Tag Archives: siddhanta

Bābājīs, Sahajiyās and Apasampradāyas

This article was published a few days before Sri Haridas Shastri Maharaja attained samadhi

By Satyanarayana Dasa

Recently an article entitled “Disobedience and Deviation is More Dangerous than a Falldown!” by Mahasrnga Dasa was published on the Sampradaya Sun website and brought to my notice. This article warns ISKCON devotees against associating with the bābājīs in Vraja, specifically Vrindavan and Rādhākuṇḍa. It criticizes bābājīs in general and me specifically, which I can tolerate. However the article goes on to debase my guru and our whole lineage which makes it my duty to clarify things and explain what the word bābājī really means.

Satyanarayana Dasa and his guru

It is clear that the general understanding within the Gauḍīya Maṭha (GM) and all of its branches like ISKCON is that bābājīs are people who pose as sādhus and enjoy women, at least two or three of them, as quoted in this article, and that these bābājīs have nothing to do with spirituality or devotion to Krsna. I heard such descriptions of bābājīs hundreds of times while I was a member of ISKCON. Naively, I also used to believe that. However, the fact is that “bābājī” is a word of honor used to address a renounced sādhu in general and specifically in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.

Sri Caitanya

There are two types of renounced sādhus in India who are called sannyāsīs and vairāgīs. Sannyāsīs wear saffron dress, are usually addressed as ‘Swami’, and are usually followers of impersonal philosophy. Vairāgīs, however, wear white cloth and are addressed as bābājīs. The renounced Vaiṣṇavas in the line of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Rāmānanda, Nimbarka and others come within this category. Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta mentions two vairāgīs who came with Mādhavendra Purī from Bengal (Madh 4.103) Haridāsa Ṭhākura is also called a vairāgī by the author Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī (Ant 3.103). Although Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself was a sannyāsī and wore saffron, He propagated the white vairāgī dress for His renounced followers.

The reason for this is that scriptures forbid a Vaiṣṇava to wear kaṣāya, (saffron), red and blue dress, especially while doing deity worship. Some of these verses are culled in Haribhakti-vilāsa by Sanātana Gosvāmī. There it is said, nagno rakta paṭaḥ (4.147) – “For a Vaiṣṇava, wearing reddish cloth is like being naked” and, śukla-vāso bhaven nityaṁ raktaṁ caiva vivarjayet (4.152) – “The Vaiṣṇava should always wear white cloth and give up red cloth.”

In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, we find also the story of Jagadānanda Paṇḍita becoming upset with Sanātana Gosvāmī who was wearing a saffron cloth tied around his head that was not the prasad of Mahāprabhu. In humility, Sanātana Gosvāmī replied to Jagadānanda Paṇḍita saying: “This saffron cloth is unfit for a Vaiṣṇava to wear; therefore I have no use for it. I shall give it to a stranger.” (BBT CC Ant 13.60)

The ceremony of accepting the white cloth of a renunciant is generally called taking veśa (lit. dress). In Bengal it is called bheka. “Bābājī” is an honorable word for such renounced people which means grandfather in Hindi as well as in Vraja-bhasa, the language spoken in the Vraja area. It is also a general term used respectfully for sādhus all over India, e.g.: Mahāvatara Bābājī, Haidakhan Bābājī.

Rupa and Sanatana

From this it should be known that the Six Gosvāmīs of the Gauḍīya sampradāya and others such as Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Baladeva Vidyābhūṣana, Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī and Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī were all vairāgīs who wore white and were called bābājīs by the Vraja-basis. To call bābājīs in general “sahajiyās” or to categorize them as apasampradāyic is disrespectful to Mahāprabhu Himself, the propagator of bābājī veśa. There may be some bābājīs who have illicit relationship with women but that happens in all groups of spiritualists and sampradāyas. That in itself does not make them sahajiyās or their lineage an apasampradāya.

Even though the founders of GM/ISKCON forbade their followers to associate with bābājīs, still their condemnation of bābājīs did not apply to all of them because even they offer respects to some bābājīs. The guru of the Gauḍīya Maṭha’s founder was a bābājī who is worshiped on the altar of all GM and ISKCON centers. In Jaiva Dharma of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura the bābājīs are not depicted in bad light but as sādhus and ācāryas. Moreover, even if the founders condemned all bābājīs at a specific time, it would be unreasonable and inappropriate to apply that universally for all time in the future. It may be that they did not consider some of the contemporary bābājīs as worthy of association because of their connection with women. This, however, does not mean that all bābājīs were debauchees and would continue to be of such low character for all time. Nor does it mean that they all had a practice of associating with women.

In the article under discussion, the author appeals to the instruction of ācārya. We may know that the instructions of an ācārya are of two types namely,

1. Unconditional or those which are always applicable such as in ISKCON following the four rules, and
2. Conditional or those which are applicable under specific conditions.

Not associating with bābājīs comes under this second category.

It also should be noted that bābājīs are not always elder Indian gentlemen with beards as the author implies. They may also have shaven heads; it is a matter of convenience and personal preference. There is a tradition of doing Govardhana parikrama on the day of Sanātana Gosvāmī’s disappearance in his honor because he is the one who popularized parikrama. This particular day is called “Mudia Puno”. The word “mudia” is derived from the Vraja-bhasa word “moond” which means head. Sanātana Gosvāmī had a shaven head and therefore he was addressed as “Mudia Baba” by the local Vraja-basis. When he left his body, to honor him, the Vraja-basis shaved their heads and performed Govardhana parikrama. This has since become a tradition which continues till today. Although we call them Gosvāmīs, the Vraja-basis addressed them as bābājīs.

From this we can understand that “bābājī” is a traditional Indian word of honor for renounced sādhus and that it has no connotation of a person having illicit relations with women. This can also be known by studying the local culture. The author blames the ISKCON Vrindavan authorities as being ignorant. If he came, lived in Vrindavan and did some research, he would realize this fact for himself.

Sri Haridasa Shastri Maharaja

The author maintains he knows the history of bābājīs and their activities with women but what research did he do on this? There are hundreds of bābājīs living in Vrindavan and Rādhākuṇḍa who all have followers. If these well-known bābājīs have been having illicit relationships all these years as proposed by the GM/ISKCON, why have the mass media not reported it? Why are people not talking about it and immediately sharing this hot information all over the internet? At least my Gurudeva and Paṇḍita Ananta Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja have plenty of educated, learned and well-behaved disciples both from India and the West who know the proper standard. Why would they keep quiet about such illicit activities? On the contrary, these two personalities are honored all over Vraja for their pure character.

Another allegation made by the author is that bābājīs are sahajiyās. When we use a word it has a specific meaning but here it is not clear what the word sahajiyā means for the author. The word sahajiyā is derived from the Sanskrit word sahaja which literally means born with or natural (saha + ja, saha = with, ja = born). The sahajiyā theory consists of two premises namely, (1) kṛṣṇa-prema is dormant in the heart and (2) this prema can be awakened by practicing love with a female partner. It should be also noted here that a practicing sahajiyā has only one female partner, not two or three.

Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava bābājīs do not accept either of these two premises. Associating with women is not part of their practice but is instead warned against. It is considered a deviation from one’s spiritual practices and is reprehensible.

There was a Buddhist sect called Sahajayāna, besides the Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna sects, which was popular in the Eastern part of India before the appearance of Mahāprabhu. They followed the Tantric practice of trying to elevate their consciousness or raise the Kundalini with the help of a female partner. The purpose was not to enjoy sex as is misunderstood by many. Some sects of Tantra still practice this and it has unfortunately become the popular understanding of the Tantra practiced in the West.

Gaura Nitai

When Mahāprabhu became popular in Bengal and Orissa, many of these Sahajayānis took to Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism being influenced by Mahāprabhu. They subsequently mixed their Sahajayāna practice into the philosophy of Mahāprabhu. They believed that Goloka Vṛndāvana exists in the physical body and love of Kṛṣṇa is dormant within the ātmā. This love can be manifested in the most natural way (sahaja) in the association of a female, especially a woman who is not one’s wife (parakīya) as the male mind is naturally attracted to women other than one’s wife.

Sahajiyās consider Caitanya-caritāmṛta as one of the most important books of their school and claim that even Caitanya Mahāprabhu had a female partner. According to them, the daughter of Sārvabhauma Bhattācārya, Ṣāṭhī, was Mahāprabhu’s partner. This was the reason behind Ṣāṭhī’s husband, Amogha, being upset with Mahāprabhu when He came to Sārvabhauma Bhattācārya’s house to take lunch prasād. (CC Mad 15.245-248)

Similarly, in their books the sahajiyās give the names of the female partners of all the Gosvāmīs of Vrindavan. They consider this knowledge to be very esoteric. Therefore most of their literature has never been printed. I have a collection of such manuscripts in my personal library.

When the GM/ISKCON claim that bābājīs are sahajiyās, they probably have no idea that they are ultimately also calling the Gosvāmīs themselves sahajiyās as the Gosvamis were bābājīs.

Sri Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji

Another point I wish to mention is that even if the GM/ISKCON disagree that the Six Gosvāmīs and others like Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura were bābājīs, they have at least two bābājīs in their own line namely, Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī and Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī. Furthermore, from the biography of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, it is known that in his last stage of life he accepted bābājī veśa. From the viewpoint of the author, are we to conclude that these bābājīs were also associating with two or three women and that they belonged to an apasampradāya? Then what is the sampradāya of GM and ISKCON? By criticizing bābājīs the author is cutting off his own legs.

In his article, the author makes the following claim:

“It is well known, or at least it should be well known that Vrindavan has many different sampradāyas supposedly coming in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava line, but they are considered apasampradays, or un-bonafide lines. The lines of Bābājīs like Bhakti Shastri of Vrindavan and Ananta Das Bābājī, the now Mahanta of Radha Kunda belong in this category.”

Here my Gurudeva’s name is mentioned incorrectly. His correct name is Nitya Smaraṇīya Śrī Śrī 108 Śrī Haridāsa Śāstrī Jī Mahārāja. The author asserts that the line of my guru and that of Śrī Paṇḍita Ananta Dāsa Bābājī of Rādhākuṇḍa fame are un-bonafide apasampradāyas. What is the basis of this? Does he have any proof? Obviously not. These two saintly people are the greatest living Vaiṣṇava scholar-saints of the Gauḍīya sampradāya. Both of them are highly renounced and impeccable in their character. I do not know anybody in the whole Gauḍīya Maṭha line who comes close to their scholarship and realization.

Sri Haridasa Shastri Maharaja

To speak a little about my Gurudeva, he lived all his life on one meal a day which he used to take in the evening. Now he is nearing hundred, bed-ridden and not in good health. On doctor’s advice he does not adhere to this practice anymore. He holds a Śāstrī (graduate) degree in all six theistic schools of India, along with degrees in Jyotiṣa, Vvyākaraṇa (Sanskrit grammar) and Navya-nyāya (the subject in which Mahāprabhu was expert before he took to bhakti). This is a rare scholarship not only in the Gauḍīya community but the whole of India. He knows the complete Bhagavad-gītā and Bhāgavata Purāṇa by heart besides many other books. Even at this age, his memory is excellent. Mahāprabhu said that Bhāgavata Purāṇa is the natural commentary of Vedānta-sūtra but he did not say which śloka of Bhāgavata Purāṇa relates to which sūtra. My Gurudeva wrote a book to point that out. Altogether he has published about 90 books in Hindi and Bengali. He also runs a gośāla bigger than the ISKCON Vrindavan Goshala.

He comes in the disciplic succession of Paṇḍita Śrī Gadādhara Gosvāmī, who was the only one among the Pañca-tattva members who stayed with Mahāprabhu in Purī, is accepted as Śrīmatī Rādhā Herself, is the one from whom Mahāprabhu used to hear Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and personally gave the deity of Ṭoṭā-gopīnātha to worship.

Sri Ananta Dasa Babaji

Similarly, read any of the books of Paṇḍita Ananta Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and you will be amazed at his scholarship. He spent ten years traveling to remote villages teaching the message of Mahāprabhu and giving dikṣa in the line of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu and Śrīmatī Jāhnavā Mātā through the descendants of Śrī Dhanañjaya Paṇḍita before settling in Rādhākuṇḍa. Later, recognizing his humility and purity of heart, the seniormost Vaiṣṇavas of Rādhākuṇḍa elected him as the Mahanta of Rādhākuṇḍa, the 34th representative of the seat of Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī.

He has written extensive commentaries on forty of the main books of the Gosvāmīs and their contemporaries being requested by the Vaiṣṇavas. His original works include around ten books of bhakti-related glorifications plus twelve books explaining Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya tattva in simple language out of concern for the spiritual upliftment of the general public. A number of his books have been translated into English and Russian.

It is more than likely that the author of the Sampradaya Sun article has never personally met these two personalities for if he had, he would not be able to maintain his present understanding of them. He also claims to know my history, but I wonder what he actually knows.

In this article he states a few times that many sannyāsīs and gurus visit bābājīs, including myself, to associate with them, listen to their classes and take instructions from them. On this I would ask him: If the GM and its branches are the only bonafide Gauḍīya societies, the only ones who know the proper siddhanta of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, then why do even the gurus of these societies give respect to these bābājīs? Why is it that the bābājīs who are apasampradāyic and fallen in character never go to GM and its branches to associate with them and take their instructions? Why is it that bābājīs never forbid their disciples to associate with GM/ISKCON? Why are they not afraid of losing their disciples?

Furthermore, why is it that not at least someone in the bābājī community has woken-up to the bad character and apasiddhānta of these bābājīs and taken shelter of the GM who have the right siddhānta and sampradāya? Why is it happening the other way around all the time? Why is it that many members of GM and its branches leave their respective organization and become followers of bābājīs? This began with Ananta Vāsudeva, the foremost disciple of Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. There are hundreds of such examples, I being one of them, yet I do not know any example of a bābājī leaving his practice to join the GM.

I am not against GM/ISKCON and I have great respect for Śrīla Prabhupāda. I left ISKCON seventeen years ago and have never written anything against the GM, ISKCON or Śrīla Prabhupāda. I honor all Vaiṣṇavas although I am in knowledge of the philosophical problems of the GM and its branches. I have printed books in which I have acknowledged Śrīla Prabhupāda and in fact one of my books is dedicated to him. I also have thousands of recorded lectures which are available for anyone to verify this.

Shortly after the recent article of Mahasrnga Dasa appeared in the Sampradaya Sun, they reprinted an old article of mine as if it was written recently when in fact it was originally published some time after I had left ISKCON. My student, Malati Manjari, then sent a reply to the Sampradaya Sun with a quote from my side (given below) but it was not published. Earlier she also sent this same quote of mine directly to the author of this old article without getting any reply. I am, therefore, forced to give clarification about my position, my guru, his line and bābājīs in general. If people like Mahasrnga Dasa, who probably has never met me, want to have dialogue about sampradāyas, bābājīs and their character and lives, they are welcome to contact me. Otherwise, I have no interest in unnecessary criticism which does not help anybody but may disturb the mind of practicing devotees.

sadhus and babajis at Jiva Institute


Unpublished Reply to Sampradaya Sun:

“I never made any propaganda against Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON or Gaudiya-Math, either through internet, through writing books, articles, or by speaking. On the contrary, in my books I have honored and recognized Srila Prabhupada as a propagator of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

I left ISKCON, or rather, was forced to leave about fourteen years ago because of some philosophical differences. Having philosophical differences is common any spiritual organization, and this is certainly also the case in our Gaudiya Vaishnava history. The beauty of Vedic Culture is that one can have differences of opinion and respect simultaneously. In fact, our very philosophy is based on the principle of difference and non-difference simultaneously. For the modern mind this seems absurd, and any difference is taken as disrespect and inimical. I tried to reconcile one of the differences I had with ISKCON in my book, “In Vaikuntha not even the Leaves Fall”, so that ISKCON’s teachings could be in line with the teachings of the Gosvamis, but this was not acceptable to the ISKCON leadership. As a result I was mistreated and my book was banned. Thus I saw no possibility of reconciliation, although that was my heart’s desire.

Even though I was defamed and mistreated, I did not endeavor to harm ISKCON or the Gaudiya Math. I have never stepped into ISKCON territory after my departure from ISKCON to avoid any conflict or confrontation. At the same time, curiously many ISKCON leaders over the years approached me privately for philosophical advice and consultation and used the material they received for their own projects – often without mentioning my name which was blacklisted in ISKCON. I was and I am still open to peaceful dialogue.”

We are sad to note that Maharajji passed away on October 6th.


Kirtan and Philosophy

Question: Namaskara, I have read the question and answers section of your web site with great interest. Coming from the Gaudiya Vaishnava parampara myself, in pursuance of my guru Sripad AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s teachings, sankirtan of the holy names of Sri Krsna is the yuga dharma in the age of Kali.  Although the philosophical precepts presented here are profound and deep and represent the true teachings of Sri Gadadhara Pandit, Sri Jiva Goswami et al, I don’t see any reference to or recommendation of the Sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at this site.  Why is that?

Answer: My stress is on teaching shastra which is very much lacking in our sampradaya. There are hundreds of temples for doing kirtan but not a single place where people have the facility to study Gosvami literature. My Institute is open to all, but you know that not many people are interested in studying. It is very taxing for the brain. However it is necessary to maintain the siddhanta. Because we do not study shastra, and stress is given only on kirtan, there are so many deviations and branches, although we all claim to be followers of Mahaprabu and the Gosvamis. Srila Prabhupada also said – books are the basis. We interpret it to mean book distribution. But books are the basis for what? We need to study them to follow, teach and preach.

Every sampradaya has at least one place where you can go and study the literature of that sampradaya deeply. The Gaudiya sampradaya has no such place – only temples. Therefore I have created such a facility in Vrindavan.

Q: Thank you again for your kind reply.  Yes, I agree completely, that there seems to be a lack of true philosophical and ideological depth in most circles associated with the Gaudiya sampradaya and affiliates, and that is to be noted.  It is very essential and great work that you are doing therefore, and from what I’ve seen, I don’t think there is anything quite like your institute in presenting the depths of knowledge in the Gosvami literature.

My only question vis à vis sankirtan of the holy names of Sri Krsna, is that this was the central focus and matrix of the teachings of Mahaprabhu and his followers.  There must be a seamless binding of shastric knowledge and then sadhana of the holy names in order to be fully conversant with the siddhanta. If you, for example, go into the text of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, then almost every chapter elucidates the Kali-yuga dharma of chanting the holy names of Ram and Krsna.  Verses that come to mind are as follows:

“kali-yuge yuga-dharma, namera pracara……..”
Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 3.40
Namnam akari nija sarva shaktis…..” – Sri Siksashtikam, 2
yan myselfajnaih sankirtanaih prayair…..” – SB 11.5.32
“amanina manadena, kirtaniya sada harih……” – Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 17.31
“kaler dosha nidhe rajan, asti hy eko mahan gunah; kirtanad eva krsnasya, mukta sanga param vrajet – SB 12.3.51
“krte yad dhyayato vishnum, tretayam yajato makhaih; dvapare paricaryayam, kalu tad hari-kirtanat ) – SB 12.3.52

There are as many verses as there are waves in a river describing the Kali-yuga dharma, Mahaprabhu’s mission, and the ultimate trajectory of the Goswami and all successor teachings in the parampara.

The nine processes of devotional service lists kirtanam as second in order, and thus without practicing it as regular sadhana, one cannot understand the intrinsic teachings of the shastras. There must be a connection between sadhana on the one hand, and then studying of shastras on the other.  They have to come hand in hand.  Sravanam comes first in order, but then second is kirtanam, and thus they are inseparable in so far as the substantive teachings of Mahaprabhu is concerned.

Please do not take my writing in the wrong way, as I have great respect for you and your mission and what you have accomplished thus far.  What I’ve written above is my understanding of the heart of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and if I am wrong, I will stand corrected.  But I agree with you, that book distribution as emphasized by Prabhupada, means learning the essence of those books, for this you are doing great work, and I commend you.

Jiva Gosvami
Jiva Gosvami

A: I am not against kirtan. I do kirtan myself, and we even have music school where interested people learn kirtan. But my stress is on the philosophy behind kirtan. Lord Chaitanya’s life was full of kirtan but he sent his most intimate followers to Vrindavan, away from the kirtan atmosphere, to write literature about kirtan. What we now understand about Gaudiya Vaisnavism is from the gosvamis, not from those who did kirtan. Sadhana is most important, but for that the siddhanta must be clear. Improper knowledge leads to improper action, which gives improper results.

Kirtan can also be done in a proper and improper manner, and both will give two different results. I think the one is known to all, about the other hardly anyone has any idea. This is most amazing and sad fact. Do you think all those who do kirtan do it properly or even have an idea about it?