In recent times in Bengal and Vraja, in places such as Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Vṛndāvana, the custom called bheka-dhāraṇa, formal acceptance of the cloth of the renounced order (bābājī-veśa), and siddha-praṇālī, the process in which the spiritual master gives details of the sādhaka’s spiritual form, intrinsic mood, etc., has perverted the intrinsic nature of the pure bhakti established by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the six Gosvāmīs. Without consideration of qualification or disqualification, these people give so-called siddha-praṇālī and bābājī-veśa to adulterous fellows, debauchees and ordinary people who are ignorant of śāstra and siddhānta, to increase the numbers of their followers. Having adopted this base practice, those people fall to even greater depths of corruption and depravity.
1. Bheka-dhāraṇa – the system of conferring bābājī-veśa
When did the custom of bheka-dhāraṇa come into practice? Upon investigation, we see that this custom was not current at the time of the six Gosvāmīs, Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī and others because these personalities were instinctively paramahaṁsas. After taking an old dhotī from Tapana Miśra, it was natural for Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī to tear it up and wear it as outer cloth and ḍor-kaupīna, the loin cloth worn by a paramahaṁsa. There is no mention at all about giving siddha-praṇālī in this connection. This dress of a renunciant was adopted simply to indicate a firm dedication to bhajana. Similarly, one should understand this to be the same in regard to the other Gosvāmīs.
In one way, this is included in the category of the bhikṣuka (mendicant) āśrama, or sannyāsa, because paramahaṁsa mahātmās have no definite or fixed dress. They are beyond rules, regulations and the distinguishing marks of the āśramas such as sannyāsa. Since such paramahaṁsas are always absorbed in bhagavat-prema, the regulations and prohibitions of scriptures such as the Vedas are no impetus for them. But people who are not at the paramahaṁsa stage accept Vaiṣṇava sannyāsa (according to sāttvata vaiṣṇava-smṛti such as Sat-kriyā-sāra-dīpikā) or according to the same regulations they wear a white outer cloth and ḍor-kaupīna. This is for firm dedication to sādhana-bhajana, and is called bheka-dhāraṇa. The word bheka is a corrupted form of the Sanskrit word veṣa. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written an essay entitled Bheka-dhāraṇa (reprinted in Gauḍīya-patrikā Year 6, No. 2):
“Properly understood, the word bheka means the āśrama of bhikṣukas, mendicants. The name of the sannyāsa-āśrama is bhikṣu-āśrama. Sannyāsīs can never associate with women in this life. They will sustain their lives by begging.
“Here a question arises: in which āśrama are those Vaiṣṇavas situated who have accepted bheka? Our studies of śāstra and the instructions of Mahāprabhu establish that detached Vaiṣṇavas are situated in the bhikṣu-āśrama. When the association of women is completely forbidden for them, then they are situated in the sannyāsa-āśrama. The sign of sannyāsa is kaupīna, the loin cloth. When they have accepted ḍor-kaupīna and the outer garment, then they are definitely accepted in the sannyāsa-āśrama.
“Sannyāsa is of two kinds: ordinary and Vaiṣṇava. There is a vast difference between these two. In ordinary sannyāsa, there is peacefulness, self-control, tolerance, renunciation, knowledge of the eternal and the temporary, and the ambition to attain brahma. When these dharmas have arisen in an individual, then sannyāsa has been accepted. However, the presence of these qualities does not by itself make one eligible for Vaiṣṇava sannyāsa.
“The process for developing love (rati) for Bhagavān begins first of all with faith in subject matters related to Bhagavān. After that one proceeds to sādhu-saṅga, bhajana-kriyā, anartha-nivṛtti, etc. When rati for Bhagavān arises in the heart, the dharma known as virakti, or detachment, takes shelter of the Vaiṣṇava. At that stage, the Vaiṣṇava sādhaka becomes completely detached from the gṛhastha-āśrama. He then wears the kaupīna to minimize his personal necessities, and maintains his life by begging. This is called Vaiṣṇava bheka. Those who are simple and free from duplicity and who accept bheka for the purpose of doing bhagavad-bhajana are worthy to receive the respect of the whole world.
“This type of acceptance of bheka is of two kinds. Some sādhakas, after achieving detachment born of bhāva, accept bheka from a worthy guru; and some put on ḍor-kaupīna and outer cloth themselves. In Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s sampradāya, this custom of bheka is extremely pure. Bowing my head with great faith, I repeatedly offer my obeisances to such a tradition.
“However, it is very unfortunate that these days the bheka-āśrama is becoming extremely degraded. Eligibility is a consideration that has completely disappeared. Some people who want to adopt bheka, although unqualified, shave their heads, put on ḍor-kaupīna and accept bheka whimsically.
“Presently some perversions have entered the system of sannyāsa:
- Some householder Vaiṣṇavas become bābājīs. They shave their heads and put on kaupīna. What can be more injurious than this? Their action is opposed to śāstra and to the interests of society. If they are actually detached from material life, then they may accept bheka in the genuine manner of renunciation. Otherwise they will disgrace vaiṣṇava-dharma and in the next life they will also have to taste the fruit of doing so.
- There is a terrible and disastrous custom among bābājīs of keeping maidservants in their āśramas. In some āśramas, a bābājī may even keep his former wife as his maidservant. These people associate with women on the pretext of serving God and the sādhus.
- Bābājīs who are actually renounced completely reject lust for women, wealth, eatables and so on. Nowadays, common people are losing faith in Vaiṣṇavism, because they see supposedly renounced people indulging their selfish desires. The essence of the matter is that those who accept the symbols of renunciation without having developed genuine detachment which arises from rati, love of Bhagavān, are a disturbance in society and a disgrace to vaiṣṇava-dharma. Their own downfall and the defamation of vaiṣṇava-dharma are both guaranteed, having accepted bheka before they are qualified to do so.”
After Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, a dark age began in Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s Gauḍīya sampradāya, during which the current of śrī rūpānuga-bhakti became somewhat impaired. Various kinds of speculative malpractices and opinions opposed to śuddha-bhakti seeped into the true conception. At that time the situation became so dire that the educated and cultured section of society began to abhor even the name Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, having witnessed the misconduct of its so-called followers. In this way, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya became distanced from the intelligentsia and respected society. At that time, the Seventh Gosvāmī Saccidānanda Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī appeared.
These two personalities brought about a revolutionary transformation in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya and restored its lost dignity. The entire credit for whatever diffusion of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s nāma-saṅkīrtana and śuddha-bhakti has taken place among the learned and respectable sector of society goes to these two mahāpuruṣas and their followers, not only in India but also throughout the world. They established Gauḍīya Maṭhas and preaching centres for śuddha-bhakti everywhere, and they published the literatures of śuddha-bhakti along with magazines and journals in all of the major languages of the world. Thus in a very short time they revolutionized the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava society.
After the disappearance of jagad-guru Śrīla Prabhupāda, improper practices again began to appear openly in all the prominent places of Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala, Gauḍa-maṇḍala and Kṣetra-maṇḍala. These groups of bābājīs began to make allegations against Śrīla Prabhupāda and the pure Vaiṣṇavas under his shelter. They said that Vaiṣṇavas of the Gauḍīya Maṭha are simply jñānīs ignorant of rasa-tattva, and that their acceptance of saffron cloth and sannyāsa is not a properly established procedure. Our most worshipful Śrīla Gurudeva refuted these accusations with scriptural evidence and powerful arguments and preached śuddha-bhakti everywhere. For this purpose he had the essays previously written by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and jagad-guru Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda published again in his Śrī Gauḍīya-patrikā and Śrī Bhāgavata-patrikā. He published Sahajiyā-dalana (Destroying the Sahajiyā Theory), and also argued these points in huge assemblies in many places in Vraja-maṇḍala, Gauḍa-maṇḍala and Kṣetra-maṇḍala. As a result, the opposition party made a case to prosecute him in a court of law for loss of reputation. However, in the end they had to beg forgiveness in the same courtroom.
Siddha-praṇālī is very much misused nowadays in certain places in Vraja-maṇḍala, Gauḍa-maṇḍala and Kṣetra-maṇḍala. Sometimes, a man whose wife passes away is abused and even driven from his home. Although he is bereft of tattva-jñāna and unaware of vaidhī-bhakti-sādhana, he has his head shaved in the middle of the night, puts on kaupīna and quickly takes siddha-praṇālī. These days, siddha-praṇālī can be obtained very easily with the donation of half a rupee. Just before the mantra is given, a financial contract takes place. Those giving the siddha-praṇālī mantra think, “There can be no auspiciousness for sādhakas until they receive siddha-praṇālī. There is no necessity for vaidhī-bhakti-sādhana, tattva-jñāna or anartha-nivṛtti. The rāgānuga-bhakta should obtain siddha-praṇālī before he goes through anartha-nivṛtti. In that way he can avoid getting caught in the inconvenience of vaidhī-bhakti.” These people’s conception is exactly like thinking that a fruit will grow from a leaf before the appearance of a flower.
About fifty-five years ago, we were performing Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā with our most worshipful Śrīla Gurudeva. Approximately four hundred pilgrims attending the parikramā were staying in a large dharmaśālā in Mathurā. Gurudeva had organized a big feast there, to which all the local sādhus, saints and Vaiṣṇavas had been invited. Bābājīs, who had accepted bheka, also assembled there in very large numbers. When they came to meet with Śrīla Gurudeva, he became very curious and asked them, “What is the aim and object of your kṛṣṇa-bhajana?” They were taken aback when they heard this question, but after thinking about it they answered, “By performing kṛṣṇa-bhajana we will attain liberation and merge into Kṛṣṇa.” When Gurujī heard their answer, he became very sad. On questioning them further, he found that women were also staying in their āśramas as maidservants. From that day on, he vowed to reform these malpractices which had spread in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava society. I have indicated this before. In spite of being busy in preaching śuddha-bhakti throughout his life, he never forgot this matter. A great deal of credit for the improvement and reform of this situation goes to this mahāpuruṣa. Here I am presenting whatever views I have heard from him on this subject.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.4.15–16) has defined the following sequence which we have to follow in order to enter into the realm of bhakti :
ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-
saṅgo ’tha bhajana-kriyā
tato ’nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt
tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas
sādhakānām ayaṁ premṇaḥ
prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ
Bhakti flees very far away when the sādhaka transgresses this sequence. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to execute the first limb of sādhana-bhakti, namely, vaidhī-bhakti, or regulative devotional service, in order to enter the realm of prema. Vaidhī-bhakti is not directly the cause of attaining kṛṣṇa-prema. Still, it is necessary to observe the appropriate limbs of vaidhī-bhakti in order to enter into rāga-mārga. Vaidhī-bhakti is established on the steadfast foundation of scriptural evidence and it is endowed with powerful codes of correct behaviour. Moreover, there is no particular difference between the observance of the limbs of rāgānuga-sādhana-bhakti and vaidhī-bhakti. The difference is only in devotion to the observance. Thus the limbs of vaidhī-bhakti-sādhana cannot be neglected entirely. When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī on the subject of prayojana-tattva, which is kṛṣṇa-prema, He said:
kona bhagye kona jīvera ‘śraddhā’ yadi haya
tabe sei jīva ‘sādhu-saṅga’ karaya
sādhu-saṅga haite haya ‘sravaṇa-kīrtana’
sādhana-bhaktye haya ‘sarvānartha-nivartana’
anartha-nivṛtti haile bhakti ‘niṣṭhā’ haya
niṣṭhā haite śravaṇādye ‘ruci’ upajaya
ruci haite bhakti haya ‘āsakti’ pracura
āsakti haite citte janme kṛṣṇe prity-aṅkura
sei ‘rati’ gāḍha haile dhare ‘prema’-nāma
sei premā—‘prayojana’ sarvānanda-dhāma
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 23.9–13)
If by good fortune a jīva develops śraddhā, he begins to associate with sādhus, and in that company he engages in hearing and chanting. By following sādhana-bhakti he becomes free from all anarthas and advances with firm faith (niṣṭhā), by which ruci (taste) awakens for śravaṇa, kīrtana and so on. After ruci, then āsakti (deep attachment) arises, and from abundant āsakti the seed of prīti (affection) for Kṛṣṇa is born in the heart. When that emotion intensifies, it is called prema. This prema is life’s ultimate goal and the abode of all joy.
It is quite impossible for one who transgresses this sequence to enter the realm of bhakti. Thus, those who want to enter this domain while neglecting the limbs of vaidhī-sādhana-bhakti are in all respects unrestrained and outside the conclusions of śāstra. They have no relation at all with pure bhakti. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has also expressed the same opinion: “vidhi-mārga-rata-jane svādhīnatā-ratna-dāne / rāga-mārga karāna praveśa – Śrī Kṛṣṇa bestows the jewel of independence upon those who are devoted to the regulative path, thus allowing them entrance into rāga-mārga, the path of spontaneous loving service.”
By considering the gradations of the object of attainment (sādhya-vastu) we find that the prema of Śrīmatī Rādhā for Kṛṣṇa is the crest jewel. Furthermore, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has explained that the sādhya for the living entities is service to Śrīmatī Rādhikā (rādhā-dāsya) imbued with parakīya-bhāva. In order to obtain that sādhya-vastu, one must perform sādhana.
‘sādhya-vastu’ ‘sādhana’-vinā keha nāhi pāya
kṛpā kari’ kaha, rāya, pābāra upāya
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8.197)
The goal of life (sādhya-vastu) cannot be achieved unless one accepts the appropriate process (sādhana). Now, being merciful upon Me, please explain that means by which this goal can be attained.
Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda replied:
rādhā-kṛṣṇera līlā ei ati gūḍhatara
dāsya-vātsalyādi-bhāve nā haya gocara
sabe eka sakhī-gaṇera ihāṅ ādhikāra
sakhī haite haya ei līlāra vistāra
sakhī binā ei līlā puṣṭa nāhi haya
sakhī līlā vistāriyā, sakhī āsvādaya
sakhī binā ei līlāya anyera nāhi gati
sakhī-bhāve ye tāṅre kare anugati
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-kuñjasevā sādhya sei pāya
sei sādhya pāite āra nāhika upāya
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8. 201–205)
ataeva gopī-bhāva kari’ aṅgīkāra
rātri-dina cinte rādhā-kṛṣṇera vihāra
siddha-dehe cinti’ kare tāhāṅñi sevana
sakhī-bhāve pāya rādhā-kṛṣṇera caraṇa
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8.228–229)
The gist of the matter is that Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s love-laden līlā is so confidential and so full of mysteries that it is imperceptible, even for those in dāsya- and vātsalya-bhāva. Only the sakhīs are eligible for this. Therefore, no one can attain the service of Śrīmatī Rādhikā or the kuñja-sevā of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Yugala by sādhana without following in the wake of the sakhīs. Thus the only means of attaining this supreme goal is meditation on Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes throughout the day and night by the internally conceived siddha-deha and in the mood of the sakhīs. For this reason, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has given this instruction in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.293–295) in the section on śrī rāgānuga-bhakti-sādhana:
kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya
kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā
siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
vaidha-bhakty uditāni tu
yānyaṅgāni ca tānyatra
Here, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has mentioned two types of sādhana in rāgānuga-bhakti sevā:
siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
When there is lobha, or greed, for rāgātmika-bhakti, rāgānuga-bhakti is executed in two ways: in the external body in which one is presently situated (sādhaka-rūpa), and in the perfected spiritual form (siddha-rūpa). Eagerly desiring to attain rati for Kṛṣṇa or the ecstatic sentiments of one’s chosen companions of Kṛṣṇa, one must follow the associates of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Vraja, such as Lalitā, Viśākhā, Rūpa Mañjarī and their followers, such as Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī. One must render bodily service with the sādhaka-rūpa following the great authorities residing in Vraja, such as Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Sanātana. And with the siddha-rūpa one must render mānasī-sevā following the Vrajavāsīs such as Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī. The meaning of this verse (sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa) has been explained in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.156–157):
bāhya, antara,—ihāra dui ta’ sādhana
‘bāhye’ sādhaka-dehe kare śravaṇa-kīrtana
‘mane’ nija-siddha-deha kariyā bhāvana
rātri-dine kare vraje kṛṣṇera sevana
This rāgānuga-bhakti is performed in two ways: externally and internally. Externally, in the sādhaka body, the devotee engages in hearing and chanting. In his mind, in his internally conceived, perfected spiritual body, he serves Kṛṣṇa in Vraja day and night.
Thus rāgānuga-bhakti sādhakas should in all respects practise bhāva-sambandhi-sādhana such as śravaṇa, kīrtana, service to Tulasī, wearing tilaka, observing vows beginning with Śrī Ekādaśī and Janmāṣṭamī, and so on, for all these activities nourish one’s intrinsic desired bhāva. Simultaneously, one must also render service to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja, meditating on one’s siddha-deha in the heart. The body of a gopī which is suitable for rendering service to Rādhā-Govinda is called siddha-deha. When bhajana is mature, the jīva gives up his inert material body, and attains the body of a gopī corresponding to his eternal intrinsic nature.
In Śrī Prema-bhakti-candrikā Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura has said: “sādhane bhābiba jāhā siddha-dehe pāba tāhā, rāga pathera ei se upāya – whatever subject is constantly meditated upon at the time of performing sādhana, that same subject is the prominent meditation at the time of death and it engrosses the heart.” One’s destination at the time of death will correspond exactly to the subject one remembers at that time. At the time of death, the saintly King Bhārata was immersed in thinking about a baby deer, and therefore he attained the body of a deer, so what doubt is there about attaining a body suitable for rendering to the Divine Couple the service on which one constantly reflected in one’s internally conceived siddha-deha?
In relation to the siddha-deha it has been said in the Śrī Sanatkumāra-saṁhitā (184, 186):
ātmānaṁ cintayet tatra
tāsāṁ madhye manoramām
kṛṣṇād apy adhikaṁ prema
(Sadāśiva is explaining to Nāradajī about the siddha-deha suitable for rendering service to the Divine Couple.) “O Nārada, meditate in this way upon your own svarūpa among Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beloved associates who take pride in being His paramours in the aprākṛta Vṛndāvana-dhāma. ‘I am a most beautiful and supremely blissful kiśorī, an adolescent girl, endowed with youthful beauty. I am an eternal maidservant of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Having arranged for Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s dear-most sweetheart, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, to meet with Him, I will always strive for Their happiness. Remaining forever engaged in the service of the Divine Couple‚ may I maintain more love for Śrīmatī than for Kṛṣṇa.’ ”
We should note here that the descriptions of the siddha-deha that śāstra and the mahājanas have given are for sādhakas of a particular level. Any mention of the siddha-deha is always in the context of rāgānuga-bhakti. Specifically, such instructions are intended for those very fortunate sādhakas in whose hearts lobha, a genuine greed, to attain rāgātmika-bhakti, has already arisen due to impressions (saṁskāras) from this life and previous lives.
There is a further matter to consider. It is one thing to understand the excellence of a particular rasa by the description given in śāstra. It is another thing altogether to have greed (lobha) for that rasa. When someone has lobha for a particular rasa, that sādhaka will exhibit its symptoms. Such a greed arises in the stage of ruci, and this marks the beginning of the practice of rāgānuga-bhakti. It is understood from this that nāmāparādha, sevāparādha and various other anarthas of such a sādhaka have, for the most part, been eradicated by now. He has already controlled the six urges mentioned by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in Śrī Upadeśāmṛta (Verse 1); he is virtually free from the six faults (Verse 2); he is endowed with the six qualities beginning with enthusiasm and confidence (Verse 3); having recognized the three types of Vaiṣṇavas, he is expert in behaving appropriately with them (Verse 5); and he has also become established in the purport of Verse 8, tan-nāma-rūpa-caritādi. In other words, he conducts himself according to this verse.
In this stage the sādhaka goes on performing bhajana, and when he crosses the stage of ruci and enters āsakti, then a semblance of the symptoms related by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī in the verse kṣāntir-avyartha-kālatvam will be observed in him. In the stage of āsakti, a semblance (ābhāsa) of the rati that arises at the stage of bhāva will appear, and in order to manifest that rati fully, the sādhaka will perform bhajana, meditating on his siddha-deha. When this ratyābhāsa transforms into rati by the practice of bhajana, then the sādhaka attains factual experience of his own svarūpa. This is called meditation on one’s siddha-deha, or the acceptance of Vaiṣṇava bheka. One who achieves this, being of simple heart, is worshipful for the whole world.
There are two types of acceptance of bheka. A sādhaka may receive bheka from a suitable guru. Alternatively, when genuine vairāgya arises as mentioned previously, he may accept bheka from himself. Haridāsa Ṭhākura, the six Gosvāmīs, Lokanātha Gosvāmī and others are examples of the practice of accepting bheka from oneself. This is also how Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura accepted sannyāsa-veśa after the disappearance of Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī, from whom he had received dīkṣā-mantras. We see from these examples that acceptance of bheka in this way is fully in agreement with śāstra. Śrī Rāmānujācārya also conferred tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa upon himself after the disappearance of his guru, Śrīla Yamunācārya.
In any case, the meditation on one’s siddha-deha depends on the mercy of guru. The guru or śikṣā-guru who is established in the principles of transcendental mellows (rasa-vicāra) and who is self-realized will indicate the details of the sādhaka’s perfected form. Otherwise, if the sādhaka changes the order of the sequence described earlier, he cannot attain perfection. On the contrary, his bhakti may become completely ruined and the conceptions of the sampradāya will also become corrupted. We see this going on everywhere nowadays.
Some ignorant people say that there is no siddha-praṇālī in the Gauḍīya Maṭha. This vicious propaganda is erroneous in all respects. In the authentic texts written by Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī entitled Sat-kriyā-sāra-dīpikā and Saṁskāra-dīpikā, which is a supplement to Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, there is an account of the tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa-saṁskāra. The original manuscript handwritten by Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī is protected even today in the Royal Library of Jaipura, and the gosvāmīs of Śrī Rādhā-Ramaṇa still have an old copy of it.
Therefore, Sat-kriyā-sāra-dīpikā and Saṁskāra-dīpikā are accepted as authoritative evidence, and according to them, the conferring of tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa-veśa by Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas is bona fide. In this sannyāsa-saṁskāra, ḍor-kaupīna, bahir-vāsa and the sannyāsa-mantra for taking shelter of gopī-bhāva are given. The ekādaśa-bhāva (eleven aspects of gopī identity), namely, sambandha, vayaḥ, nāma, rūpa, yūtha, veśa, ājñā, vāsa, sevā, parākāṣṭā-śvāsa and pālya-dāsī-bhāva, are contained within this gopī-bhāva. The identity of the siddha-deha is determined by the instructions of śrī guru in accordance with the ruci (taste) of the sādhaka. One’s own eleven identifications (ekādaśa-bhāva) given by guru is called siddha-praṇālī. As the sādhaka goes on performing this type of sādhana, the perfection of his svarūpa takes place along with the attainment of śuddha-rati in his heart.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has described his eternal spiritual form in one of his songs (Gīta-mālā, Chapter 5, Song 8):
varaṇe taḍit vāsa tārāvalī
kamala mañjarī nāma
sāḍhe bāra varṣa vayasa satata
karpūra-sevā lalitāra gaṇa
rādhā yūtheśvarī hana
mameśvarī-nātha śrī nanda-nandana
āmāra parāṇa dhana
śrī rūpa mañjarī prabhṛtira sama
yugala sevāya āśā
avaśya se-rūpa sevā pāba āmi
kabe vā e dāsī saṁsiddhi labhibe
rādhā-kuṇḍe vāsa kari’
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-sevā satata karibe
pūrva smṛti parihari’
My complexion is like a flash of lightning and my dress is bedecked with twinkling stars. My name is Kamala Mañjarī and I am eternally twelve-and-a-half years old. My home is Svānanda-sukhada-kuñja. My service is to supply camphor to the Divine Couple. I serve in Lalitā’s group (gaṇa) and Śrī Rādhā is my group leader (yūtheśvarī). My Svāminī’s beloved, the son of Nanda Mahārāja, is the treasure of my life. I aspire to serve the Divine Couple like Rūpa Mañjarī and others, and I am confident that I will surely attain this service. This is my highest aspiration. Oh, when will this maidservant attain complete perfection and, residing at Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, serve Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, having completely forgotten my past?
In conclusion, whatever custom of accepting bheka is seen among bābājīs is not a fifth āśrama, rather it is a second form of the fourth āśrama, namely the sannyāsa-āśrama.