The Gopi Bhava Club

Jagannatha dasa, the BBT Sanskrit editor has just returned from Vrndavana. This afternoon he reported to Srila Prabhupada. Just a week ago Prabhupada received news that Jagannatha and Nitai dasa were no longer working on his books. Jagannatha informed Prabhupada Nitai is now the head pujari in Vrndavana.

Jagannatha had a question to ask. He wanted to know whether siddha-pranali was bona fide. (Although this is a very elevated form of spiritual practice, there is a concocted initiation rite going on under the same name being given by bogus sadhus and babajis in the Vrndavana area. In it a person is told what his name and original spiritual form is in Goloka Vrndavana. The initiate then practices being a gopi, a peacock, etc., while still remaining habituated to material impulses. Thus the ritual is a mockery of the authentic process or worse.)

Prabhupada’s anger flared up at the very mention of it. He demanded to know why Jagannatha and Nitai had been associating with the “nonsense babajis who proclaim such things.” “Their siddha-deha,” he said, “is smoking beedis and keeping three or four women. And our men are becoming polluted by such things. This is very dangerous.”

Jagannatha appeared shaken by Srila Prabhupada’s very strong response and he agreed not to associate with such persons again.

 June 5th 1976

Prabhupada had just sat down in the middle room for breakfast when Pradyumna came in, obviously quite disturbed. Prabhupada allowed him to come up to his small table, already set out with his silver thali of cut fruits, puffed rice and fried cashews. Pradyumna began to complain about the study group Radhaballabha mentioned yesterday. He told Prabhupada one devotee was reported to have said that the Gita was too bodily conscious and “external” and that he became inspired only by reading about Krsna’s confidential, internal dealings, especially those of the gopis in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.

Srila Prabhupada was so disturbed by this news that the piece of fruit he held in his hand never made it into his mouth. Abandoning breakfast, he went back into his darsana room and called for all GBC men and sannyasis, as well as for several members of the study group. He demanded to know who was involved. Hrdayananda Maharaja told him that the head of the men’s group was Puranjana dasa, the manager of the Spanish BBT operations. He was immediately sent for, as was Sulocana dasa, a brahmacari I had gotten to know in Mayapur during the festival.

As we awaited their arrival Hrdayananda Maharaja tried to assure Srila Prabhupada about Puranjana. He said he was actually a sincere and level-headed person and he didn’t think he had sahajiya tendencies; he thought he was simply misled.

I told Srila Prabhupada that Sulocana had approached me yesterday in an excited and conspirational mood to tell me about the surreptitious meetings. He was quoting parts of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta without, it seemed to me, understanding them, and had many misinterpretations of the text. He had cited some verses which he interpreted to say that in each relationship with the Lord there is something lacking which is found only in the next rasa. He indicated that they actually considered paternal affection inferior to the gopi-bhava platform because Lord Caitanya said that there is no higher way to serve Krsna than in the mood of the gopis. They were therefore concentrating on the gopis’ lives very closely, for they exhibited the highest and most pleasing way to satisfy Sri Krsna.

As I related the incident Srila Prabhupada’s anger flared. “Just see.” he declared disgustedly, “Mother Yasoda is less than the gopis! This is their thinking. And they want siddha-deha!” Prabhupada was furious that such things could develop within ISKCON.

By this time the men were in his room and for almost three quarters of an hour he strongly rebuked the group, angrily refuting its reasoning. He compared their exclusive focus on the gopis to “jumping like monkeys.”

Puranjana said their intention was to simply scrutinize the activities of the gopis and develop the same aspirations because this was recommended by Lord Caitanya.

Prabhupada got even angrier. He was in no mood for being mollified. “You want to scrutinizingly study Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s instructions, but why just the parts about the gopis? Why don’t you scrutinizingly study where Caitanya Mahaprabhu says guru more murkha dekhi’ karila sasana, that His guru found Him to be a fool and told Him he was not fit for anything but chanting Hare Krsna?  Why don’t you scrutinize that part? First become a fool like Caitanya Mahaprabhu before jumping over like monkey!”

Puranjana tried to reassure him that they were not attempting to imitate the gopis’ love of Krsna; they were simply studying the descriptions so that they could develop such desires.

Prabhupada flushed, his top lip quivering. “First deserve, then desire! There is no question of desire unless one is actually liberated. Until that point you simply do whatever service you are given. So long as there is any pinch of material desire there is no question of desiring on the spiritual platform!”

He said the intimate gopi-lilas were discussed by Lord Caitanya only among His three most confidential associates—Svarupa Damodara, Ramananda Raya, and Sikhi Mahiti. Siddha-deha is for liberated souls—no one else.

Sulocana said that they had thought it was all right because it was in Prabhupada’s books, and they were only reading his books. Prabhupada told them that just because a drug store has every type of drug it does not mean that one can get them without prescription. The doctor prescribes according to the disease. He said that from the beginning stages of devotional service up to the highest rasas, everything is there in his books, but they are not all to be immediately studied.

He ordered them not to hold any more meetings and to disband the “club.” He directly linked this sahajiya tendency to devotees meeting with the babajis in Vrndavana, and he strongly criticized Jagannatha dasa (although he is not one of the study group) for even leaving his ears unblocked while the man spoke to him about so-called siddha-deha.

After sending them out duly chastened, Prabhupada explained to us that this sahajiya philosophy means the preaching will be finished. “So try to save them,” he advised the GBC men. “In Vrndavana many sahajiyas would ask, ‘Oh Svamiji, why are you bothering to preach? Why not just be content to stay in Vrndavana and do your bhajana?'”

 June 7th, 1976

Going out in the car for his morning walk Prabhupada gave further warnings to Tamal Krishna and Ramesvara Maharajas on the dangers of the sahajiya tendency spreading in ISKCON. Tamal Krishna is returning to New York a little early because he is concerned that it might be spreading there also. Pradyumna prabhu’s ongoing investigation has discovered that the gopi-bhava group have been transmitting their ideas to other temple communities by some sort of unofficial newsletter.

Tamal Krishna told Prabhupada that one of the symptoms he has noticed about these people is that they don’t go out on sankirtana.

As soon as he said that Srila Prabhupada cut in. “Then everything will be finished. Preaching will be finished. In this sahajiya party, then preaching will be finished.” Declaring the siddha-pranali process as nonsense, Prabhupada told us where the whole thing was coming from. “They have learned it from these Radha-kunda babajis.”

“From Radha-kunda babajis?” Tamal Krishna asked.

“Babajis, yes,” Prabhupada reasserted. “After all, they’re fool, rascals, so whatever they say…”

Ramesvara said he felt that the danger lay in their use of Prabhupada’s own books for authority. But Prabhupada told him it was all right that they are taking some authority, the problem is that they are not taking all the instructions in his books. “That I’ve already explained. Why these rascals do not take the lessons of Caitanya Mahaprabhu that we are all rascals, fools? No. That they will not take. They’ll take the Radharani’s bhava. What Caitanya Mahaprabhu is teaching by His practical life, that we have to take.”

Ramesvara repeated one of the statements from their newsletter. “Regarding service in a reverential mood; so they have found some quote, that reverential devotional service is an impediment toward developing pure love.”

Tamal Krishna added another. “They quote that regulative principles are a hindrance on the path. There’s a statement somewhere in one of your books that when one attains the highest platform…”

“Then where is that highest platform?” Prabhupada interupted.

“One must go through stages,” Ramesvara said. “You gave the example of trying to get an M.A. degree.”

“Yes,” Prabhupada agreed. “One has to come to that highest stage. It is not forbidden. That may be ideal, but not for the neophytes. One who does not know ABCD, what he will know about M.A. degrees? That they do not know. They think that they have already passed M.A. degree. That is their fault.”

Tamal Krishna Maharaja brought up another item from the newsletter. “There’s another statement, I saw them, where it says, it’s a quote, that you can treat Krsna as your lover and Krsna will reciprocate.”

“And they underlined the two words ‘you can’ treat Krsna as your lover,” I added. “In this way they’re taking your quotes out of context.”

“This is one of the main ideas in their philosophy, that the living entity can desire to have any relationship he wants with Krsna,” Ramesvara said.

“That’s all right,” Prabhupada told us, “he can desire. I already explained: first deserve, then desire. You are rascal, how you can desire? You have no qualification, you desire to be High Court judge. What is this nonsense?”

Ramesvara was keen to get Srila Prabhupada’s response to every possible argument. “But then they have an answer.”

Prabhupada obliged him. “What is that answer?”

“Let me just try it anyway, to keep my mind thinking…”

“How you can try it?” Prabhupada challenged. “First of all, be qualified, a big lawyer, then you become High Court judge. Where is that qualification? You are after illicit sex and biòi, and you want to be associated with the gopis.”

“They say that ‘In ISKCON, we do not…'”

“Let them say all nonsense,” Prabhupada replied. “They are disqualified. Sahajiya babajis, that’s all.”

Tamal Krishna put their number at about fifty, just in Los Angeles alone, split fairly evenly between the women’s group and the men’s.

Speaking from my own experience with Sulocana and from other information heard over the last few days, I told Prabhupada they weren’t content to keep it to themselves. “The thing is that they’re going around and they’re soliciting for people to come and join their group, and then immediately they come, they take them into all the details of the gopis with Krsna.”

“Then let them… Unless they follow the regulative principles, there is no place for that in the temple. Let them go out,” Prabhupada said.

When Ramesvara said he thought they were following the principles, Tamal Krishna Maharaja presented evidence to the contrary. He said the leader of the women’s group was known to have had an abortion, even after she became a devotee.

This news stretched even Prabhupada’s credulity. “That is their fault. They want to utilize the love affairs of Krsna and gopis for their debauchery. That is a support for their debauchery. That is sahajiya.”

“That’s the meaning of sahajiya. So that’s on their minds,” Tamal Krishna said.

“Yes,” Prabhupada said. “We are restricting, ‘No illicit sex.’ They will put that ‘Here is illicit sex between the gopis and Krsna.'”

Prabhupada knows full well how the cheating propensity acts within the realm of devotional service. He confirmed it would act as a justification for breaking the regulative principles. When I postulated that their mentality was one of impatience, not wanting to go through the gradual process of sadhana-bhakti but rather immediately jumping to the highest perfection, Prabhupada agreed. “That is the danger. But if they at once go to rasa-lila, because they are not trained up neither they are liberated, they’ll think this rasa-lila is just like our young boys, young girls mix together, have sex like that. So it is supported our… ‘Why should we restrict to no illicit sex, no this, no rules and regulations? We shall do all nonsense.’ That’s all. And become a gopi. It is very good to aspire to become High Court judge, but how you can become High Court judge without qualification? That they are not thinking. They have no qualification, they have illicit sex, pregnant, going to abortion and they’re High Court judge.”

What he had to say next was really telling. He saw serious consequences for the progress of the movement unless it was stopped. “Anyway, if we give indulgence to these people, then this preaching work will be hampered.”

Tamal Krishna Maharaja gave his firm assurance. “No, we’re not going to do that.”

“Or they should be separated,” Prabhupada continued. “Otherwise, it will be bad example, and all restrictions will be broken.”

“If they don’t change their mentality,” Tamal nodded in agreement, “then they should live separately, do their own society.”

“And they’ll do that,” Prabhupada affirmed.

After saying that the sahajiya tendency is a very easy thing to take up, he again cautioned us. The good of the Movement was more important than any individual or group of individuals. “Anyway, keep your Movement very pure. You don’t mind if somebody goes away. Don’t mind. But we must keep our principles pure.”

Tamal Krishna recalled that Prabhupada had once said that in the battle sometimes some men may be lost. Prabhupada told him, “Yes, that is natural.”

After a few minutes Ramesvara raised another criticism they have of our Society. “Srila Prabhupada, some devotees, sometimes they feel that in ISKCON we’re talking so much about the business of how to spread Krsna consciousness but we’re not talking enough about Krsna’s pastimes, krsna-katha, they say. So that’s another reason why they want to read all these pastimes.”

“Then let them read,” Prabhupada said. “But why they’re making pregnant and abortion? What kind of krsna-katha? The krsna-katha test is as soon as he’ll get the taste, he’ll lose this taste. What is this nonsense?”

“Won’t it purify them? That’s what they say, ‘It will purify me.'”

“What you are purified?” Prabhupada asked skeptically. “You have become, what is called, putrefied, not purified. You can read; be purified. You can read. But where is your purification?”

Again he spoke from his own experience. Theirs is not a new criticism. He already had experience of this kind of mentality. “The books are there for reading. By reading, you become purified. In 1935, our Guru Maharaja, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he went to Radha-kunda for Kartika-vrata. So at that time he was reading Upanisads. So first of all, these babajis they were coming. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had come at Radha-kunda. He’s giving some class. So they used to come. But as soon as they saw that he was reading Upanisads, they stopped coming. They saw: ‘They are jnanis, they are not bhaktas.'”

“What did they want to hear?” Tamal Krishna asked. “Dasama-skandha?”

“Like that. So Prabhupada condemned them that ‘They are not living in Radha-kunda. They’re living in Nara-kunda [hell].’ I heard it, ‘They’re living in Nara-kunda.'”

“So our men who go to Radha-kunda and live there…” Tamal ventured.

“Yes,” Prabhupada said.

What he saw in 1935 he experienced again in the 1960s, when as a resident of Vrndavana’s Radha-Damodara temple he made plans to go abroad to fulfill his spiritual master’s order. As we traveled back to the temple in the car he repeated what he said two days ago. “Before coming to the USA, many sahajiyas they requested me, ‘Sir, why you are going? You are in Vrndavana, continue your bhajana. What is the use of preaching?’ They advised me like that.”

“They don’t believe in Lord Caitanya, these sahajiyas in Vrndavana?” Ramesvara asked.

“Mostly,” Prabhupada said, agreeing. “They have no knowledge. Material. Prakrta-sahajiya. Their real name is prakrta. Their thoughts are on this material platform. Just as they are preferring this conjugal love because here the sex is prominent. They are thinking that is the highest stage. What is the lowest stage here, they’re taking that as the highest stage. Of course, in the spiritual world there is such thing, but as Krsna has many other lilas, why they are not attracted to other lilas?”

“They don’t want to be limited,” Ramesvara said. “They think that Krsna is the krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. So why…”

“That is good. That is always true, but Krsna says, manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye/ yatatam api siddhanam kascin mam vetti tattvatah. How you have understood Krsna? Krsna says, ‘Out of many millions of people, one becomes siddha, and out of many millions of siddhas, hardly one can understand Me.’ So how you have understood Krsna so easily, within two years? What you have understood Krsna, that is materially understood. You do not know what is Krsna. That is prakrta-sahajiya. ‘Oh, we have understood. Krsna was a playboy, dancing with His girls. Bas, we have understood.'”

Ramesvara continued to paraphrase their arguments. “If I follow the regulative principles and go on hearing about rasa-lila, then I’ll be purified.”

Prabhupada gave the counterpoints. “You say that; in the sastra does not say. Sastra says that after you have studied all the nine cantos of Bhagavatam then enter into the tenth. Sahajiya means they take very easily. ‘Everything is all right. Now I am perfect.’ Krsna says, ‘To understand Me, it will take millions of years.’ And they understand Krsna immediately. That is called prakrta-sahajiya.”

“Krsna’s incarnation is to attract the living entities to Krsna. So let me read about rasa-lila, because I’m feeling some attraction,” Ramesvara said.

“Then why not Kuruksetra lila?” Prabhupada said. “Krsna’s lila is the same, absolute. You are attracted to rasa-lila means you have got sex desire. That’s all. And actually, what you said, that one girl?”

“He said one girl, she killed her baby,” Ramesvara answered.

“This is their business. This rasa-lila is for the person who is completely purified. When one is impure, he should not think of. That is stated in the Bhagavatam.”

“In this they have misunderstood your Krsna book,” Ramesvara told him.

“They must have misunderstood,” Prabhupada said. “They are all rascals.”

Prabhupada told his GBCs that they must try to rectify the situation and save the devotees involved. “Otherwise, they are finished.”

While replying to his mail during his noon massage Prabhupada also dictated a letter to Nitai dasa in Vrndavana. The more he hears about the sahajiya group, the less he likes it and the more concerned he becomes. He has traced the roots of it back to Vrndavana, is actively stopping it before it develops into something more serious. “I have received information that some of our devotees are mixing with the babajis in Vrindaban. This has produced so many problems amongst our men and women who visit Vrindaban. Here in Los Angeles, we have found that there is a group of about 40 devotees who privately meet to discuss the intimate pastimes artificially thinking that they can enter into the understanding of the gopis prematurely. This will create havoc in our society, and the result will be that if this is allowed to go on, our preaching work will be greatly hampered. This premature desire to understand the lila of Krishna is due to mundane sex-life desire as we have seen amongst many of the babajis and sahajiyas in Vrindaban. Our Jagganath das came back from Vrindaban asking me that he had heard some babaji speaking about siddha-deha and he also was listening to these babajis. So I want this immediately stopped. If it continues, this mixing with the babajis, then it will mean spoiling. In many cases, these babajis keep 2 or 3 women. Asatsanga tyagi. Their association is to be avoided and prohibited amongst all of our devotees who visit Vrindaban.”

June 8th 1976

The leading members of the sahajiya group wrote a letter to Prabhupada apologizing for “jumping like monkeys.” Hrdayananda Maharaja delivered it and reported that they had obeyed Prabhupada’s order and stopped having any further meetings. Unfortunately, a short while later he came back and informed Prabhupada that Puranjana dasa had abandoned his service at the Spanish BBT and blooped. “And you said he was sincere!” Prabhupada remarked to Hrdayananda.

June 10 1976

As part of his investigation, Pradyumna has obtained a letter authored by the women who was prominent in the gopi-bhava group. She wrote it to a friend, and began by describing the activities of the group. She said that she was hoping to start “a movement within the Movement” and how she was “experiencing the ecstasy of Radha for Krsna.” After these extraordinary statements, in the next paragraph she asks her friend, “Did you hear about my relationship with… “and names a man who she is not married to. It is another strong indicator of the danger to our Movement if this mentality is spread. As Prabhupada said, if it catches on, all the preaching will be stopped.

June 11th 1976 Los Angeles

Last Srimad Bhagavatam class

Prabhupada also gave an unambiguous warning to everyone to avoid the sahajiya mentality. He didn’t accuse anyone but by the great amount of emphasis and elaborate description of the highly spiritual nature of Krsna’s pastimes that he gave, it was very clearly an admonition to all. “First of all, He establishes Himself, that ‘I am the Supreme Lord’ mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya. So, the Mayavadis, they also think that ‘I am also Krsna. I can also speak.’ No, that you cannot do. Just like we are singing this song daily, gopi-jana-vallabha giri-vara-dhari. Krsna is playing with the gopis. The sahajiyas, they take it very easily. But giri-vara-dhari. Oh, that is very difficult thing. He raised the whole Govardhana Hill in His finger; that nobody is imitating. But gopi-jana-vallabha—very easy. ‘You are gopi, I am Krsna. Let us enjoy.’ This is sahajiya. This is going on—’parakiya-rasa.’ All rascaldom is going on. But one should understand that here is Krsna. He can dance with the gopis and He can lift the Govardhana Hill also, simultaneously. That is also for pleasing the gopis. When there was incessant rainfall, all the inhabitants of Vrndavana became so disturbed, and they had no other friend than Krsna. So they appealed, ‘Krsna, do something!’ ‘Yes!’ Immediately, He raised the whole hill as umbrella. ‘Come on under this.’ So that is Krsna. So don’t imitate Krsna, but hear Krsna, what He says, then our life is successful. We cannot imitate God. We have to simply follow His order. That is dharma.”

He told us there are two processes; anukarana, which means imitation, and anusarana, following. Our process is anusarana. He emphasized that as God, Krsna can do no wrong. Nor, he said, are the gopis ordinary women; they are expansions of His spiritual potency. “They are Krsna. Sakti-saktimator abhedah. They are not different from Krsna. But to give Krsna pleasure, Krsna expands Himself by His spiritual energy, sandhini hladini. That is the expansion of His pleasure potency. It is not that to imitate gopis. That is sahajiya. When Krsna wants pleasure, His pleasure is full spiritual. There is no question of material.

“It has been very broadly described by Sri Jiva Gosvami. Read all this. Don’t try to imitate. That is sahajiya. We should know the position of Krsna. His expansion of pleasure potency. Therefore Krsna’s lila is put into the middle of the Tenth Canto. First of all, try to understand Krsna from the very beginning. Janmady asya yatah. Here is the original source of everything. Aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate. First of all, try to understand Krsna. So therefore Vyasadeva has dedicated full nine cantos for understanding Krsna.

“Manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye [‘Out of many thousands of men, one may endeavor for perfection.’ Bg. 7.3] The siddhis, they think of gopis. That is recommended in Caitanya-caritamrta, siddha-deha. Where is siddha? Siddha-deha means there is no more any material lusty desires. So long we shall think of nari-sanga, association, unity with woman, we must consider this is material body. Not siddha body. Siddha body means anyabhilasita-sunyam. All material desires, zero. That is siddha body. So therefore it is very confidential….

“But to clear it, [Pariksit Maharaja asked] that ‘How Krsna accepted to dance with so many gopis,’ this was for clearance. In that question, you’ll find, Sukadeva Gosvami has answered that unless one is liberated, he should not think of it even. Should not think of it.”

Prabhupada ended his lecture with a note of encouragement for the preachers, urging them to continue spreading Krsna consciousness far and wide. “Simply, fervently, very honestly, obey the orders of Krsna. Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru. Four things. And what is the result? Mam evaisyasy asamsayam. ‘Without any doubt, you’ll come back to Me.’ What do you want more? That Krsna is so nice. So spread this movement all over your country. Your country is… By the grace of Krsna, everything is there. And the first qualification is that you are not poverty-stricken. So take the instruction of Krsna and be happy. Open similar temples all over your country. Your country is not poor. You can establish such temples, hundreds and thousands. And similarly assemble, hear Krsna’s instruction, and see how happy you’ll become. Thank you very much.”

There was a tremendous shout of thanks, happiness and impending sadness, followed by an emotional final kirtana as Prabhupada handed out the cookies for the last time. He blessed everyone with smiles and “Hare Krsna!” before retiring to his rooms.

 Excerpt from A Transcendenal Diary Volume 2

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