Getting back with the regular program – what tattvavādīs boldly called “A review of Bhagavad Gita As It Is“. Before clicking on that link I must warn you – it’s the nastiest piece of writing on dvaita.org so far. I remember seeing something even more offensive there but I haven’t got to that page yet. This, so far, takes the cake in offending Śrīla Prabhupāda department, so read at your own risk.
They call it a “review” but it’s nothing of the sort. They just throw general insults our way, discuss one śloka, accuse Prabhupāda of failing high school education (as if it’s in any way relevant to vaiṣṇava siddhānta), and draw a verdict. Some of these accusation seem to be valid but clearly overblown out of proportion while others appear totally groundless. Let’s go through this “review” step by step.
They start by hurling an insult that I’m not going to repeat here and then accuse Prabhupāda of not following a dicsiplic succession quoted in the introduction to Bhagavad Gītā As It Is itself. Somehow they exclude ALL ācāryas in between Madhva and Prabhupāda as if they didn’t exist and Prabhupāda was not obliged to follow them. There’s a big problem with this approach – no disciple would ever disagree with his guru and then quote his spiritual master’s predecessors to support his deviation. Whatever Madhvācārya might have said in his purports on Bhagavad Gītā we would always follow our Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇava ācāryas first.
Another problem is that we are NOT tattvavādīs, we follow the philosophy of acintya bhedābheda tattva, and so it is unreasonable to judge Prabhupāda faithfulness to the tradition by comparing his purports to those of tattvavādīs. Also, if they have a problem with Madhva appearing in our line of disciplic succession it’s not a question to Prabhupāda, our paramparā has been cited this way for hundreds of years before him.
Let’s look at the example of “great divergence and opposition” – the only example they give in this “review”. It concerns BG 11.47, and not even the whole verse but interpretation of one single word there: tvat anyena — besides you. You can count it as two words, the point still stands. When Kṛṣṇa revealed to Arjuna His universal form He said that “no one besides you” has ever seen it. I’m looking at three other translations and they all say the same thing, just in different words: “Other that you no one else has seen It”, “never before seen by any other than thyself”, “no one has seen before except you”. I don’t think looking for more translations is going to yield any different result – Sanskrit appears to be understood unanimously here. What is tattvavādī’s problem? This is how they quote Madhva there:
“He, the Lord, is called Vishva, for being of complete attributes,”
says the Padma. By `tvadanyena na dR^ishhTapUrvaM’ is
indicated the fact that you (Arjuna) alone, in the body of Indra,
had seen it before. By `tvadanyena’, people lower than you are
indicated. That they did not see as you saw, thus only.
“The vishva-rUpa was first seen by the Chaturmukha-Brahma;
a hundredth of that by Rudra, and a hundredth of that by the
deities; as had been seen by Indra previously, so too was seen by
Arjuna; other than he, according to worth, was seen a hundredth,
and so forth,” says the Brahmanda.
It’s more or less the same translation as given on this page
Three other commentators on that page translate it straightforwardly as “no one else has seen it”, sometimes adding “on Earth”. Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, who is a higher authority for us as Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇvas than Madhvācārya says the following: “Being pleased with you, I have shown this form to you (tava) alone, and not to anyone else, since it has not been seen previously by anyone.” How can Prabhupāda be accused of not following ācāryas here?
The problem is that it’s only Madhva who gives a different interpretation and so it’s HIS view that needs to be reconciled with others rather than implying that all other vaiṣṇava ācāryas are blind men ignorant of the truth. From Madhva’s point of view it’s easy – he gives a quote from Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa where it says that Brahmā, Rudra, and Indra had seen universal form of the Lord before so there’s the need to reconcile Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa with words of Kṛṣṇa. The solution offered is that Arjuna was once in the body of Indra and so he had seen this form before while others, who are below him, hadn’t.
This isn’t the most obvious explanation but I’m not going to argue with Madhvācārya. Another idea is that the form mentioned in Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa wasn’t exactly the same as shown to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gītā. Śrīla Prabhupāda comments that in “someone’s” opinion the universal form was previously shown to Duryodhana:
Someone has commented that this form was shown to Duryodhana also when Kṛṣṇa went to Duryodhana to negotiate for peace. Unfortunately, Duryodhana did not accept the peace offer, but at that time Kṛṣṇa manifested some of His universal forms. But those forms are different from this one shown to Arjuna. It is clearly said that no one had ever seen this form before.
However these various accounts are reconciled it doesn’t seem important in the overall scheme of things. It’s really a very minor matter and has no effect on our philosophy. Tattvavādīs called it “great divergence and opposition to the traditional understanding” and “an irreconcilable difference in this matter between Madhva and Prabhupada”. They are being silly. Both ācāryas admit to contradicting evidence and both somehow deal with it. Was Śrīla Prabhupāda even aware of Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa quote? Not very likely. It’s not likely he read Madhva’s commentary on Gītā either – we are Gauḍiyās, we read our Gauḍiyā books, not tattvavādī literature.
Then there’s a weird accusation that Prabhupāda didn’t know high school astronomy. In one of the purports he said that there are “ﬁfty varieties of wind blowing in space” but that was about the number of Maruts, the gods of wind. Their number varies from twenty seven to sixty so Prabhupāda wasn’t wrong. If modern astronomy says something else it’s not our concern. Why tattvavādīs quote high school science to us at all is incomprehensible to me.
Then they say something about the Sun and Moon and reflected lights. It’s all in the same verse, BG 10.21. This argument is equally immaterial, not to mention it looks outright wrong. The verse says “among the luminaries I am the Sun”, which implies that Sun is not the only self-illuminated object. Polar Star, known to us as Dhruva Loka, is self-luminous, too, for example. Since they don’t give any quotes in support of their view I’m not inclined to investigate this matter any further at this point.
And thus ends their “review” of Bhagavad Gītā As It is. That’s all there’s to it, really. They have failed to find any differences in philosophy whatsoever, perhaps because there aren’t any, and in the process they offended not only Śrīla Prabhupāda but summarily dismissed all other vaiṣṇava ācāryas who expressed slightly different views in their commentaries. To me it as says only one thing – no one should ever take this presentation of tattvavāda seriously.