Resuming defending out name in the face of old time allegations of deviancy by some wayward followers of Śrīla Madhvācārya. When I put it that way I’m not sure myself that there’s any use in that, we can surely put all this behind us and move on. On one level it’s true, but the allegations are actually tricky and hard to dismiss, which would always leave an impression in our/my mind that they are true.
Basically, Śrīla Madvhācārya did not have anything against our bhedābheda because it didn’t exist and when we “invented” it we had no intention of dismissing his legacy whatsoever. What we, or rather Lord Caitanya, offered was a continuation of the same philosophy, not something entirely new, therefore there could not be any contradictions between the two. The earlier one is simply a subset of the later one. Acintya bhedābheda intends to explain more phenomena than pure tattvavāda, it’s a step above, embracing and explaining contradictions tattvāvāda was trying to defeat.
Lord Śiva in his incarnation as ācārya Śaṅkara wasn’t wrong, he couldn’t be wrong because he was Lord Śiva, not some poorly educated Sanskrit grammarian, he simply gave people a philosophy they could twist to their own ends so that Kali yuga can advance smoothly and according to plan. So, when Śaṅkarācārya said that jīvas and Brahman are one they denied God’s existence and Madhvācārya was right to argue about that, but when Lord Caitanya introduces acintya bhedābheda he reconciled both views and formalized similarities between jīvas and viṣṇu-tattva that Madhva acknowledged but didn’t put into his philosophy per se.
When arguing against māyāvāda these similarities had to stay behind, when defeating māyāvāda wasn’t an issue anymore they were brought back, that’s all. By defeating māyāvāda I mean philosophically among ourselves, I’m afraid checking it’s spread among general population will take a lot longer and in the end it will still prevail – it’s Kali yuga, after all, Lord Śiva knew what he was doing.
The next complaint is against our interpretation of brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate verse (SB 1.2.11). They say that in tattvāvāda there’s no difference between these three kinds of realization and one’s individual realization depends on one’s own spiritual identity.
These are not two mutually exclusive claims, however. Every living entity is by nature Kṛṣṇa’s servant but it’s also obvious that not everyone realizes his original position. They are not seriously going to argue that there’s no such thing as realization of impersonal Brahman or that yogis never see the Supersoul in their hearts as the ultimate fruit of their meditation. That last one I knew even before I ever read our books from some fancy yoga manual I can’t even remember. Realization of impersonal Brahman is also what advaitins and their follower talk about all the time. Most of them are never going to achieve that but to say that it doesn’t even exist is preposterous.
What about four Kūmaras or Śukadeva Gosvāmī who were liberated souls enjoying their Brahman realization but later became attracted to worship of the Personality of Godhead? Did not happen? Sure Śukadeva Gosvāmī has his original position in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes but while he was down here it was the path he took – Brahman realization first and Bhagavān realization later.
The quote from Madhvācāraya tattvāvādīs give us does not exclude existence of Brahman and Paramātma realization either: “The auspicious qualities of the Lord are infinite in number & extent and cannot be visualized or even understood by anyone else. Mukti Yogya souls are required to understand and worship Him as Sat, Chit, and Ananda as well as Atma (their own inner controller). Superior souls with higher Svarupa abilities will worship gradually increasing numbers of the qualities, while Chaturmukha Brahma has the intrinsic capacity to worship all the infinite auspicious qualities of the Lord.”
In fact, it kinda implies that on early stages the personal form of the Lord would be inaccessible to aspiring yogis and that Paramātma form is different from “Sat, Cit, and Ananda”. It might be complementary but it’s spoken of separately by Madhvācārya.
We can strongly object to the concluding argument from the authors of this “position paper” – that “manifested forms of the Lord do not yield different results depending on which one is worshipped.” That sounds very close to māyāvāda, or rather later Ramakrishna’s take on it – all paths lead to the same goal. They are not saying that associating with Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana is the same as worshiping Lord Nṛsiṁha, which no one in the universe dared but Prahlāda? Why was Uddhava eager to follow gopīs’ footsteps if there was no difference between their love for Kṛṣṇa and his own service?
Next is the objection to jīvas being part of the Supreme Lord. This is based on misreading of what we are saying. We are not parts of Kṛṣṇa in a sense of being parts of His body but we are parts of the Absolute Truth, which does not exist without its energies, of which we are one. We are parts of Kṛṣṇa in a sense that Kṛṣṇa is never alone. He, being the most attractive one, needs someone to be attracted to Him, otherwise His name, which is also His essence, does not make sense.
The way tattvavādīs talk about it there is like jīvas are independent in origin and behavior, too, which is clearly nonsense. We are Lord’s energy, as Śrīla Prabhupāda quoted there – His fragmented parts. The word “fragmented” should give tattvavādīs a clue that we are not integral parts of Lord’s body but they still insist that we do not draw sufficient distance between jīvas and the Lord. This objection is unreasonable, they just want it to be there no matter what.
The next objection is kinda big one and I will discuss it another time. To conclude today’s post I just want to stress how this “position paper” is driven not by the quest for knowledge but by the desire to create a split between two vaiṣṇava schools that should never be there. The title “position paper” should rather talk about reconciling our differences and lead to peaceful coexistence, settling tattvavādīs minds once and for all, but instead it prepares them for a battle. Our ISKCON position papers on contentious issues usually stop further arguments and separate the warring sides but this one does the opposite – it incites further infighting between vaiṣṇavas instead. It’s clearly not a product of a brahmanical mind and for that alone it should not be taken seriously.