I hope this is the last post on tattvavāda apparent rejection of Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself as declared in SB 1.3.28. I’ve come across this issue as a reverberation of some internet activism of fifteen-twenty years ago. If there ever was a rift between us then it certainly isn’t there now and tattvavādīs themselves stopped attacking us long time ago.
Whatever appears on the internet, however, stays there for the eternity and so our contemporary critics dug those old arguments, dust them off, and present them as something new and decisive. Since their motives are other than pursuit of the Absolute Truth they are bound to commit errors of judgement, they display clear bias, and, as it appears to be in this case, twist the words of tattvavāda ācāryas to fit with their present day narrative.
I think it’s worth repeating it again – our opponents quietly omit existence of tattvavāda commentaries on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and on this verse in particular but picked on the śloka being quoted in Madhvācārya’s commentary on a verse from Bhagavad Gītā. This changes the context – in Gītā the point was to differentiate between Kṛṣṇa’s vibhūties, opulences, and Kṛṣṇa’s incarnations. This is why Madhvācarya brought this verse in the first place, but our opponents take it to mean that suddenly the subject matter of the purport has changed and Śrīla Madhvācārya decided to argue that Kṛṣṇa’s is nothing special and is a mere incarnation of Viṣṇu instead.
Continuing from where I left off – Madhvācārya’s part of the tattvavāda commentary was over. It proved the point I was making above – the Kṛṣna’s vibhūties are not bhagavān svayam, and there were a couple of cryptic sentences whose meaning eludes me.
Next we have the commentary by Jayatīrtha, the tīkācarya of tattvavāda. This Jayatīrtha is also listed in our disciplic succession so we can’t say that he was outright wrong but we do have to remember what he was doing and for what purpose. Afaik, he was a disciple of Madhvācarya himself but he is listed third in his line because of seniority and śikṣā relationships among Madhvācārya’s most prominent followers. He wrote extensive commentaries, hence the title of tīkācārya, but his commentaries were on Madhva himself, not on the original texts, at least these are the commentaries he is most famous for.
This should give us the context – Madhvācārya’s original comments are often terse and incomprehensible so to make them accessible to common people (don’t forget that “common” here is qualified brāhmaṇas, not commoners per se) Jayatīrtha explained the meanings of Madhva’s cryptic messages. Could he always succeed? Yes, in as much as his mission would go, but now we are using his words to argue issues that didn’t exist in his time at all and so we should be careful with extrapolations of his views into modern arena.
Prior to appearance of Lord Caitanya no one thought that Kṛṣṇa is the original and Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all other Viṣṇu emanations, which are also non-different from Him in any way that matters to us. We, as Guaḍiyā vaiṣṇavas, worship Kṛṣṇa, but we still call ourselves vaiṣṇavas because drawing a wedge between Viṣṇu and Kṛṣṇa is a stupid idea. There are some people, however, who tend to take it very seriously and need to argue about relative positions of Krṣṇa and Viṣṇu. It has become an issue only with the appearance of these people and with relative success of our preaching. It’s their reaction to our success and it’s driven more by envy than by anything else.
Neither Madhvācārya nor Jayatīrtha have anything to do with this and so we/they are bound to take their words out of context they were speaking, as I said. So, Jayatīrtha explanation of Madhvācārya’s comment (source):
As their being endowed with fragments or energy is stated, the
ones stated as `kalAH’ are only energized; they are not the self-same
Lord. By `ete svAMshakalAH’, the ones stated to be the self-same
amsha-s are the real kalA-s. They are not merely stated as previously
merely for the sake of usage. [An objector asks:] But in the
Bhagavata, other incarnations such as Varaha, etc., are only small
parts of the Supreme Being. Krishna is the original form, the
Lord Himself, thus is the standard meaning. So how is this stated
purport? This would make the word `tu’ useless in meaning — to
answer this, it is stated, `tushabda’, thus. The following is the
meaning of the same: these incarnations such as Varaha, etc., are
all svAMshakalA-s (the self-same natures of the Lord). So what
is the meaning? Just as Krishna, the Supreme Being, is the Lord
Himself, so are these. And why should this be so? — on account of
its agreement with the Shruti cited in this context
(by Srimad Acharya). The lack of sensibility of the other
interpretation is also stated: `anyastu’, thus. By this is meant
the interpretation that Varaha, etc., are the fragments, and that
Krishna is the original, thus. That here, the specialty is not
appropriate, such is indicated, `aMshatvaM’, thus. By `tatrApi’
is meant, “even with Krishna” (it would have to be said that He
is only a fragment and not the whole).
First of all, it’s written in broken English so we can’t trust this translation to convey nuances of the meaning. Secondly, check the emphasized part where Jayatīrtha admits that our reading is the standard meaning. Well, “thus is the standard meaning” is wrong but the point is clear. Or is it? The objector understood that other incarnations such as Varāha are only small parts of the Supreme Being but it’s not how we, the Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavas interpret Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam at all. It’s the wrong kind of objector and so Jayatīrtha argues not with us but with someone else. This illustrates my earlier point that we can’t use Jayatīrtha’s words in debates on different issues.
Check this Jayatīrtha’s conclusion, too: “So what is the meaning? Just as Krishna, the Supreme Being, is the Lord Himself, so are these.” Here he explicitly admits the standard reading mentioned above – “Kṛṣna, the Supreme Being, is the Lord Himself”. He just argues that other incarnations are in no way lesser. We won’t argue with that, why? It’s our position as well.
Hmm, Jayatīrtha’s comment continues and touches on something else, on the rest of the Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam verse, but I’m not in the mood to start another line of discussion right now. Next time.