Srila Prabhupada: Nitya-siddha
BY: ROCANA DASA
Jan 1, USA (SUN) My Sampradaya Acarya thesis philosophically rests upon the basic assumption that AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada is a bona fide Sampradaya Acarya representing the disciplic succession of the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage. As such, Srila Prabhupada is a Nitya-siddha, Shaktyavesa-avatar, an eternal associate of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The philosophical comprehension of this truth is of the utmost significance for the Vaisnava population concerned with spreading the Sankirtan Movement.
Srila Prabhupada encapsulates the significance of envisioning him as being in a Nitya-siddha status in his London lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 13-14, July 14, 1973:
"So Narottama dasa Thakura says, “So all these associates of Caitanya Mahäprabhu should be known-they are also of the same category.” Gaurangera sangi-gane, nitya-siddha kori mane. This word nitya-siddha is significant. Nitya-siddha and nitya-baddha. There are two kinds of living entities. Nitya-baddha means ever-conditioned. Ever-conditioned means those who are in this material world, they do not know when they came in touch with this material world. Neither they do know when they will be liberated. They are called nitya-baddha, ever-conditioned.
And similarly, there are nitya-siddhas. Nitya-siddhas means they never come in contact with this material world, and even they come here for some business, they do not forget their position. That is nitya-siddha. Try to understand.
There are two kinds of living entities: nitya-siddha, nitya-baddha. Nitya-baddhas are within this material world. Beginning from Brahma down to a small ant, insignificant ant, they are all nitya-baddha. Anyone who is in this material world--nitya-baddha.
And nitya-siddhas, they belong to the spiritual world. They never come in contact with this material world, and even they come for some business under the order of the Supreme Lord, they do not touch these material qualities They remain always transcendental. As Krsna remains always transcendental, even though He is in this material world, similarly, Krsna's nitya-siddha associates, they are also transcendental. They never touch this material world."
When studying the words, pastimes, and qualities of Srila Prabhupada, one must consider the following questions, which I feel need to be answered by all followers:
- Is Srila Prabhupada a born nitya-siddha -- an eternal associate of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, having descended in order to fulfill the prediction of the Yuga Avatar that this Sankirtan Movement will spread throughout the planet -- or is he a sadhana-siddha?
- Are both Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura born nitya-siddhas, as declared by Srila Prabhupada?
- Is Srila Prabhupada a successive nitya-siddha Acarya on the same exalted level as the two predecessor Sampradaya Acaryas he follows?
- Many Gaudiya Matha followers see AC Bhaktivedanta Swami as one of many advanced disciples branching out from the Nitya-siddha Acarya, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. But if Srila Prabhupada is a successive nitya-siddha Acarya following Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, then is the Gaudiya Matha conclusion correct?
In the quote provided above, Srila Prabhupada instructs us, in no uncertain terms, that in the material world there are only nitya-siddha and nitya-baddha living entities. In his New York lecture on Caitanya-caritamrta, July 13, 1976, Srila Prabhupada said:
"There are two kinds of living entities: nitya-siddha and nitya-baddha. Nitya-siddha means they never fall a victim of maya. That is nitya-siddha. Even though they are within this material world, they are never victimized. That is called nitya-siddha. And one who is victimized, he is called nitya-baddha. But the actual constitutional position of every living entity is nitya-siddha, because God is eternal and His part and parcels, the living entities, they are also eternal. So that is nitya-siddha. Nitya-siddha, sädhana-siddha, krpa-siddha-there are different grades. They are all described in The Nectar of Devotion. So one can become sadhana-siddha. By following the rules and regulations and instructions of the spiritual master, he can also become siddha. He can become again nitya-siddha. So the Krsna consciousness movement is to make the nitya-baddhas again nitya-siddha, to bring them. It is a difficult task."
By hearing from Srila Prabhupada above we learn that a genuine sadhana-bhakta, having achieved siddha, immediately becomes a nitya-siddha because they never again fall down. A key statement to note is that the nitya-baddha never knows when he or she will become liberated. It follows that a nitya-baddha can never accurately determine whether or not another nitya-baddha has truly achieved siddha through the practice of sadhana. Only a nitya-siddha can declare with absolute certainty that another living entity has achieved the nitya-siddha status on account of executing sadhana, or that they appeared in their body as nitya-siddha -- “they come for some business under the order of the Supreme Lord”.
The dilemma that all of us nitya-baddhas find ourselves in is whether or not we consciously chose to philosophically accept Srila Prabhupada as a nitya-siddha. This is the beginning of our difficult journey leading towards pure loving devotional service at the lotus feet of one’s nitya-siddha spiritual master.
In Mayapur in 1976, Srila Prabhupada's lecture from the Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.4, establishes that he is nitya siddha:
"By the teachings of nitya-siddha maha-bhagavata, if one follows and then becomes by sadhana-siddha, by regulative principle, they also become nitya-siddha later on."
His books, his sadhana program, his preaching mission and mood as a maha-bhagavata is exactly what he is offering the nitya-baddhas of the world. So while he doesn't pointedly say he's a nitya-siddha (which is not surprising), he does provide a characterization that clearly describes himself as such.
"So our sampradaya is Brahma, Brahma sampradaya. There are four sampradayas. We belong to this Brahma sampradaya. So sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphalä. We have to accept one sampradaya, parampara, just like Prahlada Maharaja."
My thesis that Srila Prabhupada is a Sampradaya Acarya is philosophically rooted in the premise that Srila Prabhupada is indeed a genuine nitya-siddha. In the absence of a living nitya-siddha who can verify absolutely that my premise concerning Srila Prabhupada is true, it will remain a matter of personal choice. I humbly admit that as a self confessed nitya-baddha, it is a possibility that I may be mistaken. However, after seriously considering the abundant wealth of indications that Srila Prabhupada is, in fact, a true nitya-siddha, I have personally decided that I would rather err on the side of caution
The reaction one might get for the offense for erroneously envisioning Srila Prabhupada as nitya-siddha far outweighs the reaction incurred for inaccurately depicting him as being born nitya-baddha. I encourage the reader to undertake an introspective self-examination to determine what side of this equation you actually find yourself on. I have observed and concluded that many, if not most of the professed followers of Srila Prabhupada whom I have personally encountered are at best confused, and/or have subconsciously been led to believe that Srila Prabhupada is a nitya-siddha on account of his perfecting sadhana practices in this lifetime, not that he was sent directly from the spiritual realm in order to execute his mission.
The conclusion most readers come to after reading the “Lilamrita” story is that Srila Prabhupada is a pure devotee on account of sadhana. The author, Satsvarupa Goswami, never makes it clear that Srila Prabhupada becomes a nitya-siddha as a result of either sadhana or kripa. In fact to an untrained casual reader, the message is that Srila Prabhupada was simply a very pious, charismatic, kind and well-intentioned personality - nothing more. Sastra, on the other hand, leaves nothing to the imagination on this matter because the Acaryas speak in absolute terms. Unfortunately, many followers look upon the "Lilamrita" as sastra, and quote from it in lectures as though it were absolute.
This literary work undoubtedly leaves an impression with the reader that Srila Prabhupada's early years (pastimes) were not those of a person born in a nitya-siddha status. The nitya-baddha reader is left to try and determine at what point in time during Srila Prabhupada’s life he actually reached perfection/siddha, and what being 'perfect' actually means. Many, I fear, don’t even feel that Srila Prabhupada achieved the highest level of Krsna Consciousness after digesting the contents of Lilamrta.
Whether innocent or not, I declare that this philosophical maha-mistake, born of the Zonal Acarya era, is at the very root of all the problems our community has struggled with since Srila Prabhupada’s departure. At this juncture of our Sampradaya’s history, I hold little hope that this mega blunder can be quickly or easy rectified throughout the Vaisnava landscape. Considering this reality it is incumbent upon individual followers of Srila Prabhupada, who believe that the present fuzzy wuzzy depiction of ISKCON’s "Founder-Acarya" is siddhantically wrong, to take it upon themselves to come to the correction conclusion.
Unfortunately, a thorough re-examination of long-held perceptions about Srila Prabhupada is not as simple a process as it may first appear. Srila Prabhupada explains in the same Mayapur lecture:
"If one can understand nitya-siddha bhagavata, then he immediately becomes eligible to go back to home, to back to godhead. This is the privilege of associating with maha-bhagavata."
Even after one has concluded that Srila Prabhupada is nitya-siddha, there is gradual realization and transformation. Only then, once one is firmly rooted in a siddhantically correct comprehension, can a methodical re-examination of Srila Prabhupada's pastimes, teachings, and qualities be conducted.
Non-Vaisnava religions with a pure fund of knowledge about God leave it up to the practitioner to imagine God to be whatever they like, but this does not serve the eternal interests of the soul. Due to the teachings of the nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acaryas, we Vaisnavas have detailed siddhanta concerning the Supreme Personality of Godhead along with a precise process to follow so that a genuine loving relation can truly evolve. Those who chose not to carefully follow are deemed sahajiyas, and are condemned by the Sampradaya Acaryas. The same principle holds true concerning the proper understanding of the nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acaryas who makes up our disciplic succession.
Most followers agree that there are copious “symptoms of a nitya-siddha” exhibited by Srila Prabhupada. From the same lecture:
"So the nitya-siddha maha-bhagavata, they come from the spiritual world on the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they, by example, they preach Krsna Consciousness. This is maha-bhagavata. By suffering, by example, everything, they look like ordinary men, but maha-bhagavata. How it is tested? Never forgets Krsna. This is maha-bhagavata nitya-siddha."
It is quite miraculous how Srila Prabhupada's entire pastimes, written legacy, preaching mission, future vision and relationships take on a new, expanded meaning once one becomes free of the confusion surrounding his nitya-siddha status. My journey towards realization of Srila Prabhupada’s true spiritual status has just begun. I expect that this purification will require at least the remaining portion of my present life. The rewards, so far, have been astounding. While this short essay limits my ability to share in-depth my initial 're-adjusted' thoughts, I plan to continue sharing my realizations in the year ahead.