Vanity thought #1712. Family matters 7

Next up in tattvavādīs criticism of ISKCON and Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism in general is a complaint about four vaiṣṇava sampradāyas. They are talking about “everybody knows” part where there are four genuine vaiṣṇava sampradāyas headed by their respective sampradāya ācāryas. Any mantras received outside these four traditions have no potency.

My immediate reaction was – why would they have any problem with that? I bet any ISKCON devotee would wonder the same. Here’s the śloka as its quoted by tattvavādīs:

atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah |
sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnavah ksiti-pavanah ||
ramanujam srih svcakre madhvacaryam caturmukhah |
sri-visnu-svaminam rudro nimbadityam catuhsanah ||

They say that this verse doesn’t exist in standard renditions of Padma Purāṇa and that appears to be the fact. It was first quoted by Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and we don’t have the manuscript he was referring to. He didn’t give the exact number of the śloka either. One of our sites acknowledges this problem and explains it in detail.

Apparently, the śloka appears in Sabda-Kalpa-Druma Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary which was published in 1808, though it does not site the exact edition and exact Padma Purāṇa verse number it was taken from. This dictionary is clearly not the oldest but one of the most respected ones. The quotation there also has another śloka added at the end and there’s apparently an alternative reading, too.

The śloka also appears in “Sri Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana” – a massive two thousand pages work by Haridāsa Dāsa written in the middle of the 20th century, it is practically an encyclopedia of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism. The “problem” with Haridāsa Dāsa is that he provided direction and support to one “Jīva institute” which is the main source of “no-fall” vāda and the entire jīva origin controversy. I wonder if Śrīla Prabhupāda ever said anything about him but searching our vanisource does not give any results. On the “plus” side I’ve never seen no-fall vādīs ever quoting anything from Haridāsa Dāsa on the issue so it’s not certain that they (Satyanarayan, actually) follow their spiritual master in this matter.

There are several renditions of Padma Purāṇa with different chapter numbering and Bengali version is a clearly distinct one. The Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary mentioned earlier was also published in Bengal, for that matter. I admit that it’s easy to see why tattvavādīs reject that this verse about four sampradāyas is authentic. Whether they can be justified in doing so is a different matter.

There are tons and tons of quotes in the works of Madhvācārya himself that cannot be traced to presently known sources. He cites upaniṣads never heard before (by us, I mean), he often cites some text called Brahma-tarka, which is accepted as authoritative in his sampradāya, but no one has ever seen except in Madhva’s quotes. In his defense he sometimes quotes from unknown works that were also referred to by Śaṅkarācārya so the fact that we don’t have them anymore doesn’t mean anything.

The point is that we should not be quick to call unknown verses interpolations just because they are not present in current versions of the scriptures. It’s unthinkable to suggest that our ācāryas, including Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa on our side, have invented ślokas to support their positions. They are not Donald Trump, you know.

Apart from that, there’s another śloka from Garga-Saṁhitā that describes the four sampradāyas and their ācāryas, though I had no luck finding this verse myself. The devotees give a śloka number and Garga-Saṁhitā is available online in original Sanskrit so they can’t be inventing it either.

At this point I think it’s safe to say that we are right on the four authorized sampradāyas and tattvavādīs object without a good reason. They might not accept the missing Padma Purāṇa verse but they have no sufficient reason to suggest it was a Gauḍiyā invention, plus there’s that Garga Saṁhitā, too. More importantly – why do they object at all? What is wrong with four sampradāyas? It’s explained in the last part of their argument: “According to Tattvavâda, the only correct school is that of Achârya Madhva..”

That makes sense now. We, the Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavas, accept that members of the three other legitimate sampradāyas are on the correct spiritual path that will eventually lead them to Kṛṣna’s lotus feet (or Viṣṇu, doesn’t matter) but tattvavādīs insist that they are all wrong, we are wrong, too, and tattvavāda is the one and only way to salvation. Literally – because they put mokṣa above premā, as I discussed in the previous post.

This just doesn’t sound right. I know we can be a pain in the ass with our claims that people can make spiritual progress only if they accept Lord Caitanya and His yuga dharma but we are not that restrictive, actually. In regards to tattvavāda we say that they can make legitimate progress up to a certain stage and it’s going beyond that that is impossible without Lord Caitanya’s mercy. We even grant the possibility of spiritual progress to Christians and Muslims, just up to a degree.

If members of any other sampradāya worship Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa we do not claim that their worship is bogus and they’ll never reach the objects of their devotion. To be honest, I don’t believe responsible members of the tattvavāda community think that either, it’s just the small group of activists here who declare all other paths as false and only theirs as correct.

The statement that they give in support, attributed to Vādirāja, is not incorrect because it was true at the time it was spoken. Vādirāja, by the virtue of his name, is considered the topmost scholar on the philosophy of tattvāda. He lived at the time to Madhvācārya himself and at that time he, personally, considered tattvāda to be superior to all other existing philosophies. We have nothing against that, even if Śrī Vaiṣṇavas might disagree. We generally think that Madhva’s dvaita was an improvement on Rāmanuja’s viśiṣtādvaita, and our acintya bhedābheda was further elaboration yet. It doesn’t mean that these other two philosophies, and also dvaita-dvaita of Nimbarka, are incorrect but that they are somewhat incomplete.

Once again, our attackers are looking for confrontation where there should be none. They might be legitimately offended by our our claims to have a superior philosophy but to say that all vaiṣṇava schools but their own are false is too much and is unacceptable.

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