Vanity thought #588. The price of being right

I already mentioned the episode with Jiva Goswami angering his uncle and spiritual master Rupa Goswami but I think it deserves a little more consideration.

The story is taken from Bhaktiratnakara by Narahari Chakravarti, there’s an .rtf and .pdf translations floating around the net, it’s on page 182 of the original book, in electronic copies page formatting is different but original numbering is preserved.

So, Srila Rupa Goswami just started writing his Bhakit Rasamrita Sindhu and when Vallabha Bhatta arrived to see him he had only mangala charana, introductory verses, to show him. Vallabha Bhatta thought something was wrong about them and offered a correction. Jiva Goswami, who just arrived in Vrindavan, was fanning Rupa Goswami and heard Vallabha Bhatta suggestions but didn’t agree with them. He quietly followed Vallabha Bhatta to Yamuna and while Vallabha was taking a bath Jiva defended the version of Rupa Goswami and argued that no corrections were necessary.

Vallabha Bhatta returned from taking his bath and asked Rupa Goswami who that young learned man was, he praised Jiva’s erudition and agreed with Jiva’s conclusion.

When Jiva returned shortly afterwards, however, Rupa Goswami was cold and resolute. He didn’t display any anger but rather in a quiet, authoritative voice allowing for no interruptions he sent Jiva back to where he came from, to Bengal. He was so serious that Jiva had nothing else to do but to pack up and leave, there was no room for arguing for himself in Rupa Goswami’s words.

Once Jiva left Vrindavana and gathered his wits he thought that he wouldn’t give up so easily. He decided to stay in a forest in Nandaghat, some ten kilometers away. He hoped that by fasting and praying he would get into Rupa Goswami’s good graces again. This lasted for some time until Srila Sanatana Goswami on his tour of Vrindavana forests arrived at Nanda Ghat and the residents told him of a young, emancipated goswami living in a nearby forest.

Sanatana Goswami realized that it must have been Jiva and he hurried to see the sadhu. Jiva Goswami was so thin that even Sanatana Goswami, the great ascetic himself, got worried. It’s important to note here that even Sanatana Goswami didn’t know the exact reason why Jiva was in this exile. Upon hearing the reason for the banishment Sanatana Goswami immediately returned to see Rupa.

Rupa Goswami heard of his return and went out to meet him, Sanatana Goswami asked him about his well-being and about the progress of his book, Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. “Oh, it’s okay,” said Rupa, “I’ve finished writing it but without Jiva it’s still unedited. – About that…,” said Sanatana, and he told him Jiva’s story. Rupa Goswami’s heart melted and they immediately brought Jiva back. The end.

Normally we accept everything from Bhakitratnakara without questions and it’s very unlikely that this story is completely made up but there are some doubts about its timeline.

Vallabha Bhatta was a contemporary of Lord Chaitanya and he left this world in 1531. There are different opinions on when Srila Jiva Goswami was born and when he came to Vrindavana but if we take the earliest possible dates it’s possible that he caught Vallabha Bhatta just before his departure. That is if Jiva Goswami was born in 1513 and he was eighteen when he came to Vrindavana, which would have been 1531.

Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, however, was completed in 1541, ten years later. It’s not very likely that Jiva Goswami lived incognito in Nanda Ghat for ten years or that it took him ten years to edit the book, or even ten years both for his exile and the editing.

Regardless, the story is part of our Gaudiya tradition, the objection to its timing comes from infamous Jagat, a very knowledgeable devotee who left Srila Prabhupada, which actually disqualifies him from studying Gaudiya history as this is the most serious guru aparadha, and who also thinks that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a fraud who forged Chaitanya Upanishad himself.

I mean how twisted and corrupted one’s mind must be if he accuses our spotless acharyas like Bhaktivinoda Thakur of forgery. I can only conclude that once one places the path of scholarship above the path of devotion he is lost to devotional service. Who cares if Jagat is “right” because, as far as devotional service goes, he is definitely and irreparably wrong – just look at how strict Srila Rupa Goswami was regarding proper etiquette when dealing with devotees.

Well, I’ve been meaning to discuss etiquette lessons from this story but there are so many of them that it’s better to leave it for another day.

Vanity thought #365. Darned objectivity

The debate over proper means of motivation raged on Dandavats for quite some time, until the OP posted four replies to clarify his position.

For a couple of days I thought of a clever way to respond, exploiting holes left in his presentation. There’s one that didn’t let me sleep or chant in peace and I was all ready to present my rebuttal but then I decided to drop the matter completely.

I know what is wrong there, I’ve mentioned it here earlier, and I’ve got even more on the subject, but who really needs this stuff? All it achieves is an argument with a senior devotee who had been a devotee before I was even born.

Srila Jiva Goswami was banished from Vrindavana for arguing with a friend of his spiritual master, didn’t matter that he was right and the senior devotee was wrong.

Objectivity means squat in devotional life. I’ve been railing against it here but now it’s the time to put this theory in practice and drop my own search for truth if it saves me from public spat that might present a respected vaishnava in less favorable way, not to mention damage to my own spiritual life.

It took me most of the day to come to grips with this decision and I had to go through several versions of my farewell message until I finally retired almost all references to alleged holes in that devotee’s presentation. It was surprisingly easy to sit down and actually post it then. I think I did the right thing.

As for the matter itself – as I said, I know where its weak spots are and I’m ready to watch for them in my own life and elsewhere, there’s no need to go public about it, let Krishna sort it out, it’s not my job to correct senior devotees. In fact I have no right to correct any devotee – it’s the responsibility of gurus and managers and I’m neither.

I hope this episode helps me fight this tendency to control other people’s lives. It’s a small start but I have to make the first step somewhere.