Madhvas and Gaudiyas

A few years ago I read quite a few attacks on Gaudiya Vaishnavism by some followers of Madhvacharya . If you search this blog you’ll find my reactions, it was a technical discussion about verses and translations, as I remember, but details are not important right now. There was another ex-ISKCON devotee who tried to prove to anyone who’d listen that Madhva’s dvaita is the real thing and Gaudiyas are just degenerate deviants. Questions about our parampara connection to Madhvacharya are probably a few hundred years old by now because the list given by our acharyas does not correspond to records kept by Madhvas themselves. Some explanations have been given but we can’t really know anything for sure about those times and names. I suspect Madhvas themselves were not very meticulous with keeping their records, and for ordinary devotees it was a matter of oral transmission. Our Gaudiya records begin with Kavi Karnapura, meaning after disappearance of Lord Caitanya, and so we have no accounts of the previous two centuries at all, just what Kavi Karnapura and others remembered from what they heard. It appears influential contemporaries who were godbrothers have been put into guru-disciple relationship in our parampara, for example. This doesn’t bother us at all but I mention it just to give some background.

Recently I read an interesting article on this matter in Krishna Kathamrita Bindu magazine, Issue #253. It was originally written for The Harmonist by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and it uses a novel approach to such challenges. It doesn’t answer all of them but it goes straight to the heart of the matter and addresses the main argument itself – Madhvas are traditionalists and Gaudiyas are an offshot. Madhvas are conservative but Gaudiyas are liberal inventors. Madhvas are the original and Gaudiya are an add on. No, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati paints a completely different picture where we, the Gaudiyas, are conservative preservers of the tradition and they, the Madhvas are inventors swayed by the currents of time. How about that!


Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada

There is a tendency, especially in this country, to approach the past history of a sect on the basis of the prima-facie authenticity of the guru- paramparā as preserved in the sect. We would be more scientifically employed if we turned our attention to obtaining greater information by comparative study of the different records instead of resorting to gratuitous assumptions against the validity of the preceptorial lists.

For this very cogent reason we must accept as historically valid the existing preceptorial list of the Madhva Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sect till its authenticity in any particular is conclusively  mpugned by specific historical evidence. We have had no cause up till now to doubt the truth of any portion of this list.

This list discloses the fact that the Supreme Lord Sri Chaitanya accepted Sri Iswara Puri as his preceptor. Sri Iswara Puri was a disciple of Sri Madhavendra Puri. Sri Madhavendra  Puri is a most renowned vaiṣṇava. He is, in fact, the great founder of the society of transcendental lovers who adhere strictly to their all-absorbing passion for the amorous transcendental hero, Sri Krishna. This constitutes a great development of the original doctrine of Sri Madhvacharya. In spite of this peculiarity of the teaching of Sri Madhavendra Puri, the list of the former gurus shows that Sri Madhavendra is descended from the line of Ananda Tirtha in the ascetic order of the Madhva Vaiṣṇavas. There is really nothing against the genuineness of the list of the gurus of the line of the Madhva Vaiṣṇavas.

Some misguided critic may try to rashly propose to disconnect Sri Madhavendra from the line of the gurus of the Madhva Vaiṣṇavas by asserting that the Madhva sannyāsīs are known as “Tirthas” and that no sannyāsī of the title “Puri” can have admittance into their ecclesiastical order. But the solution of this apparent difficulty is offered by an incident in the authentic career of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna Chaitanya. He is stated to have embraced the order of the Bharati sannyāsīs. But he was also stated to be a disciple of Sri Iswara Puri. This irregularity is to be ascribed to the practice of attaching their surnames by the older associations. The different guru-paramparās show the same line. So we  cannot discredit those records by basing our arguments on assumptions and ordinary argument from current practices.

Moreover, whenever there is any congregational gathering of the different schools of vaiṣṇavas, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, as a class, introduce themselves as belonging to the line of Sri Madhvacharya. These are hard and indisputable facts and cannot be lightly explained away by inferences based solely on certain practices of either sect.

If, however, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas actually preferred to brand themselves as Madhva Gauḍīyas as a matter of history, inquirers would naturally be anxious to know whether the servants of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas subscribe in toto to the professions and practices of the Madhvas or whether they differ from the older school in some other points. In case they have a distinctive reference, an inquirer should naturally start to make a list of the differences between the two schools. This comparison should necessarily be made in regard to their practical activity, social procedure, philosophy, theology, and different performances; in other words, the examination should embrace both their exoteric and esoteric differences.

If we take up the practical activities of the Madhva and the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas for the purpose of such comparison, we find that the former are severely reserved in their propagatory methods, whereas the latter are vigorous proselytizers. The Madhvas keep up the old habits and ideas, whereas the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas have advanced towards and utilized everything for facilitating the true cause of devotion. The former are very fond of arcana according to the pañcarātrika system, whereas the latter, though not different in their adoption of arcana, additionally perform bhajana like the dāsakūṭa section of the Madhva community. The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas give more stress to bhajana whereas the vyāsakūṭa section of the Madhvas give stress to arcana. The habits and customs of the Southern Indian vaiṣṇavas are different from those of Northern Indian Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, though both of them have a common base and origin as their guiding principle.

Turning to their respective social procedures, we find that there is one great point of resemblance. According to the Madhva community, Brahmins are alone considered to be eligible for the service of God. Brahmins are thus in sole charge of the religious institutions of the sect. They alone conduct all public and private worship. This is also the practice of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. But in this matter also there is an important distinction between the two. The point has already been referred to in connection with propaganda and proselytization. The Madhvas are not prepared to go outside the pale of the caste Brahmins for imparting initiation for worship. In this they are in one sense too narrow in comparison with the method of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. Sri Chaitanya accepted all who possessed the real inclination for leading the exclusive spiritual life and bestowed on them even the position and function of the ācārya. Thakur Haridas, the great ācārya of the Gauḍīya sect, was a Mohammedan by parentage. Most of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Gosvāmīs were not caste Brahmins.

In another respect, however, the Madhva practice is more lax than the practice of the Gauḍīya society. No person is entitled in the Gauḍīya community to mantra-dīkṣā unless he or she is prepared to submit unconditionally to follow the instructions of the ācārya in every particular of actual conduct. By this test, caste Brahmins are also liable to be ineligible for the service of God in the Gauḍīya community if they are not prepared to give up their unscriptural mode of life by submitting to the autocratic rule of the ācārya.

Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas claim to follow the essence of the scriptural varṇāśrama institution in the organization of their spiritual society, whereas the Madhvas follow the hereditary principle which is seldom applicable in the present age when few persons possess either the habit or the inclination to follow the spirit of the śāstric regulation. Judged by the test of loyalty to the spirit of the scriptural regulation, the Gauḍīya community may justly claim to be far more conservative in their social practices than the Madhvas.

— From the article, “A Word to our Madhwa – Vaishnava Brethren”,
The Harmonist, Vol. XXXI, Issue No. 18, 14 May 1935.

The last two paragraphs really bring it home – caste Brahmins of Madhva sampradaya are considered ineligible by Gaudiyas because they lack unconditional surrender and other necessary qualities. Nor are they loyal to the spirit of shastric regulations.

Interesting turn, isn’t it?

Vanity thought #1702. Is there really a rift?

I hope this is the last post on tattvavāda apparent rejection of Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself as declared in SB 1.3.28. I’ve come across this issue as a reverberation of some internet activism of fifteen-twenty years ago. If there ever was a rift between us then it certainly isn’t there now and tattvavādīs themselves stopped attacking us long time ago.

Whatever appears on the internet, however, stays there for the eternity and so our contemporary critics dug those old arguments, dust them off, and present them as something new and decisive. Since their motives are other than pursuit of the Absolute Truth they are bound to commit errors of judgement, they display clear bias, and, as it appears to be in this case, twist the words of tattvavāda ācāryas to fit with their present day narrative.

I think it’s worth repeating it again – our opponents quietly omit existence of tattvavāda commentaries on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and on this verse in particular but picked on the śloka being quoted in Madhvācārya’s commentary on a verse from Bhagavad Gītā. This changes the context – in Gītā the point was to differentiate between Kṛṣṇa’s vibhūties, opulences, and Kṛṣṇa’s incarnations. This is why Madhvācarya brought this verse in the first place, but our opponents take it to mean that suddenly the subject matter of the purport has changed and Śrīla Madhvācārya decided to argue that Kṛṣṇa’s is nothing special and is a mere incarnation of Viṣṇu instead.

Continuing from where I left off – Madhvācārya’s part of the tattvavāda commentary was over. It proved the point I was making above – the Kṛṣna’s vibhūties are not bhagavān svayam, and there were a couple of cryptic sentences whose meaning eludes me.

Next we have the commentary by Jayatīrtha, the tīkācarya of tattvavāda. This Jayatīrtha is also listed in our disciplic succession so we can’t say that he was outright wrong but we do have to remember what he was doing and for what purpose. Afaik, he was a disciple of Madhvācarya himself but he is listed third in his line because of seniority and śikṣā relationships among Madhvācārya’s most prominent followers. He wrote extensive commentaries, hence the title of tīkācārya, but his commentaries were on Madhva himself, not on the original texts, at least these are the commentaries he is most famous for.

This should give us the context – Madhvācārya’s original comments are often terse and incomprehensible so to make them accessible to common people (don’t forget that “common” here is qualified brāhmaṇas, not commoners per se) Jayatīrtha explained the meanings of Madhva’s cryptic messages. Could he always succeed? Yes, in as much as his mission would go, but now we are using his words to argue issues that didn’t exist in his time at all and so we should be careful with extrapolations of his views into modern arena.

Prior to appearance of Lord Caitanya no one thought that Kṛṣṇa is the original and Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all other Viṣṇu emanations, which are also non-different from Him in any way that matters to us. We, as Guaḍiyā vaiṣṇavas, worship Kṛṣṇa, but we still call ourselves vaiṣṇavas because drawing a wedge between Viṣṇu and Kṛṣṇa is a stupid idea. There are some people, however, who tend to take it very seriously and need to argue about relative positions of Krṣṇa and Viṣṇu. It has become an issue only with the appearance of these people and with relative success of our preaching. It’s their reaction to our success and it’s driven more by envy than by anything else.

Neither Madhvācārya nor Jayatīrtha have anything to do with this and so we/they are bound to take their words out of context they were speaking, as I said. So, Jayatīrtha explanation of Madhvācārya’s comment (source):

    As their being endowed with fragments or energy is stated, the
    ones stated as `kalAH’ are only energized; they are not the self-same
    Lord. By `ete svAMshakalAH’, the ones stated to be the self-same
    amsha-s are the real kalA-s. They are not merely stated as previously
    merely for the sake of usage. [An objector asks:] But in the
    Bhagavata, other incarnations such as Varaha, etc., are only small
    parts of the Supreme Being. Krishna is the original form, the
    Lord Himself, thus is the standard meaning.
    So how is this stated
    purport? This would make the word `tu’ useless in meaning — to
    answer this, it is stated, `tushabda’, thus. The following is the
    meaning of the same: these incarnations such as Varaha, etc., are
    all svAMshakalA-s (the self-same natures of the Lord). So what
    is the meaning? Just as Krishna, the Supreme Being, is the Lord
    Himself, so are these. And why should this be so? — on account of
    its agreement with the Shruti cited in this context
    (by Srimad Acharya). The lack of sensibility of the other
    interpretation is also stated: `anyastu’, thus. By this is meant
    the interpretation that Varaha, etc., are the fragments, and that
    Krishna is the original, thus. That here, the specialty is not
    appropriate, such is indicated, `aMshatvaM’, thus. By `tatrApi’
    is meant, “even with Krishna” (it would have to be said that He
    is only a fragment and not the whole).

First of all, it’s written in broken English so we can’t trust this translation to convey nuances of the meaning. Secondly, check the emphasized part where Jayatīrtha admits that our reading is the standard meaning. Well, “thus is the standard meaning” is wrong but the point is clear. Or is it? The objector understood that other incarnations such as Varāha are only small parts of the Supreme Being but it’s not how we, the Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavas interpret Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam at all. It’s the wrong kind of objector and so Jayatīrtha argues not with us but with someone else. This illustrates my earlier point that we can’t use Jayatīrtha’s words in debates on different issues.

Check this Jayatīrtha’s conclusion, too: “So what is the meaning? Just as Krishna, the Supreme Being, is the Lord Himself, so are these.” Here he explicitly admits the standard reading mentioned above – “Kṛṣna, the Supreme Being, is the Lord Himself”. He just argues that other incarnations are in no way lesser. We won’t argue with that, why? It’s our position as well.

Hmm, Jayatīrtha’s comment continues and touches on something else, on the rest of the Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam verse, but I’m not in the mood to start another line of discussion right now. Next time.

Vanity thought #1701. Eva Tu

Continuing with tattvavādīs’ argument against Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam. Yesterday I said that their attacks on ISKCON is just some internet activism not supported by their leadership or by their doctrine. I think real tattvavādīs had put a stop to it because their site hasn’t be updated in years and it’s mostly broken. The part about Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam is a commentary page on Bhagavad Gītā 10.41 instead of Bhāgavatam which should naturally be suspicious because they have Padaratnāvalī and also Madhvācārya’s own commentary and if nothing is said there then they should admit that their ācāryas had no clear position on this issue. It would be even worse if their ācāryas agreed with our translation but they omitted it.

Going with what they present I said that the context of that Gītā verse and the purport is to distinguish between manifestations of Kṛṣṇa’s vibhūtis and actual, fully transcendental forms of the Lord and I quoted the relevant part from Śrīla Madhvācārya comment on Gītā and said that we’d agree with it one hundred percent:

    He alone is the Bhargava, the Dasharathi, Krishna, etc.; other (great) jIva-s are endowed with His amsha,” thus says the Gautama-khila.

    “The R^ishhi-s, the Manu-s, and the devatA-s, the kings who are the sons of Manu, are all, along with Brahma, to be known
    to be energized by Hari, only; the forms [of Vishnu] like Krishna, are the self-same Lord,” thus says the Bhagavata.

    Having stated that the sages, etc., are endowed with the energy of the Lord, the incarnations like Varaha, are stated to be His own self-same nature…

One could object that it contains the phrase “the forms [of Vishnu] like Krishna, are the self-same Lord” but it’s the translation of SB 1.3.28 by the author of that webpage, Madhvācārya simply quotes Sanskrit there, which is “Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam” and doesn’t have “[of Viṣṇu]” or “like Kṛṣṇa”. The fun begins afterwards.

Now, we should remember how 1.3.28 verse fits in Bhāgavatam narration – first there’s a long list of avatāras with brief descriptions of their pastimes. There are twenty two of those and Kṛṣṇa is listed as the nineteenth. Then there’s a verse about ṛṣis, Manus and demigods, descendants of Manu, Prajāpatis etc. In that verse these particular manifestations are called kalāḥ — “portion of the plenary portion” in our translation, and then comes 1.3.28 and it begins with “ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ” – “all of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord…”

If Śrīla Madhvācārya wanted to stress the difference between avatāras and vibhūtis this would be the right verse to do so – Manus etc in 1.3.27 and bhagavān svayam in 1.3.28. That’s what the last line in the above quote from his commentary on Gīta say – sages are endowed with the energy of the Lord by incarnations like Varāha are of His own self-same nature. That is why we have nothing to argue here but our attackers decided to make this about Kṛṣṇa’s relative position among other avatāras.

So the quote continues:

    The word `tu’ is used in the sense of `eva’. There is no other specialty that could be indicated by the use of `tu’. Even for him the same would be indicated, as in the statement `udbabarhAtmanaH keshau’ (he plucked his hairs). By `mR^iDayanti’, the use of the plural would be inappropriate (if Krishna alone were the Bhagavan). Indeed, it is never seen that having stated something vastly different later, without considering what has been stated, some use is indicated of the previous.

I suspect it doesn’t faithfully follow Sanskrit:

    tushabda evArthe | anyastu visheshho na kutrApyavagataH |
    aMshatvaM tatrApyavagatam.h “udbabarhAtmanaH keshau” iti |
    mR^iDayanti iti cha bahuvachanaM chAyuktam.h | na hyantarA.anyaduktvA
    pUrvamaparAmR^ishya tatkriyochyamAnA dR^ishhTA kutrachit.h

In “the use of the plural would be inappropriate” the words “(if Krishna alone were the Bhagavan)” are definitely not there but are an addition by the translator. There could be other reasons why Śrīla Madhvācārya thought the use of plural was inappropriate and it’s not clear what he even meant there because we do have “yuge yuge” – in different ages or millennium after millennium. If Madhvācārya’s point was that it’s one Lord who incarnates in different forms at different times then we have no objections.

The last sentence in that quote is too cryptic to understand and it’s expressed in somewhat broken English which indicates we are dealing with a subpar and therefore unreliable translation.

Let’s look at the essence of the argument: “The word `tu’ is used in the sense of `eva'” – no objections, if Madhvācārya meant it that avatāras are CERTAINLY non-different from the Supreme. The verse doesn’t say they are parts of Kṛṣṇa – “ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ”, parts of the Supreme. No objections if he meant Kṛṣṇa is CERTAINLY bhagavān svayam either – now this is funny because our opponents want to prove something quite different.

I’m sure it’s a speculative reading on my part but if you substitute “tu” with “eva” you’ll get exactly that – Kṛṣṇas eva bhagavān svayam while our opponents argue that Kṛṣṇa is nothing special. It looks as if Madvhācārya’s own words completely agree with our Gauḍiyā siddhānta but to our opponents they appear to mean something else. This isn’t unusual in Vedic literature where sometimes outright blasphemy by demons can be read as a subtle glorification of the Lord instead.

“There is no other specialty that could be indicated by the use of `tu’..” – if we are talking about the phrase Kṛṣṇas tu/eva bhagavān svayam then Madhvācārya meant Kṛṣṇa IS bhagavān svayam and there’s no other specialty to be screwed out of it. Not what our opponents want to prove again.

“Even for him the same would be indicated, as in the statement `udbabarhAtmanaH keshau’ (he plucked his hairs).” – again, too cryptic to decipher. This sentence, however, points to some other reading of the previous ones, which still remains elusive.

Our opponents take it to mean that the word “tu” is put there erroneously but surely Śrīla Madhvācārya didn’t mean to correct śāstra or alter its original meaning. That would be convenient for them but it’s still only a conjecture. Understanding Madhvācārya is hard and his commentary on Gītā is known to be terse so the confusion is natural.

What happens next is that different people see different things. Those who want to prove that Madhvācārya argued against clear reading of SB 1.3.28 have done so. I would rather see the passage in overall context of trying to prove that avatāras are not vibhūtis and are the self-same Lord. It is possible that Madhvācārya had shifted his attention to proving that Kṛṣṇa is NOT bhagavān svayam but it’s unlikely – he was speaking on Gītā and not Bhāgavatam and he was quoting SB 1.3.28 to support his point on Gītā, not to start a different discussion.

Next we have Jayatīrtha’s commentary on Madhvācārya’s commentary and I’ll discuss it later.

Vanity thought #1700. Madhvacarya is not our enemy

I’ve found tattvavādī explanation of Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam verse so I want to get back to that subject before continuing with criticism of Gauḍiyā siddhānta by fellow vaiṣṇavas from Madhva sampradāya.

First of all, in Madhva sampradāya they don’t believe in freely disseminating their texts, and by freely I don’t mean as in free beer but that only qualified brāhmaṇas should be allowed to read them and no one else. Consequently, there isn’t much to go on here for us, especially without knowledge of Sanskrit (because Sanskrit pdfs are at least easier to find). I don’t think anyone in that sampradāya is eager to translate them to English. In fact, knowledge of Sanskrit is probably one of the necessary qualifications for reading and English translations would go contrary to their doctrine.

Secondly, some Madhvas got the internet bug and realized that without English they won’t get anywhere so they manually translated relevant passages which poses a problem – are they translating ALL relevant passages or are they hiding something they don’t want us to see? It’s a question about their intentions and their bias and it has to be answered first. As I said last time and as I plan to discuss again – they don’t look like acting in good faith and on the orders of their authorities, just as self-appointed internet activists.

We should also keep in mind that Madhvācārya is listed in our paramparā and therefore we can’t say that he was wrong about this verse. Nor can we say that his genuine followers are wrong, too, though those who descend into criticizing other vaiṣṇavas are a fair game.

In this light it should be immediately suspicious that their refutation of our reading of Kṛṣṇas to bhagavān svayam comes not from commentaries on Bhāgavatam but from commentaries on Bhagavad Gītā.

It appears that Madhvācārya skipped this verse (SB 1.3.28) in his commentary on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam – this isn’t stated by our critics, however. It would have been a nice admission or, if Madhva commented on this verse indeed, it would be an inexcusable omission. Maybe Madhva’s commentary is mentioned in Jīva Gosvāmī’s Krama Sandarbha but I don’t think we have an English translation of it yet. This means that we don’t know what was Madhva’s position on Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam and have to deal only with his followers.

Okay, the most prominent commentary on Bhāgavatam in that tradition is by Vijayadhvaja called Padaratnāvalī but we don’t have it in English, too. Somehow our critics do not quote from it either even if it’s more than likely to contain an explanation of this verse. It could be that Vijayadvaja’s purports were included in Bhāgavatam edition Śrīla Prabhupāda used for translation himself but it’s rather voluminous so probably not.

In any case, we don’t have a proper presentation from our critics, explaining how this verse has been understood by their most prominent commentators on Bhāgavatam itself, but they rather give us a link to a commentary on Bhagavad Gītā 10.41. This link itself is like twenty years old and the entire site hasn’t been updated in years, which I understand to mean that either Kṛṣṇa Himself or the true keepers of tattvavādī tradition put a shush on these useless arguments.

Anyway, what do we have there?

First half of the page deals with Bhagavad Gītā’s verse itself, there’s an introduction by Rāghavēndra Tīrtha and some comments from Jayatīrtha, one of the most prominent followers of Madhvācārya who is listed in our paramparā, too. Then suddenly there’s Bhagavatam verse 1.3.27 followed by the first line from 1.3.28, which is Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam. It’s preceded only by the word “bhAshhya” without attributing it to anyone. There are these three lines, Sanskrit commentary, English translation, and then another commentary from Jayatirtha’s “prameya-dIpikA TippaNI” with English translation, then summary by the author of the page itself.

It took me a while to understand the structure of the page – first there’s intro, then Gītā 10.40, then Gītā 10.41, then purport by Madhvācārya (I guess, it’s unattributed) which in itself is split, and then sentences and paragraphs from Madhva are commented by Jayatīrtha, and then the author of the page adds his own two cents and these are addressed to us. I’d say we don’t need this change and we can look at what Madhvācārya and Jayatīrtha had to say ourselves.

The context is important – Madhvācārya and Jayatīrtha weren’t discussing Kṛṣṇa’s position among other forms of Viṣṇu but BG 10.41: “Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.” It was about establishing the superiority of viṣṇu-tattva as opposed to various creations manifested in the material world.

When looking from this perspective one should naturally establish that Lord’s incarnations such as Matsya or Kurma must not be equated with relatively inferior beings such as Manus, ṛṣis and devās. These three categories come from SB 1.3.27 and in that chapter they are inserted there between the list of Viṣṇu avatāras and declaration that Kṛṣṇa is God Himself. From Madhva’s point of view it needed to be proven that avatāras are higher than ṛṣis and Manus and they are viṣṇu tattva, not vibhūtis from Gita 10.41.

I should note that viṣṇu tattva is not the term normally used by tattvavādīs here so it’s our translation but the point is the same – we need to see the difference between Viṣṇu and His vibhūtis. Just look at Madhācārya’s uninterrupted line of thought:

    • He alone is the Bhargava, the Dasharathi, Krishna, etc.; other (great) jIva-s are endowed with His amsha,” thus says the Gautama-khila.

“The R^ishhi-s, the Manu-s, and the devatA-s, the kings who are the sons of Manu, are all, along with Brahma, to be known
to be energized by Hari, only; the forms [of Vishnu] like Krishna, are the self-same Lord,” thus says the Bhagavata.

Having stated that the sages, etc., are endowed with the energy of the Lord, the incarnations like Varaha, are stated to be His own self-same nature…

What have we got to disagree with here? Absolutely nothing. We would subscribe to this point of view one hundred percent. The paragraph doesn’t end there, however, and it’s from the continuation as well as from Jayatīrtha’s commentary that our modern day critics screw out there meaning. Is it fair to do so? I’ll address this in another post.

Vanity thought #1699. Why even bother

Ideally, the question “why bother?” should have been addressed before delving into details of the four slokas allegedly declaring other forms of the Lord as svayam bhagavān. It would have spared an embarrassment if proper refutation of the evidence couldn’t be found, for one thing. More importantly, though, we should not descend to the level of many of our adversaries regardless of whether we can win an argument or not. I couldn’t resist the temptation because it appeared too easy but it doesn’t mean that “why bother” could be skipped or that, in fact, nothing has been won whatsoever.

There are certain established rules for any debate on the correct interpretation of the scriptures. First of all, such debates should be conducted between pure souls searching for the Absolute Truth, and the word debate itself does not really fit in the Vedic framework. “Discussions” would probably be a better translation and these discussions could be had between guru and disciples, too, which is the most common form anyway.

In our own tradition we rarely agree to “debates” and there are instances when our ācāryas admitted defeat just to get out of the unwanted invitation. On one occasion, for example, Śrīla Rūpa and Sanatana Gosvāmīs asked the challenger what was the point of the debate and when he said that it’s to establish a winner they immediately wrote him a letter acknowledging their defeat. He went to brag about it but ran into Jīva Gosvāmī who put an end to his useless pride.

One could argue that Jīva Gosvāmī accepted the challenge, negating my point, but he did it not to find a winner but to defend the honor and authority of his uncles, and the result of that debate was that the challenger became a devotee, Śrī Rūpa and Sanatana Gosvāmīs gave him a new name, Rūpanārāyaṇa, and he had a long and glorious history that completely overshadows whatever initial pride was there in his youth (Premavilasa 19).

I mean you read all of this and then the matter of the initial argument fades away completely, it’s not something to dwell on at all.

Besides the stated goal of the discussion there are other rules as well. One should declare who he is speaking for, for example. This is meant to weed out bothersome upstarts devoid of necessary qualities right away. The underlying principle that Vedic knowledge is automatically revealed to those with firm faith in guru and śāstra cannot be overwritten and discussions should be had only between two legitimate “revelations”, so to speak. If one brings speculative interpretations that ought to be wrong from the start then there should be no debate at all.

We live in an age when speculations are highly valued because that’s how the entire science works so this prohibition usually falls on deaf ears but we should know better. People naturally assume that if they don’t know something then they can speculate a little, test their hypotheses in debates with fellow speculators, and that’s how they can ascertain what they think is “truth” but that is not the Vedic way. We accept truth from our authorities, not invent it with our own brains, even if it’s result of debating teamwork. The truth cannot be produces by one, two, or more ignorant people coming together, two wrongs do not make a right, as they say.

So, whoever comes to challenge us first have to prove his credentials. His knowledge must come from recognized authorities and be certified by those authorities as well. It would be even better if he comes to us on the orders of his guru, too, not on his own accord. People who follow their own urges automatically prove that they are not in control of their minds and so whatever they say will be faulty. There’s only one source of absolute knowledge in this world – guru, and whatever else is there is born of ignorance.

If we are challenged by atheists then there’s no question of such a debate being authorized according to śāstric rules, we can indulge only for the sake of preaching but preaching attitude automatically disqualifies us according to atheistic rules, too. All we can do is pretend and use the opportunity to speak before our opponents realize there was absolutely no chance of us changing our views and we were preaching all along. Once that realization hits them they’ll lose all their goodwill towards us and reject everything they’ve heard from us as cheating. What good could ever come out of this?

When challenged by followers of advaita we can immediately disqualify them because they follow Śaṅkarācārya and espouse deliberately false philosophy. We should point to passages in several Purāṇas where Lord Śiva described his mission in Kali yuga and it would become immediately clear that we can’t ever consider advaita seriously. They would say that our Purāṇas are made up and offer us to exercise our brains anyway. What would be the point, though? Sometimes it’s fun to find out how a wrong view is actually wrong but there is a limit to possible usefulness of such an exercise. We don’t need actual advaitins for this purpose, too.

We are not here to increase our brain power by offering ourselves ever more complicated tasks, we should never forget that. We can’t compete with neither Lord Śiva nor with material nature in general, if we go down this way we WILL eventually hit the wall. Atheists and advaitins think that arguments bring out truth but that is not the Vedic way. The truth reveals itself not to argumentative but to a submissive hearer.

When challenged by tattvavādīs we should ask if they really speak for their tradition, which would be impossible for them because there’s no injunction there to hunt Gaudiya vaiṣṇavas on the internet. They cannot be on anything but their personal crusade and that should disqualify them right away. That is not to say that tattvavādīs have no legitimate arguments against our philosophy but to say that they do not tell their followers to harass us and set up illegitimate debates for selfish purposes.

Likewise, the arguments I used in these last three posts are meant for our internal consumption, not to go and try to win a superiority fight against people we have no business arguing with in the first place.

Tattvavādīs actual arguments deserve a separation consideration. Not to go and challenge them but for our own elucidation. Maybe next time.

Vanity thought #1556. Raso vai sah

Lord Caitanya often invoked this statement from Taittirīya Upaniṣad as proof of the blissful nature of the Absolute. One who knows rasa knows all the bliss and one who knows Kṛṣṇa knows all rasa, it’s further stated there. Or maybe not, but the essential meaning is the same.

Looking for the verse itself I found it in a somewhat different place, not 2.7.1 as given by Śrīla Prabhupāda in this purport, for example. He probably got the number from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. This translation comes with commentary by Śaṅkarācārya, I’ve read it, still can’t understand how they avoid the conclusion that relationship with the Absolute is eternal. Apparently, they have to reduce rasa to simple, undifferentiated bliss and substitute it with happiness derived from Brahman realization of the Absolute. In our understanding it’s not even ānanda but only “sat”, eternity, and absence of misery that comes with liberation.

To them it’s all the same – rasa, ānanda, sat, Brahman, Self. So many terms without any actual distinction between them, they can’t have all this variety. We can, and we say that they are simply in denial. To us it all makes perfect sense because we are not advaitins, we are eternal souls in eternal relationships with God. Once you declare yourself to be one with God you can’t explain the variety that comes from relationships and so reduce it all to one vague bliss, which isn’t even bliss but absence of suffering, as I already said.

Interestingly, the subject of rasa poses a problem even for fellow vaiṣṇavas of the Madhva sampradāya. It is actually OUR sampradāya but the relationship is not that simple when it comes to rasa-tattva, or, indeed, to the rest of our Gauḍiyā philosophy, too.

When Lord Caitanya traveled in South India He went to Uḍupī, the headquarters of the Tattvavādīs, as followers of Madhvācārya are known. Instead of accepting them as His spiritual preceptors Lord Caitanya defeated them, which is not how we should normally relate to our predecessor ācāryas. At first Tattvavādīs considered Mahāprabhu a māyāvādī sannyasī and avoided talking to Him and only when they noticed His ecstatic love as He danced for the pleasure of their deity. Gopala, that they paid Him any attention.

First thing Caitanya Caritāmṛta says about Tattvavādīs is that they were very proud of their devotion and their knowledge of the scriptures, which is never a good sign. Lord Caitanya politely asked their chief about goal of life. Dedicating one’s life under the rules of vaṛnāśrama-dharma to Kṛṣṇa leads to five types of liberation, ācārya replied. Lord Caitanya, however, offered a different answer – hearing and chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name with nine kinds of devotional service that follow. When one attains this platform of loving devotional service he attains the fifth goal of life, which is premā.

Fruitive activities needs to be given up, and by analyzing duties under varṇāśrama one should come to the conclusion that they should be given up, too, and then Lord Caitanya quoted sarva-dharmān parityajya verse from Bhagavad Gītā. He further expanded on the topic of pure devotional service but offered a way out for the Tattvavādī ācārya at the end – seeing Lord Caitanya as māyāvādī he didn’t offer pure devotion as the ultimate goal of life on purpose, so it wasn’t really the lack of his knowledge but a matter of etiquette. The ācārya accepted everything said by Lord Caitanya as truth and that they, indeed, follow these precepts in their sampradāya.

This is where Lord Caitanya delivered His verdict (CC Madhya 9.276-277):

    Both the fruitive worker and the speculative philosopher are considered nondevotees. We see both elements present in your sampradāya. The only qualification that I see in your sampradāya is that you accept the form of the Lord as truth.

Twice in these verses He used the word tomāra – YOUR sampradāya, not our sampradāya, meaning He clearly saw the difference. The explanation is that the sampradāya got contaminated by non-devotional mentality and as such we can’t pledge our allegiance to it. It doesn’t mean we reject Madvhācārya himself and it doesn’t mean we reject their philosophy, it’s just that they have become deviant in their goals and practices and lost the spirit of pure devotion. If it happens to us we would reject such dead branches, too, and god knows we have plenty of deviants ourselves.

Because Tattvavādīs got even the basics wrong there’s no point in arguing about rasa tattva, they don’t teach it at all. When liberation is considered the highest goal of life, which is a contamination by jñāna, there’s naturally no talk about relationships with the Lord in the spiritual world, they just don’t go that far.

Consequently, they reject rasa as a product of the material guṇas and treat our worship of relationships between Kṛṣṇa and gopīs the same way as māyāvādīs do – it’s not real, it’s just māyā pastimes of saguṇa Brahman. They can’t understand how we can possibly put Śrī Rādhā above Lakṣmī, it sounds ridiculous to them.

I actually understand their bewilderment. The scope of their spiritual inquiry is limited by the universe – what we can experience in pre-liberation stage. In the universal scheme of things Śrī Rādhā is just a cowherd girl, at best she appears once in a day of Brahmā, how can she possibly be greater than Lakṣṃī? How could Kṛṣṇa be greater than Viṣṇu? He is just one of the incarnations, which is true – from the universe perspective.

We, however, look at it from the POV of Goloka, which is far far above not only our universe but innumerable Vaikuṇṭhas that fill the spiritual sky. When we say that Kṛṣṇa or Rādhā are greater than Viṣṇu/Nārāyaṇa and Lakṣṃī we talk about Goloka Kṛṣṇa and Goloka Rādhā, not their appearances within the universe. Tattvavādīs, however, do not have a concept of Goloka, they only see Vṛndāvana as a village in northern India, that’s all.

The rasas enjoyed by Kṛsṇa with His devotees here, therefore, are non-different from rasas enjoyed by ordinary boys and girls and their parents, there’s no way, in Tattvavādīs view, that they can even approach the divinity of Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa, let along surpass it. They see these pastimes as temporary and insignificant, in other words as māyā, and that makes them practically māyāvādīs, if not for the acceptance of the eternal existence of Nārāyaṇa, which is the only good thing left in their sampradāya, as stated by Lord Caitanya.

Btw, what I said about them above is not some five hundred year old stuff, it’s what they are saying now.

How do they explain “raso vai saḥ”? I do not know, but the only meaning that makes perfect sense is that the Lord is always engaged in spiritual pastimes with His devotees and these blissful relationships constitute His very nature. Kṛṣṇa is greater than Viṣṇu on the basis of rasa – He gets to experience more varieties of bliss than Nārāyaṇa, while Madhvas and others judge greatness in relation to the observable universe, by the degrees of opulence, power, and control, which is at best dāsya. Followers of Rāmānuja at least appreciate rasa in dāsya, but, unfortunately, not Madhvas.

The only remedy for Tattvavādīs is to accept Lord Caitanya but they somehow can’t come to grips with that, so we get to keep all rasa to ourselves even if sharing it would have been better.