Vanity thought #408. The first festival in a glorious row

Today is the beginning of a three day marathon of appearance and disappearance days of illustrious acharyas in our Gaudiya tradition but the first mark on our calendar is, of course, the appearance of Lord Vamanadev.

Among the list of avatars Lord Vamanadev takes somewhat middle position. He is not as famous and universally worshipable as Lord Ramachandra or Lord Nrisimha but He is definitely more often mentioned than, say, Lord Parashurama or Kurma or Matsya.

In a way His main pastime of cheating Bali Maharaja resembles the mission of Mohini Murti – reestablishing universal order through trickery and disguise. Unlike the demons duped by Mohini Murti, however, Lord Vamanadev showed His limitless mercy to His foremost devotee, Bali Maharaja, and, upon success of His little con, He personally took position of service in Bali Maharaja’s court as a doorkeeper.

It was one of the most multifaceted missions of the Lord, it had everything – Prahlada Maharaj as a grandfather, Bali the king of demons, universe falling under control of the asuras, little brahmana boy who could not be refused by the ruler of the three worlds, guru giving a wrong advice and disciple disobeying it, the rebellions against Bali, his arrest by Garuda, and it all culminated in that single moment when Bali Maharaj offered his own head as a place for Lord Vamanadev lotus foot.

Don’t we all yearn for a moment like that ourselves? Do we have enough devotion to actually give up our bodies as a place for someone’s foot and sign ourselves into slavery? That is not given, unfortunately.

Today is also the appearance day of Srila Jiva Goswami, the foremost scholar in our tradition. He might have been a junior to his uncles Rupa and Sanatana and he might not have met Lord Chaitanya Himself but his contribution to the establishment of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is indisputable.

He might not have written extensive rasika works or described the highest level of devotion like Rupa Goswami but the truth is we can’t even touch those topics unless we fully understand the philosophy given to us by Jiva Goswami.

It’s easy to claim to have “lust” for hearing topics of intimate pastimes of Krishna and gopis and there are people who have fooled lots of devotees by offering these talks on the cheap, and only by thorough and practical study of Juva Goswami’s Sad-Sandarbhas we can see pretenders for what they are.

The fact is that full knowledge of sambandha jnana is a touchstone of devotion as well as a litmus test for spotting all kinds of prakrita sahajiyas. Some self-appointed rasika bhaktas might look down on the study of philosophy but no real devotee would ever turn away from books establishing the supreme position of Srimad Bhagavatam or nuances of achintya bhedabheda tattva.

Some “advanced” gaudiyas openly call devotees described in Srimad Bhagavatam as kanishthas – you don’t even need to read Sad-Sandarbhas to know it’s nonsense, on other subjects they even turn Srila Prabhupada against the conclusions of Srila Jiva Goswami, and to answer to that we need to know the philosophy really really well.

Unfortunately, we are mostly unqualified to read Sad-Sandarbhas ourselves but Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura have left us with a solid foundation to keep our hearts and minds from being compromised by deviant ideas.

Once we fully understand what was taught by them we can take a peak at Srila Jiva Goswami’s works. We can’t jump over our gurus heads and go straight for the source. Devotees do not study shastras that way, it’s the approach of materialistic persons looking for validation of their intellectual prowess.

According to this calendar today is also the disappearance day of Srila Vrindavana Dasa Thakura. I don’t know about that. They themselves celebrated it half a year ago already! See here.

Whatever, it won’t hurt anybody to remember Vrindavana Dasa Thakura anyway, on this day as well as on any other. Srila Prabhupada didn’t translate his Chaitanya Bhagavata but he outlined its main events in the introduction to the very first volume of Srimad Bhagavatam, that’s how important it was. Just like Srila Jiva Goswami is our main source when it comes to philosophy, Srila Vrindavana Dasa Thakura is our main source in regards to early pastimes of Lord Chaitanya.

His biography of Mahaprabhu was so comprehensive, authoritative, and conclusive that Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami deliberately avoided duplicating its narrations. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati recommended reading and rereading Chaitanya Bhagavata at least fifty times (I read that somewhere).

All in all – a very outstanding calendar occasion with three anniversary convergence, and that’s just the beginning as we still have anniversaries of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Haridasa Thakura to come.

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