Vanity thought #1714. Family matters 9

Next up in tattvavādīs complaints is a verse from Viṣṇu sahasranāma that we read as describing Lord Caitanya. This is what they say: “Even the Vishnu Sahasranâma, known to depict the thousand names of Vishnu, is quoted in support by ISKCON — suvarNavarNa hemAN^go varAN^gashchandanAN^gadI, etc., which are all used to refer to only one form of the Lord in the original — to refer to Sri Krishna Chaitanya! Tattvavâda does not accept these or any such interpretations with no valid basis, which even prima facie appear to fail the test of consistency with valid scriptural statements.”

I don’t quite understand their point here. Are they saying that all the names in Viṣṇu sahasranāma apply only to one form of the Lord and not to any others, such as Rāma? That doesn’t make sense. Are those other forms and avatāras not Viṣṇu? Why can’t they be described in Viṣṇu sahasranāma?

According to wikipedia even Madhvācārya himself said that each name there can have a hundred meanings, why can’t they apply to Lord Caitanya? It’s one thing to say that this particular verse describes some other form of the Lord but that’s not what tattvavādīs push for here. I can’t even begin to imagine how they could reconcile “golden complexion” mentioned here with traditional blue body of Viṣṇu. It would require some complicated mental gymnastics while we can simply say that different names describe different forms and pastimes of the Lord.

The verse itself is pretty clear: suvarṇa-varṇo hemāṅgo varāṅgaś candanāṅgadī. “In His early pastimes He appears as a householder with a golden complexion. His limbs are beautiful, and His body, smeared with the pulp of sandalwood, seems like molten gold.” (purport to SB 11.5.32). We are perfectly content with this description and from our point of view tattvavādī objection is unreasonable.

On that subject, there’s another verse in Viṣṇu sahasranāma mentioned in that same purport: sannyāsa-kṛc chamaḥ śānto niṣṭhā-śānti-parāyaṇaḥ: “In His later pastimes He accepts the sannyāsa order, and He is equipoised and peaceful. He is the highest abode of peace and devotion, for He silences the impersonalist nondevotees.”

I could understand the objection to “in His early pastimes” and “in His later pastimes” that sneaked into the translation – in Viṣṇu sahasranāma the second verse appears some two hundred places earlier and there are no references to “early” or “later” pastimes in Sanskrit itself, but that’s not the objections tattvavādīs make here. In any case, that’s how WE understand these verses as they apply to Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the words are inserted for OUR understanding. If someone would argue that they refer to someone else we won’t particularly mind either – each verse can indeed have a hundred meanings and all of them would be correct.

Next is the objection to the conversation with tattvavādīs that appears in Caitanya Caritāmṛta. They say it didn’t happen because there are no records of it. I mean all philosophical discussions with all travelling monks that happened five hundred years ago in Udupi are dutifully recorded but this one is missing. Right. Someone must have tweeted it, pix or didn’t happen.

They say that Lord Caitanya visited Udupi when the Maṭha there was under a distinguished ācārya and so if he debated anything with him there must be records. Well, Caitanya Caritāmṛta doesn’t say that Mahāprabhu went for the topmost tattvavādi there. It says that there were tattvavādīs present when Lord Caitanya was overwhelmed with feelings of ecstatic love and they realized that He was a vaiṣṇava, not a māyāvādī sannyāsī. It’s at this point that they welcomed Him and He had a discussion with a chief amongst them. He, therefore, talked to whoever was senior in that group, not in the entire tattvavāda community. Thousands of people visit that temple every day, hundreds of thousands on festivals, there’s practically a zero chance that Lord Caitanya simply walked on a currently presiding ācārya and Caitanya Caritāmṛta doesn’t talk about any special arrangements to meet the “big boss” either. It’s all in this chapter from the verse 245.

The point is we do not insist it was a formal debate with Udupi’s ācārya and do not expect it to be recorded. Another objection is to the content of that discussion. They say that tattvavādī scholar did not offer any quotes from scriptures but Caitanya Mahāprabhu quoted several. So what? The Lord did not disagree with whatever tattvavādī had said there and so it did not require any proof, whether it was offered or not. There was no point in recording the quotes either.

As to the actual flow of the discussion it certainly looks like something Lord Caitanya, or any Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇava for that matter, would easily notice – tattvavādīs talk too much about liberation and too little about bhakti, which is evident even from this “position paper” itself. The difference is that tattvavādī mentioned in Caitanya Caritāmṛta accepted superior position of bhakti while our attackers have not. They are seriously prepared to argue that mere liberation is the ultimate goal and there’s nothing better than that. I think it was yesterday or a day before that I used their own quote about bhakti continuing after mokṣa which would make it superior and in line with our teachings, too. They do not seem to follow it for the sake of an argument.

Next section is outright blasphemous – they call Śrī Rādhā a “bogus deity”. Are they nuts? This is how they explain it: “There are other concepts based essentially on Brahma Vaivarta Purâna allegedly glorifying Râdhâ as superior even to Lakshmî (eternal consort of the Lord), the superior position of Goloka, etc. None of these find a place in Tattvavâda, and these quotes are all equally bogus.”

First of all, the verses from Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa do not “allegedly” glorify Śrī Rādhā, they are pretty straightforward. There’s an entire chapter there dedicated to marriage between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Whether she is superior to Lakṣmī depends on whether one thinks Kṛṣṇa is superior to Viṣṇu or not.

There are other places in the scriptures mentioning Śrī Rādhā, not just this one Purāṇa, and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam itself talks about one pre-eminent gopī which one might identify with Rādhā or might not but he can’t deny that she exists, which what tattvavādīs seem to imply here as well.

The part about superior position of Goloka might not be found in tattvavāda but that does not mean it’s untrue or bogus, as they claim. We have our supporting scriptures for this regardless of what tattvavādīs think. It’s one thing if they interpret them differently but here they seem to go for the “bogus” label that denies their existence or authenticity. This is pretty arrogant and completely unsubstantiated. What can we say to that? Nothing, it’s not worth responding, pretty much like the entire paper. I hope that I remember how to defend ourselves if the occasion arises, however – that’s probably the only good thing that can come out of this series of posts.

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