The Many Deviations of Sahajiyaism


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 60, Vol 4, 2018

Srila Prabhupada warned against devotees becoming sahajiyas:

"So my Guru Maharaja used to say, "When my disciples will be sahajiya, it will be more dangerous.""
(Room Conversation, 28/1/77)

Such persons are particularly dangerous because, due to having the appearance of a devotee, they can easily mislead other devotees in a way non-devotees cannot. And thus, Srila Prabhupada says about sahajiyas that:

"Unfortunately, they mislead others from authentic devotional service."
(Cc., Madhya-lila, 1.34)

However, in order to prevent ourselves from becoming sahajiyas and being misled by other sahajiyas, we first need to understand what a sahajiya is, or we can easily fall prey to such deviations. All emphases added.

Sahajiyaism only 2 activities

Urmila Devi Dasi is the Chair of the "Sastric Advisory Council" (SAC), and she was specifically asked how to avoid sahajiya behaviour:

Devotee: "So, where do we draw the line of not being a sahajiya and trying to speak to the deities?"

In response, Urmila replied:

"So sahajiyas, first of all, they don't follow the regulative principles. [...] generally they choose to imitate the gopis. [...] So, if you are not pretending to be a gopi, and if you are following the regulative principles, then you are okay. [...] So, I mean if you're smoking and drinking and pretending to be a gopi then that's a problem. But you're not doing that, right? Okay. That's no problem."
(Urmila Lecture, 4/10/18)

Urmila makes it clear, by stating twice, that as long as one is not breaking the 4 regulative principles (i.e. no intoxication, illicit sex, meat eating, or gambling) and not pretending to be a gopi, then there is no possibility of acting as a sahajiya, as you will be "okay" and there is "no problem". However, as Srila Prabhupada will now show, this is actually completely wrong.

Many sahajiya behaviours

It is a common misunderstanding that a sahajiya is only someone who engages in "rasa-lila" imitation and breaking the regulative principles. This misunderstanding comes from taking this one example that Srila Prabhupada does give of sahajiya behaviour, and then claiming this one example is the only behaviour a sahajiya engages in. But there are many other ways to act as a sahajiya which do not involve engaging in gopi imitation and breaking the regulative principles. For example, Srila Prabhupada speaks of just a deviation from the correct deity worship procedure resulting in one acting as a sahajiya:

"we are worshiping Laksmi-Narayana. Narayana is there when Krishna is there, but actually we do not worship Radha-Krishna in Their Original Form. This is why we should worship Radha-Krishna in Their Laksmi-Narayana feature with all respect and reverence. If we deviate from this standard then we shall be prakrta sahajiya".
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 24/1/69)

This particular example is ironic given that the original question put to Urmila regarding possible sahajiya behaviour was specifically in relation to how one should interact with the deities. Another example refers to the Gaudiya Matha engaging in a false successor guru program, which Srila Prabhupada describes as sahajiya behaviour:

"This is sahajiya-vada. He is thinking, "Oh I have become liberated. I don't require any direction of my guru. I'm liberated." Then he's rascal. Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that "This man should be the next acarya." But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acarya. That is the failure."
(Srila Prabhupada, Room Conversation, 16/8/76)

Actual definition

And there are many other examples of sahajiya behaviour which do not have to involve engaging in gopi imitation and breaking the regulative principles. For example, if we "manufacture our own idea" (Lecture, 26/3/75), invent "many ways not approved by the acaryas" (Cc., Madhya-lila, 1.271), create "concocted devotional service" (Cc., Madhya-lila, 1.34), etc., which can be found if one simply bothers to consult Srila Prabhupada's teachings! This is because a sahajiya is actually defined as meaning someone who takes spiritual life to be easy or cheap:

"Sahajiya means persons who take things very easily".
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 11/12/73)

"so-called Vaisnavas have turned to be sahajiya. This means one who takes everything as very easy."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 24/10/69)

"sahajiya, those who have imagined everything to be cheap".
(The Nectar of Devotion, Ch. 7)

And this definition encompasses many behaviours, which can involve, but are not restricted to, gopi imitation and breaking the regulative principles.

Sahajiya movement

The presence of such a misunderstanding in ISKCON has contributed to ISKCON deviating into becoming a sahajiya movement. ISKCON leaders and their followers can now be prone to thinking that since they may not be breaking the regulative principles or imitating the gopis, they are "okay" and there is "no problem". But, in actuality, they are engaging in many other sahajiya behaviours. For example, just like the Gaudiya Matha, ISKCON has considered itself to "become more than guru" and without authority concocted a guru hoax by appointing eleven acaryas rather than one, which then expanded into dozens of guru successors. More examples are given in our BTP article "Documenting the New Sahajiya Movement" (BTP 38).

Thus, even one of ISKCON's own leaders, GBC-elected guru HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami, agrees, as he states that ISKCON is a "sahajiya movement":

"our movement's basically off the track and not properly following Srila Prabhupada. [...] So then I thought, well that's, you know, that just shows our movement's a sahajiya movement".
(Bhakti Vikasa Swami Lecture, 24/8/11)


The "Sastric Advisory Council" was established by the GBC as an advisory body of "senior, trusted and proven brahmanas that offers input to the GBC Body according to scripture, philosophy and realization" (GBC Resolution 604, 2002). Thus, the Chair (Urmila) of such a supposedly august body should be one of the most philosophically learned devotees in the whole of ISKCON. Hence, given the fact that such a person, who is supposed to be guiding ISKCON, does not even understand what a sahajiya is, it is no wonder that ISKCON has become a sahajiya movement.

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