Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur who taught that this “siddha pranali” system of worship is a concoction and a deviation from the ways of devotion taught by Sri Rupa-Sanatana.
A significant aspect of the siddha-pranali doctrine as it is generally practiced nowadays is the proposition that a guru will assign a spiritual body to their disciple. Followers of this doctrine think the spiritual form of a liberated person is given by their guru to a devotee.
For example, in a book about manjari swarup written by Kunjabihari das Babaji he wrote:
“In the Lord’s abode, there are an unlimited number of forms, all suitable for rendering service to him. Every one of those forms is non-different from him, being expanded from his effulgence; each one is eternal, full of consciousness and bliss. They are the crowning, central jewels of the spiritual world – its very life. These unlimited spiritual bodies are the perfected forms of the liberated souls which are awarded to an individual, according to his taste, when he reaches the state of absolute liberation. This state is called attainment of the spiritual body. All these spiritual bodies are eternal for they exist even before the liberated souls enter them and will continue to exist ever afterward. However, prior to the entry of the liberated soul they are in an inactive state.”
As all of the unlimited souls are servants of the Lord, each one of them has a spiritual body in the Lord’s abode just suitable for rendering service to the Lord. When an individual becomes qualified for direct service to the Lord by the grace of the Goddess of Devotion, then the Supreme Lord awards him that spiritual body.
According to this school of belief, a devotee must be “awarded” or “given” a spiritual body (siddha-deha) by their guru so they can practice the meditation that they are assisting Sri Radha in the divine pastimes of the spiritual world. If some disciple has not been given a spiritual body by their guru then how can the disciple engage in the practice of raganuga bhakti?
Yet it must be pointed out that according to the Vedanta Sutra (4.4.1) and Sri Sanatana Goswami (Brhadbagavatamrtam, 2.2), a soul never gets given a spiritual body at any time. The spiritual body is an eternal and inseparable facet of the individual soul, the jiva-atma. The spiritual form of the self is eternally and inseparably connected to the individual self. My spiritual body is inseparable from me and, though dormant, my spiritual body has been with me for all of eternity. When a soul desires to render service to the Lord in his spiritual form then the dormant spiritual body becomes fully manifest. This is clearly stated to be the case in the Vedanta Sutra and in more recent texts such as Sri Sanatana Goswami’s book Brhadbhagavatamrtam. It is utterly wrong to think that a soul can be given a spiritual body. In the commentary by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana to verse 4.4.1 (sampadyavirbhavah svena sabdat) of the Vedanta Sutra, Baladeva has written the following:
“The individual soul who, by means of devotional service accompanied with knowledge and renunciation, attains the effulgent Supreme, becomes free from the bondage of karma and attains a body endowed with eight virtues. This body is said to be the soul’s original form. Why is that? The sutra explains, “svena-sabdat” (because of the word “svena”). The word “svena” here means, “in his own original form”. For this reason it cannot be said that this passage means, “the soul arrives there and then accepts a form which is an external imposition”. In that way it is proved that the form here is the original form of the soul.”
In this section of Vedanta Sutra, the topic being discussed is: “When a soul attains liberation does the soul attain a body that is different from himself, as the bodies of demigods are different from their inner self, or does the soul manifest his original identity which is not different from himself?” In Baladeva’s commentary, he emphatically declares that in his sutras Vyasa himself is saying that when a soul becomes liberated they realize their inner identity and see they are a purely spiritual self with an eternal body of full of spiritual consciousness and bliss (sat-chitananda).
Baladeva quotes the Chandogya Upanishad:
“Thus does that serene being, arising from this body, appear in its own form, as soon as it has approached the highest light, the knowledge of Self. He, in that state, is the highest person (uttama purusha). He moves about there laughing or eating, playing, and rejoicing in his mind, be it with women, carriages, or relatives, never minding that body into which he was born.”
Chandogya Upanishad 8.12.3.
Baladev Vidyabhusan then quotes from the Padma Purana:
anur nityo vyapti-silas cid-anandatmakas tatha
aham artho ‘vyayah saksi bhinna-rupah sanatanah
“The soul is atomic, eternal, is present by consciousness everywhere in the material body, is by nature full of spiritual bliss and knowledge, has a sense of individual identity, is unchanging, is a witness within the body, and is different from the Supreme.”
Srila Baladev Vidyabhusan states that the spiritual form of bliss the liberated being attains is the original form of the soul that lay dormant within when the soul was in illusion. The Vedanta Sutra tells us that the spiritual body of the liberated being is the soul’s original form. This form is a form of eternity, knowledge and bliss, as is mentioned in the verse above (cid-ananda-atma). It is not that the soul attains liberation and enters into a spiritual body or a form of existence which is an external imposition, an external state of being different from the self itsef. Not at all. The liberated soul realizes the spiritual nature of one’s own inner being.
Srila Sanatan Gosvami has also presented the same conclusion. In his commentary to verse 2.2186 of Sri Brhadbhagavatamrtam, Srila Sanatan Gosvami quotes Shankaracarya’s verse, “mukta api lilaya vigraham kritva bhagavantam bhajanta”, which he translated as “Even the liberated assume a form and worship the Lord in his pastimes”. Srila Sanatan Gosvami then quotes Srimad Bhagavatam 6.14.5 “muktanam api siddhanam narayana parayana”, that is, “The liberated and perfected souls are engaged in Narayan’s service.” Then Srila Sanatan Gosvami asks himself: “If liberated souls didn’t have forms then how could they engage in the Lord’s service?” The answer: “Bhagavati layam praptasyapi nri dehasya mahamuneh punar narayana rupena pradurbhavah”. Even those who have merged into the Lord have dormant human forms.
The statement of Srila Sanatan Goswami is clear and unambiguous. Even those souls who have never known Krishna and are merged in the formless light of Brahman have dormant human forms.
In another part of Brhad Bhagatamrtam, the commentary to verse 2.2.207, Sri Sanatana Goswami also wrote:
“O great sage, among many millions who are liberated and perfect in knowledge of liberation, one may be a devotee of Lord Narayana, or Krishna. Such devotees, who are fully peaceful, are extremely rare. Impersonalists generally imagine themselves perfect and liberated, and among them a very few may actually attain impersonal liberation. But those rare souls, like all others, are eternal servants of Hari, the all attractive Lord. Out of millions of such rare liberated impersonalists, one very fortunate soul may realize this natural fact. Since intelligence is dormant in the “merged” soul, it can be reawakened. Even the liberated souls who have merged into the formless divine light of the spiritual sky retain their eternal spiritual bodies, complete with spiritual mind and senses. Nothing, not even liberation, can ever deprive a jiva of these assets. Thus when a liberated soul gains the favour of the Supreme Lord’s personal energy, his spiritual body and senses are reawakened for hearing and chanting the glories of Lord Hari and acting in other ways for the Lord’s pleasure.”
The spiritual body and senses are reawakened, so that the soul returns to his original state of pure siddha perfection. This soul in its pure state, still merged in Brahman, can develop a mood of submission to the Absolute and begin moving towards the gates of the spiritual world. Or, awakening with a false sense of ego, the soul may descend into the world of duality, birth and death. Again and again the jiva may attain Brahman and then fall again, developing an “exploiting” mentality that drags the soul back into samsara. However the soul who enters the kingdom of Narayana attains real immortality.
Elsewhere in Brhad Bhagatamrtam, Srila Sanatan Goswami gives a beautiful description of souls entering the spiritual world of Vaikuntha. The form of one’s self that someone contemplates during one’s life of devotional practice, the stage of sadhana bhakti, is the form you will have in your state of perfection. And that state of being of a soul is capable of further transformation and development.
Srila Sanatan Goswami describes souls entering the spiritual world:
“Some came with associates, some with paraphernalia, and some with both associates and paraphernalia. Some merged their associates and paraphernalia in their own selves and became like penniless solitary sages plunged in the nectar of meditation. Some moment by moment manifested different wonderful and charming forms, each opulent with different and wonderful ornaments, features and pastimes. Some were humans, some monkeys, some demigods, some demons, and some sages. Others carried the marks of being initiated in the orders of varna and ashrama. Some were like Indra, Chandra or the other gods. Some had three eyes, some four heads, and some four arms, some eight arms, and some a thousand faces. I will tell you the reason for this great wonder: How can they who taste the nectar of devotion to Lord Krishna not be handsome? The glories of Vaikuntha’s residents, who are all beyond the material world of five elements, the glories of Vaikunthaloka and of Vaikuntha’s hero, Narayana, cannot be described with the examples drawn from the world of five elements. ”
(Brhad Bhagatamrtam 2.4.35-41)
The teaching of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati on raganuga-bhakti is, that ajata ruci (without taste) raganuga sadhakas (practitioners) should adopt the methods of raganuga sadhana that they are qualified to adopt in proportion to their development of sacred greed (lobhamayi sraddha), while following the angas (limbs) of vaidhi bhakti (regulated devotional service).
This follows Sri Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti-sandarbha 311
ajata-tadrsa-rucina tu sad-visesa adaramatradrta
raganugapi vaidhi-samvalitaivanus heya/
tatha loka-sangrahartam pratis hitena jata-tadrsa-rucina ca/
atra misratve ca tyatha-yogyam raganugayaikikrtyaiva vaidhi kartavya.
“One in whom this taste (ruci) has not arisen but who has come to appreciate raganuga-bhakti only on account of appreciation for a particular saint or scripture (sat), may still practice raganuga-bhakti but with an admixture of vaidhi-bhakti. In the same way, for the sake of preaching (loka-sangrahartaham) one who is advanced and in whom taste has manifested should also practice raganuga with an admixture of vaidhi. Such mixing of the two kinds of bhakti means that one practices vaidhi-bhakti by uniting it with whatever raganuga practices one is capable of.”
In the opinion of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, such mixing of the two kinds of bhakti means that one embrace the angas of vaidhi-bhakti with a view to attain greater eligibility for raganuga-bhakti and its sadhya (goal) by uniting them with whatever raganuga practices one is eligible for (yatah-yogyam). In his opinion this did not include an emphasis on meditating on the pastimes of Radha-Krsna from the vantage point of one’s siddha deha for those who had not attained the stage of nistha, based on the reasoning that dhyana (meditation) requires a pure heart, whereas kirtanam (chanting) does not. He reasoned, as has Sri Sanatana Goswami in Brhad-bhagavatamrta, that smaranam (remembering) arises naturally out of kirtanam. Thus he emphasized nama smaranam for beginners, stressing inoffensive chanting that would lead naturally to meditation on Krsna’s form (rupa samaranam), qualities (guna smaranam), and pastimes (lila smaranam). (lila-smaranam, the remembrance of one’s lila in Krishna’s pastimes)
Of course he also emphasized mantra dhyana of Gopala mantra, kama gayatri, etc., and these mantras were given to sadhakas only after they had attained a degree of steadiness in nama smaranam (japa).
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was reacting to what he perceived as ‘a sleight of hand’ in the name of giving, or in some cases making a business out of and selling siddha pranali. Thus his position was that sadhakas while aspiring for Vraja bhakti should do kirtanam and that as this kirtanam qualified them they should combine it with smaranam. Furthermore he maintained that one’s svarupa would be glimpsed in the stages of ruci and asakti, at which time effective and meaningful lila smaranam from the vantage point of one’s svarupa could take place propelling the sadhaka into bhava bhakti.
I don’t see people engaged in astakaliya lila-smaran from day one. The idea that nama-kirtan is required to bring about purity of heart, which gives a solid basis for smaran, is there in Jiva’s Bhakti-sandarbha, too. Smaran and kirtan supplement each other.
I discussed the matter of lila-smaranam with Baba last time I was at Radha Kund. He told me to not worry of it, that it would eventually come, and when it would naturally come, I could commence with astakaliya-lila. Until then, I was to engage in nama-japa, diksa-mantra-smaran and Giridhari-seva, and also manasik yogapitha-seva to become better acquainted with the basic scenario and personalities in the lila, including myself.
No objection there, either — it’s just that we hear of our svarupa prior to attaining our first glimpses of it as ruci and asakti arise. This hearing provides us with incentive to yearn for the attainment, just as hearing of Krishna’s qualities and pastimes gives rise to eagerness for direct darshan.
A bhakta will naturally be attracted towards a specific bhava and mood of service. It is inherent within the bhakta. Everyone is different.
One’s siddha-deha is not something manufactured in the mind of a conditioned soul, nor is it artificially assigned, nor is it something to dangle before disciples of the lineage of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati to say, “You cannot attain siddha-deha (Vraja bhakti) without coming to our lineage.”
The siddha-deha is gradually revealed to the sadhakas realization, qualification and progress in devotional service. There is no need to artificially designate or assign a siddha-deha. It lies already dormant within the self and will fully manifest, when the bhakta develops real love or prema bhakti.
Instead of onself or the guru concocting an imaginary spiritual identity, simply meditating upon Krishnas name will reveal everything in due course of time. It is therefore not necessary for the guru to artificially give siddha-pranali to the disciple. This view is held by all bonafide vaishnava goswamis.
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rupanuga — Los Angeles 8 August, 1969
My Dear Rupanuga, please accept my blessings. I beg to thank you very much for your letter of August 3rd, 1969, and I have noted the contents carefully. In further reference to your question about the form of the spirit soul of the conditioned living entity, there is a spiritual form always, but it develops fully only when the living entity goes back to Vaikuntha.
This form develops according to the desire of the living entity. Until this perfectional stage is reached, the form is lying dormant like the form of the tree is lying dormant in the seed.