Meditation on the Siddha
Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari
"Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura characteristically did not discuss
in detail the emergence of a disciple's siddha deha, but emphasized its
realization through kirtana of Krsna nama and the smarana that arises
naturally from this."
Q. Some devotees say that one's svarupa, or spiritual identity, is
already within us and is realized through spiritual practice (sadhana).
Other devotees say that it is not something that is already existing
but rather manifests according to one's desire. Which is it?
A. One's eternal svarupa is already existing but needs to be realized
by hearing and chanting. This is explained by Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja
Goswami, krsna prema nitya siddha sadhya kabu naya, sravanadi suddha
citte karaye udaya. One's svarupa is a manifestation of Krsna prema,
which is eternally existing in perfection (nitya siddha krsna prema).
It is not something that was not existing at some point and later comes
into existence (sadhya kabhu naya). Hearing, chanting, and so on, about
Krsna (sravanadi) purifies one's consciousness (suddha citte), at which
time one's eternal svarupa awakens (karaye udaya). This awakening
involves the experience of desiring to serve Krsna in a particular
sentiment. According to Bhaktivinoda, as the svarupa becomes visible to
the guru, he or she guides the disciple's bhajan accordingly, at which
time the disciple cultivates the budding desire to serve Krsna in a
particular sentiment. It is also possible that one's inherent svarupa
may begin to awaken and then be cultivated by the disciple without
external guidance. This is explained by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti
Thakura in his Ragavartma Candrika. The Thakura cites the following
verse from Srimad Bhagavatam:
yatha yathatma parimrjyate 'saumat- punya-gatha-sravanabhidhanaihtatha
tatha pasyati vastu suksmamcaksur yathaivanjana-samprayuktam
"Just as a diseased eye treated with medicinal ointment will gradually
be able to see more clearly, similarly a conscious living entity--the
seer--purified by hearing and chanting the virtuous narrations of my
glories, is gradually able to see more and more subtle truths." (SB
Commenting on this verse in his Ragavartma Candrika 1.9, Sri Visvanatha
Cakravarti Thakura writes that when sacred greed for Vraja bhakti
awakens within the sadhaka's heart, Bhagavan illuminates the sadhaka's
goal both externally as Sri Guru and internally as the indwelling
oversoul, the antaryami. The Thakura explains that such sadhakas may
receive instructions concerning the esoteric truths of raganuga sadhana
bhakti either directly from the mouth of Sri Guru or a qualified sadhu,
or such instructions will manifest of their own accord in the heart of
the sadhaka purified by hearing and chanting.
Thus one's svarupa is already existing and at the same time it is
experienced as the sadhaka's desire to serve in a particular sentiment.
When Bhaktivinoda Thakura speaks about one's svarupa being inherent, he
means that one's svarupa exists in potential, just as an infant's
capacity to walk is inherent, and given the right circumstances, he or
she will eventually walk. The jiva is a manifestation of the tatastha
sakti, which is a partial manifestation of the svarupa sakti, the
svarupa sakti being the source of all sakti. Unlike the maya sakti,
which is a distorted manifestation of the svarupa sakti, the tatastha
sakti has the potential to live in the conscious world as an eternal
servant of Bhagavan. This potential can be realized when the tatastha
sakti comes in contact with the current of the guru-parampara, which is
the channel through which the svarupa sakti extends itself to the jiva
soul. The partial expression of the svarupa sakti that the jiva is
constituted of is insufficient to afford it standing in the lila of
Bhagavan in and of itself. In order for it to realize its full
potential it requires an investment from above, just as a small
business requires an investment of capital to realize its potential to
Q. In his Harinama Cintamani, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains the
manifestation of the spiritual body in five stages, from sravana dasa
to sampati dasa. The third stage smarana dasa has five levels. In the
first of these levels meditation is said to be unsteady or fluctuating.
However, in Madhurya Kadambini, it is said that meditation on the
asakti level is uninterrupted. Does this mean that meditation on one's
siddha deha can be performed before the devotional stage of asakti?
A. In his Harinama Cintamani, Thakura Bhaktivinoda emphasizes that as
one advances in chanting the holy name one should simultaneously engage
in smaranam (meditation) on Sri Krsna's form, qualities, and lila in
this order. The particular form in which Krsna appears in meditation
replete with particular qualities corresponds with his worshiper's
budding sentiment. This meditation then places one's Deity in the
appropriate lilas for further meditation. After explaining this,
Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes that meditation on Sri Krsna's lila is to
be performed from the perspective of one's siddha deha (perfected
In support of the practice of meditating on one's siddha deha and
Krsna's eightfold daily nitya-lila, Bhaktivinoda Thakura cites the
Ramananda-samvada of Caitanya-caritamrta. Therein Ramananda Raya,
acting as the raga marga guru of Sri Krsna Caitanya, explains to him
the theoretical truth concerning one's siddha deha. It is notable that
this occurs after Mahaprabhu has taken sannyasa and has been engaged in
Sri Krsna sankirtana for some time.
At this point in Harinama Cintamani the Thakura writes that in order to
begin this bhajana of meditating on the daily lila of Sri Krsna and
one's siddha deha, one must first hear about these things in theory
from one's guru. He calls this sravana dasa. Sravana dasa is followed
by varana dasa. Varana dasa involves the disciple expressing his
experience of his emerging spiritual identity, and in response to this
revelation Sri Guru confirms and further clarifies this identity. When
the disciple embraces this identity, he or she begins the practice of
meditating on both the siddha deha and the daily lila of Sri Krsna.
This meditation involves five stages, remembrance (smarana),
self-reminding (dharana), absorption in the object of meditation
(dhyana), uninterrupted meditation (anusmrti), and comprehensive
It appears from the text of Harinama Cintamani that the emergence of
one's siddha deha occurs at a later stage of devotion. Indeed, the
entire discussion of this is reserved for the final section of the
final chapter of the book, the greater balance of which consists of a
treatise on offenseless chanting of Krsna nama. The idea that the
emergence and subsequent discussion or experience of one's siddha deha
develops at a later stage of devotion is consistent with the Thakura's
bhajana siksa in his book Bhajana Rahasya.
The foremost follower of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Bhaktisiddhanta
Saraswati Thakura, characteristically did not discuss in detail the
emergence of his disciple's siddha deha, but emphasized its realization
through kirtana of Krsna nama and the smarana that arises naturally
from this. He writes that hearing about Krsna-lila (sravana dasa) is
followed by kirtana of that which one has heard (varana dasa). When
this kirtana is performed in light of a particular devotional mood
cultivated by the kirtaneer, this in turn gives rise to meditation
(smarana dasa). See also his commentary on Upadesamrta 8.
Both of these acaryas have emphasized that one's siddha deha is
experienced at the stage of asakti, at which time deep meditation on
one's siddha deha is possible. Thakura Bhaktivinoda writes in his
Bhajana Rahasya, pancamete suddha dasya rucira sahita hare rama
sankirtana smarana vihita:
"With the fifth pair of names (in the maha mantra--Hare Rama), as one's
taste (ruci) for chanting increases (asakti), one attains an attitude
of pure servitude (manifestation of the siddha deha); and as one chants
"Hare Rama," one should take up the practice of smaranam."
Examined in context, this is a clear reference to the stage of asakti,
at which time Bhaktivinoda writes one should "take up the practice of
smaranam." Commenting further on the stage of asakti, Thakura
Bhaktivinoda writes later on in Bhajana Rahasya, "At this stage of
cultivating the practice of the holy name, the aspirant prays for
knowledge of his eternal spiritual identity and for service to Lord
Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu sets the example in his Siksastaka (5)."
However, some followers of these acaryas feel that nistha is the
threshold for the practice of raganuga bhakti that involves meditating
on one's emerging siddha deha, while others stress the stage of ruci
just prior to asakti. Ruci is the stage at which raganuga bhakti
sadhana proper (jata ruci raganuga) is performed, and thus some degree
of meditation on one's siddha deha is certainly possible.
Ruci has two stages of its own. The first stage involves taste for
bhakti that is dependent on externals being in place, such as the
kirtana being performed with musical proficiency, or Hari katha being
poetically embellished. The second stage involves taste for bhakti that
is not dependent on these externals. In these respective stages
meditation can be distracted (smarana) and involves a deliberate effort
Anusmrti (the fourth stage of uninterrupted meditation) is achieved in
bhava-bhakti. Asakti involves natural meditation from which one cannot
trace how one's mind drifts from mundane thought to absorption in the
object of devotion. This is the opposite of the experience at the stage
of nistha, where one cannot trace out how one's mind drifts away from
thoughts of the object of devotion to mundane thoughts. This is not
anusmrti, but rather the third stage of meditation, dhyana, wherein
meditation is not deliberate but spontaneous.
The above analysis of the stages of meditation in relation to stages of
advancement is no doubt a conservative one. In his Bhakti-sandarbha,
Sri Jiva Goswami, citing verses from several scriptures, has described
the five stages of meditation similarly. He describes the first stage
of meditation (smarana) in a more liberal way ("a sinner somehow or
other thinking of Visnu"); however, he describes the second stage of
self-reminding (dharana) as anusmarana, "constant meditation." Sri Jiva
describes the third stage (dhyana) as "undivided meditation" on God
that enables one to endure the dualities of heat and cold, pleasure and
pain, and so on, envisioning such difficulties as blessings. Jiva
Goswami describes the fourth stage (anusmrti) as never forgetting Krsna
even for a moment. He cites Vyasa's trance that gave rise to Srimad
Bhagavatam as an example of the fifth stage (samadhi).
While Sri Jiva's description of the second through the fifth stages
apply well to the forgoing analysis, I don't think Sri Jiva's liberal
explanation of the first stage of meditation is what Thakura
Bhaktivinoda had in mind when writing about the first stage of
meditation on the eightfold nitya-lila of Sri Sri Radha Krsna from the
vantage point of one's eternally perfected spiritual body. Nor does it
fit well with the teaching of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.
Overall, so little is written anywhere on these stages that they are
left open to some degree of interpretation, and acaryas have thus taken
an interpretive license when writing about them.
As mentioned above, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura discusses sravana
dasa, etc., including the five stages of meditation, in his commentary
on Upadesamrta 8. After concluding this discussion he states:
"When a devotee following the path of vaidhi bhakti (here he refers to
ajata ruci raganuga) abandons his variety of material desires and
performs bhajana in accordance with the instruction of sat-guru,
sastra, and Vaisnava, ruci arises in his bhajana. Upon the appearance
of ruci, he abandons the path of vaidhi bhakti and enters the path of
raganuga (jata ruci raganuga)."
Ajata ruci raganuga bhakti, or raganuga sadhana bhakti that is not
motivated primarily by taste but rather by intellect, is often referred
to by both Bhaktivinoda and Saraswati Thakura as vaidhi bhakti. By this
they do not mean the path of vaidhi bhakti that leads to majestic love
of God. Thus their emphasis on raganuga bhakti seems to stress jata
ruci raganuga as that sadhana in which all the components of raganuga
sadhana, such as meditation on one's siddha deha, will be in place.
This is certainly the emphasis of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura in
expressing his understanding of the teachings of Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
As a rule, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura did not personally discuss
in detail meditation on the siddha deha with his disciples. In this
regard he did not do what Thakura Bhaktivinoda writes about in Harinama
Cintamani with regard to the guru discussing the siddha deha with a
disciple at an advanced stage of practice. He emphasized realizing
one's siddha deha through kirtana and the smaranam that arises
naturally from it.
In this regard I was recently forwarded biographical notes from one of
Srila Prabhupada's disciples, and a section of his notes contrasts the
approach that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura taught regarding
realization of one's siddha deha and that of Lalita Prasada, his
brother. Both of these gurus considered themselves followers of Thakura
Bhaktivinoda. This disciple of Srila Prabhupada was initiated first by
Srila Prabhupada and later he received bhajana siksa, etc. secretly
from Lalita Prasada while Srila Prabhupada was still among us. To my
knowledge he is not active in Gaudiya Vaisnavism at this time.
He relates the following: "When Prabhupada came to Vrndavana for a
visit, I got Dr. Kapoor to come with me to ask about it (discussing
one's siddha deha). Prabhupada said, "This is not done in our line. One
must realize his relationship for himself. One cannot just jump ahead.
When one is ripe and ready, it will be revealed from within . . . I am
a cowherd boy."
This, I believe, represents the policy of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati
Thakura. Representing the approach of Lalita Prasada, the same devotee
"He [Lalita Prasada] called Bhakta Ma to help pick a name for me. She
came up with Sudha Manjari. He had me pick an age I wanted to be from
eight to thirteen. Thirteen. He said my color was golden, and I wore a
sky blue sari, and that color combination was very beautiful. He asked
me what service I liked performing the best. I enjoyed bathing the
Deity of Radha and dressing her in the morning. That became my eternal
service. My abode is Mahananda Kunja, a bower in Vrndavana. Lalita
Prasad told me not to change any of these things without his
permission, and to always meditate on them. He gave me a printed list
of the disciplic succession with their spiritual identities and a place
to add my name and information to the succession."
It should be noted that this devotee had not attained a particularly
advanced stage of devotion such as nistha or ruci when Lalita Prasada
gave him this information. I leave it for the reader to decide which
approach better represents Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Some devotees feel that the early stages of devotional life before ruci
is attained involve at least "remembrance" (smarana) and
"self-reminding" (dharana) of one's siddha deha, as given by gurus in
various Gaudiya lineages. Some of these devotees also point to evidence
in the life of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and others he associated with that
could be construed as support for this approach, one that is popular
and has a long-standing tradition.
For the followers of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, perhaps the conclusion to be
drawn from all of this is that meditation on one's siddha deha is
appropriate at whatever stage and to whatever extent it manifests. By
all means, whenever one's siddha deha begins to manifest, to that
extent one should try to meditate on it. To get to that stage, take
shelter of the guru of your choice and follow his or her bhajana siksa.
Questions or comments may be submitted at the Q&A Forum
Date: Friday, December, 24, 2004, Vol. VI, No. 22
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