Next tattvavādī argument against Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism is a tough one for me because I suddenly found out that I have no idea what ślokas they are talking about. Without reference it’s hard to refute anything, even though it’s still pretty easy to disagree.
They say that our premā pum-artho mahān, that premā is a fifth goal of life superior to dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa, is a figment of our imagination and does not exist. This is exactly what they say: ” ISKCON considers that there is a fifth purushârtha even superior to Moksha, which a true devotee of Krishna will seek. This is prema bhakti, of the same kind as the Gopis had for Krishna in His incarnation. This devotion involves performing some service to the Lord, which will continue even after liberation. This appears to be based on a superficial reading of a verse from Bhâgavata extolling the love that very exalted devotees have for the Supreme being by saying that their devotion is so natural and intense that they do not have even Mukti as their objective.”
This is the verse I have trouble finding. It could be something from the Tenth Canto and it’s so long that it would be impossible for me to find. Perhaps they mean SB 3.29.13, however:
A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation — sālokya, sārṣṭi, sāmīpya, sārūpya or ekatva — even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It doesn’t seem to fit exactly with the description given by tattvavādīs, though if we add the ending of the previous verse: “such devotional ecstasy, uninterrupted by any material condition, flows towards the Supreme Lord” it follows their rendering close enough in meaning. Still they talk about “do not even have mukti as their objective” while this verse says “does not accept liberation even when offered”. If we have different verses in mind then how can I test if our reading is “superficial”?
Or it could be SB 3.4.15:
O my Lord, devotees who engage in the transcendental loving service of Your lotus feet have no difficulty in achieving anything within the realm of the four principles of religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation. But, O great one, as far as I am concerned, I have preferred only to engage in the loving service of Your lotus feet.
It doesn’t fit with tattvavādīs’ translation on the surface but the sentiment is the same. This verse is spoken by Uddhava, btw.
Another problem, apart from locating the exact verse, is that I don’t seem to know where our argument for premā being higher than dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa comes from. It’s easy to find in Caitanya Caritāmṛta, I guess, but Lord Caitanya is not an authority for tattvavādīs, I need something from at least Purāṇas. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī most certainly wrote about it somewhere in sandarbhas but I can’t find anything right now.
In any case, the objection seems to be silly because even I was able to find two verses (quoted above) in support of the idea that dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa are not of interest to devotees compared to their bhakti.
Now, let’s go back a paragraph in the “position paper” where they outline their own stand on the issue: “According to Tattvavâda, like all other schools of Vedânta, Moksha is the Supreme Purushârtha or objective of the Soul. The realization of one’s own nature of bliss for eternal enjoyment is by the grace of the Supreme Being. By His Aparoksha, the veils obscuring the Jîva’s own swarupa and that of the Supreme Being are removed. The intense love of the Supreme Being, called devotion, continues in Moxa as well. Since it is natural and is of the essential nature of the Jîva himself, it transforms itself into Bliss.”
Aren’t they saying the same thing in different words? Bhakti continues in mokṣa – doesn’t it mean that it is higher than mokṣa? Of course we can argue the meaning of “higher” but that would be semantics. We can tackle it from the other end – is mokṣa possible without bhakti? Is Brahman and Paramātma realization of the Absolute possible? They do not require bhakti and they do not state that bhakti is their goal, even if māyāvādīs might employ it as a method. We, the Gauḍiyā vaṣṇavas say that those types of liberation are not permanent and CAN lead to the falldown back to enjoyment in the material world as well as lead to developing attraction to real bhakti in the spiritual world. I’m not sure dissolving oneself in the body of the Supreme qualifies here, though – maybe that’s a true spiritual suicide.
Still, I can quote the same verse again: “A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation — sālokya, sārṣṭi, sāmīpya, sārūpya or ekatva..” We read it to mean that without bhakti they are tasteless. How tattvavādīs read it is impossible to tell. They do, however, give Madhvācārya’s quote from commentary on BG 2.50, but without translating it in English, making me feel inadequate again.
Strictly speaking, if there’s no translation then we can dismiss the evidence altogether but that is not very satisfactory to me. Madhvācārya’s purport to that Gītā verse is very long and it touches on liberation multiple times. What exactly tattvavādīs have in mind here? All I can see is rejection of various inferior forms of liberation again and again, perfectly in line with our Gauḍiyā siddhānta. Why do they say that mokṣa, any kind of mokṣa, can’t be surpassed?
Btw, they introduce Madhvācārya’s purport after stating the following: “..this love will continue even after Mukti and is not a substitute thereof. This concept is not accepted by Tattvavâda…” Wait, what? What is not accepted? Are they saying that loving devotion will cease to exist after achieving mukti? That’s something a māyāvādī would say, not a vaiṣṇava.
I would counteract it with Madhva’s quote from that Gītā purport that says this: “Achieving liberation and acquiring a spiritual body and through that body entering the abode of the Lord and lovingly interacting in ones eternal position with the Supreme Lord is understood to be liberation in similarity to Lord Krishna…” Or I could quote their own statement given earlier: “The intense love of the Supreme Being, called devotion, continues in Moxa as well.”
I don’t think these “tattvavādīs” even follow Madhva that well, quite the contrary – sometimes their arguments are more in line with māyāvāda.
Final objection in that section is to liberation granted even to those who hate the Lord, like Śiśupāla. They say that Śiśupāla got liberated because he was originally Lord’s servant Jaya, not because he hated Kṛṣṇa with every fiber of his being. Maybe so, I’m too lazy to argue. Our position is that while “haters” do achieve liberation it’s not the kind accepted in Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism, has no value for us, and we won’t recommend it to anybody. What are they objecting to exactly? That Śiśupāla’s hating Kṛṣṇa was no the whole picture? Who cares? He hated Kṛṣṇa and was absorbed in thinking about Him 24/7 and got liberated. Again, this is probably discussed somewhere in our books but I can’t pinpoint the location and too lazy to search.