Vanity thought #1718. Family matters 12.

This might very well be family matters series finale. There’s just one document left to address and it should be over. It’s called “A Response to Our Critics” but it isn’t about ISKCON reaction but rather a testament of how larger tattvavāda community reacted to this internet activism.

First they offer a brief history of their website, duly acknowledging that to many followers of Madhvācārya the very idea of placing their literature into public domain was against their core principle that only qualified people should be allowed to read it. They also say that they didn’t have any guidance from senior devotees. This generally means only one thing – their community didn’t support them, their seniors didn’t give them blessings, and so all they ever produced could not be anything but unnecessary disturbance. After commenting on the content of their site I think that this conclusion is supported by facts, too.

They had plenty of clues along the way to drop their project but they persisted. If they were meaning to induce people to worship Kṛṣṇa (or Viṣṇu) that could have been seen as testing of their resolve but since a lot of what is publicly available on their site is vaiṣṇva aparadha based on unsubstantiated accusations their entire work deserves condemnation and the fact that the site is frozen in time and nothing works there anymore is proof that the Lord does not look at it gladly.

They say their site attracts hundreds of complimentary messages every year but it doesn’t mean anything – you start criticizing someone on the internet and lots of people will immediately be attracted by the stink you raise, that’s the nature of the internet, nothing to be proud of. The flood of those complimentary messages has stopped ages ago anyway.

Next they declare what looks like the real drive behind their effort – to denigrate and distance themselves from ISKCON. Their basic understanding of our relationship with Madhvācārya is totally wrong, however. They somehow think that we in ISKCON follow Madhva’s tradition, share his doctrine and hold the same philosophical positions. We are clearly not tattvavādīs, however, that should be obvious right away.

The fact that Madhvācārya holds a prominent place in our disciplic succession and we even call ourselves Brahmā-Madhva-Gauḍiyā samparadāya it doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything with OTHER followers of Madhvācārya. We take the essence from his teachings, which is supremacy of Lord Viṣṇu and devotional service to him, and are not very interested in discussing things like philosophy because speculations, mental or philosophical, is a domain of men and 99% of the time are a contamination of bhakti by jñāna.

Placing unalloyed devotion at the top of our value system we see our apparent differences from tattvavāda as insignificant and as caused by perturbations of material guṇas. These internet activists, however, take them seriously, which is understandable. If one does not have bhakti in his heart then mental speculations appear as supreme. We judge their value by whether they produce devotion but these activists see nothing but the value of speculations themselves. They become so blinded by their intellectual efforts that they don’t restrain themselves from committing vaiṣṇava aparadha which further deprives their hearts of bhakti and further cements the value of mental arguments.

So they say things like “ISKCON can hardly claim status as a serious school of thought”. We don’t even make such claims, at least not in their definition of “serious”. Any thought that does not lead one to selfless surrender is not serious in our definition but for them “serious” means conforming with their made up standards of philosophical proof. Apparently, they borrowed these standards from advaitins, seeing how successfully they worked for followers of Śaṅkarācārya, and then modified them to make themselves look like victors. They also see their superiority at the expense of all other vaisṇava traditions and reject the verse from Padma Purāṇa about four legitimate vaiṣṇava sampradāyas. This last point once again shows that devotion means nothing to them. They refuse to recognize it, they refuse to value it, their hearts are made of stone, which is a natural consequence of contamination by jñāna.

In the next paragraph, however, they notice that their traditional approach no longer works when they admit that they have lots of followers of Madhvācārya who moved over to ISKCON. They attribute it not to the appeal of genuine surrender but to lack of philosophical understanding on the part of their [hapless] followers. Rather than realize that people are tired of dry, self-serving philosophy and want bhakti to flow in their hearts instead they recommend even heavier emphasis on arguments and redirecting their mental guns towards ISKCON. This is not going to end well – they behave like internet trolls looking for enemies rather than the truth. The more they argue against us the less attractive their position becomes. It’s a good thing that they stopped some fifteen years ago, saved by the Lord within their hearts and by heaps of accumulated benefits from being vaiṣṇavas, no doubt.

Then they move on to the things they find unacceptable – the story of Gaurāṅga appearing to Madhvācārya in a dream, the debate between Lord Caitanya and tattvavādīs in Udupi etc. I’ve already covered those and have nothing more to add. Then there’s something about a false claim made by ISKCON, something about attributing a statement to a person who denied ever making it, but it’s impossible to check because their links do not work anymore. And that is basically it. Then they move on to their fellow tattvavādīs who they openly mock.

They are talking about several letters by senior tattvavāda scholars denouncing this website’s attacks on ISKCON. They say that these people might not have read their “position paper” or might not have understand English well enough to understand it. I’ve been commenting on that paper for two weeks now, it’s not nearly as convincing as its writers think, and these elders are surely familiar with Madhvācārya’s position on the topics covered in there, but it’s a typical fault of dry speculators – they think they are the only ones who know the truth and the rest are ignorant fools who need to be dismissed.

Their argument that falsity must be exposed is too generic to be taken seriously. They say that ISKCON’s teachings are false and that their own elders do not know the truth – it’s entirely up to their discretion who to designate as their enemies, they use this argument as a blank excuse to attack anyone.

They conclude their paper with a plea for support in their endeavor. Now, fifteen years on, it’s clear that it didn’t go anywhere and is lying there in the recesses of the internet as another failure. I hope the authors of this site themselves have cast away this offensive mentality and regained the rightful position in a FAMILY of vaisṇavas. Whatever their issues with ISKCON, there are far bigger enemies of devotion to Hari in the world.

Vanity thought #1717. Family matters 11

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 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.

Vanity thought #1715. Family matters 10

I think I’m largely done with tattvavādīs position paper on ISKCON though there are a few points that should be mentioned in general. And then there are links in the “postscript” that explain their position far better than the paper itself.

We call ourselves Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavas and everybody addresses us the same (when not talking about ISKCON in particular). As such we say that our movement has been founded five hundred years ago by Lord Caitanya and so it’s younger that tattvavāda or advaita. That’s not how Lord Caitanya Himself saw it, however, and we should remember that even when we use “Gauḍiyā” label for convenience.

In advaita and tattvavāda framework a philosophy is laid out by their founders. Before Śaṅkarācārya and Madhvācārya respectively both of these systems did not exist, especially with tattvavāda. The birth of a philosophical system or a “tradition” therefore starts with writing a commentary on Brahma Sūtras, Bhagavad Gītā, and a set of major Upaniṣads.

In support of this view they cite the conflict with Rāmānandīs who did not allow us to worship Govindajī deity in Jaipur because we were not a “real” vaiṣṇava school. Baladeva Vidyābhūṣana had to quickly compile our Govinda Bhāṣya, a commentary on Brahma Sūtras, and only after he completed it the conflict was resolved and we proved our worth. No books, no philosophy, no recognition. That’s their view.

Our view should be that we don’t need a commentary on Brahma Sūtras because we accept Śrīmad Bhāgavatam as a natural explanation of Vedānta. Therefore “Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism” did not start five hundred years ago in Bengal but it is practiced by every sincere student of Bhāgavatam. We did not start a new school or create a new philosophy, we just follow the Bhāgavatam. Our movement did not start with Govinda Bhāṣya the way advaita started with Śārīraka Bhāṣya, it started with Bhāgavatam. Anyone who accepts Śrīmad Bhāgavatam as the ultimate friuit of Vedic knowledge is a “Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇava” regardless of his origins. Of course nowadays geographical designation is a must. To be accepted as Gauḍiyā one must come in line of Lord Caitanya but for Lord Caitanya Himself that wasn’t a requirement at all. One just needed to accept Śrīmad Bhāgatam.

One could say that Bhāgavatam existed for possibly thousands of years, depending on who is counting, but there was never a school or a movement based on it until Lord Caitanya came along. It’s a fair argument, but, again, to be a Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇava one must accept Bhāgavatam. Whether he becomes a part of a movement or starts a new one is irrelevant. There might have been very few people in history who understood Śrīmad Bhāgavatam before Lord Caitanya came along and they did not form a movement or a school of thought but that does not disqualify them from being Gauḍiyās.

Another matter is that until Lord Caitanya the meaning of Bhāgavatam remained largely hidden. I mean everybody read it and was familiar with the pastimes described there but no one accepted Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Lord or love of gopīs for Him as supreme manifestation of bhakti. No one that we know of – to be correct. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t devotees who appreciated Bhāgavatam at all. Bilvanmaṇgala Ṭhākura lived a few hundred years earlier and he knew the value of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in full, for example. From Lord Caitanya’s point of view he was a true Guaḍiyā regardless of anything else. Typically we say that the science of rasa was brought to us by Mādhavednra Purī but that means it was brought into our Brahma-Madhva-Gauḍiyā sampradāya. Bilvanmaṇgala Ṭhākura wasn’t a part of it but he was still a Gauḍiyā.

Funny thing about Mādhavendra Purī and Īśvara Purī, too – they were apparently māyāvādī sannyāsīs initiated into the order of Śaṅkarācārya. That’s the only place they could have gotten their “Purī” titles. We count them as gurus in the line of Madhvācārya but sannyāsī in that order get the title “Tīrtha” and no others. The explanation, don’t know how true, is that they WERE initially advaitins but later were converted to vaiṣṇavism after meeting someone in Madvha’s line. Well, Mādhavendra Purī converted Īśvara Purī himself, but his guru is listed as one Lakṣmīpati. At this point our official paramparā talks about śīkṣā gurus rather than dīkṣā. Vyāsa Tīrtha, who is listed a couple of steps above, was practically a contemporary of Lord Caitanya. In dīkṣā chain it would have been impossible but in śikṣā he could have easily been a friend of a friend of a friend who first told us about Kṛṣṇa.

Some also say that our connection to Madhva was invented by Baladeva Vidyābhūsana himself who was originally from Madhva’s line but the same paramparā was also given by Kavi Karṇapūra who lived hundreds of years earlier and was born and offered to Lord Caitanya as a baby. Lord Caitanya gave him the Hare Kṛṣna mantra to chant, too. I don’t know what our detractors say to that, except possibly argue that someone edited his works later on.

Anyway, on to the postscripts. The first item there is a letter from a head of a Pejavara Matha to members of ISKCON. It’s short and to the point – he advises us to withdraw any statements that, in his view, appear as disgraceful to Madhvācārya. He doesn’t specify which statements but our devotees understood this to mean the story of Lord Caitanya appearing to Madhvācārya in a dream I mentioned the other day.

We think that it’s actually cements Madvhācārya’s position rather than disgraces him but for this sannyāsī any mention that Lord Caitanya was Kṛṣṇa Himself is apparently blasphemous and so is any association between Mahāprabhu and Madhvācārya. Well, maybe if Madhva appeared to Lord Caitanya in a dream and blessed Him it would be okay but who knows.

The story comes from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Navadvīpa Dhāma Mahātmya and, needless to say, we are not going to stop reading it and preaching from it. It’s just not going to happen. What was tattvavādī sannyāsī thinking? His letter is nicely worded, we can give him that, but did he not foresee that we have no other choice but to ignore it? He could have requested not to cite this story when talking with Madhva’s followers but no, he issued a blank demand to cease and desist. Did he write a similar letter to Śaṇkarācārya’s Maṭhas, too, so that they stopped propagating a false philosophy? Did he sent a letter to the Pope? Or was he thinking that, due to his position in Madhva’s line, he was some sort of an authority to us to order us around?

With all due respect, he didn’t think it through, made a kind of fool of himself, and we have no choice but to ignore him. Another advantage of ignoring him is that we would not talk about this faux pa and would not make unnecessary offenses. I probably just did but only for elucidation of the principle – old people cannot be blamed for anything but listening to them all the time is not very wise either. Sometimes it’s better to pretend we did not hear them at all.

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.

Vanity thought #1713. Family matters 8

Now we are at the very end of tattvavāda “position paper” on ISKCON. It would have been the end of the series, too, if not for the postscript notes that saved the best for last, so to speak. In fact, their entire paper needs to be viewed in the context presented in those notes rather than only on its own. It doesn’t hold much water as it is, however, and this last section is a good example why it should not be taken seriously, never mind apparently strong philosophical arguments presented earlier.

This section is called “Peculiar views of tradition” and of those they list three – acceptance of Lord Caitanya as an incarnation, the existence of Rādhā, and a “false attribution” of a book most have never heard of to Śrīla Madhvācārya.

Over the years the topic of Lord Caitanya’s divinity had risen again and again. We have a collection of śāstric quotes that support our view and others come and either refute them one by one or reject our sources as authentic. Sometimes ślokas cannot be found in existing texts, sometimes different extant versions render them differently, sometimes they can be interpreted differently – this battle can go on forever, most drop it because they get bored or tired of arguing. Maybe some neophytes can be swayed by such arguments but they utterly fail to impress real devotees of this or that tradition. I mean I seriously doubt that arguments for Lord Caitanya’s divinity ever changed the minds of those who spend so much time trying to prove that He was a mere mortal. They unavoidably commit many offenses and close their hearts to receiving His mercy, and without Lord’s mercy no one can see Him as the Lord. Without seeing Him as the Lord they won’t take any dry arguments for His divinity seriously even if they somehow accept them as proof, which is also very unlikely to happen. Similarly, for devotees in line of Lord Caitanya arguments against His divinity look ridiculous because they deny the obvious – that Lord Caitanya is the Lord of our hearts and souls.

In any case, I was expecting a long list of refutations against our claims but all this group of tattvavādīs had to say is that our interpretation of kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ verse is “baseless” (SB 11.5.32). They do not offer any reasons why it is baseless and so it is impossible to guess how they come to this conclusion. It’s just a word that appears out of nowhere and therefore cannot be taken seriously. Once again, I was expecting better from a tradition that prides itself on the precision of its philosophy.

Speaking of which, I would also take the note how they presented our “peculiar views”: “There are also some beliefs peculiar to ISKCON which are not shared by any of the three major Vedânta schools.” Why did they take “three major Vedânta schools” as some sort of a standard against which to measure our peculiarity? I think this self-affiliation gives them away as dry philosophers devoid of true spiritual knowledge. Let me explain.

By three schools here they mean Śaṅkara’s advaita, Śrī Rāmanuja, and themselves. They think, as I pointed out in last post, that they have philosophically defeated all of them and that victory, I believe, created some sort of a karma for them where they think they are the best among equals – they need to have respect for their enemies to engage them in the first place. That way their victory has value to them, otherwise what would be the point? They might as well have defeated a child playing in a sandbox and philosophizing about the world.

The philosophical nature of the debate also established the value of arguments as pramāṇa for them. They do not care for actual devotion anymore, nor for Lord’s manifested mercy, only arguments matter. In that way they are far more like advaitins than like vaiṣṇavas. This is why, I think, in a discussion with Gauḍiyās they self-identify themselves as philosophers akin to advaitins rather than as fellow devotees. That’s why they do not say “in three other major vaiṣṇava schools”.

In fact, other vaiṣṇava schools have their own underlying philosophical systems as well. Not only Śrī vaiṣṇavas but also followers of Nimbarka and Vallabhācārya offer variations of dvaita and bhedābheda but their existence is not even acknowledged by these so-called tattvavādīs. That is another argument that these people see themselves as philosophers first and as devotees later. It also shows that they think tattva, the Truth, rises out of arguments rather than revealed by the Lord within our hearts. They really behave like atheists here.

One could say that we, too, put śabda pramāṇa above all others and personal experience of transcendence does not even matter in debates with others but the key difference is that śabda for us IS a revelation, it immediately fills a proper recipient with transcendental knowledge and understanding. Unprepared hearers, however, only see the lowest, most mundane meanings of the verses. When we say “śabda” we mean revealed knowledge that is actually revealed to those who receive it, not mere printed words meant for playing with by mental speculators. When we say “śabda” we mean Absolute Truth in light of which all other phenomena must be explained. When they say “śabda” they mean some bricks for building their own theories.

Based on these common bricks of Brahma Sūtras, Gītā and Upaniṣads, “three major Vedānta schools” build three different theories, of which tattvavādīs think theirs is the best. Advaitins do not consider themselves defeated in any sense, btw, and Śrī Vaiṣṇavas probably were dragged into this grouping without asking.

Anyway, next there’s an objection to what looks like a story of Lord Caitanya appearing to Madhvācārya in a dream, which is told by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in Navadvīpa Dhāma Māhātmya. Or maybe they mean something else – they do not say what exactly it is they are objecting to here. They basically say that because their own biographies of Śrīla Madhvācārya do not mention any such dreams they must be untrue. Fair enough, but that is not enough to claim that it would have been impossible and that absence of their records disproves Lord Caitanya’s divinity. I have to check, but quite often Lord Caitanya explicitly prohibited people He revealed Himself to from disclosing it to others. That would explain why Madhvācārya did not share this dream with anyone. It doesn’t prove that it, indeed, happen, but that is the matter with our own authorities. We accept them and tattvavādīs don’t, no big deal. Accusing Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura of fabricating false stories IS a big deal, however, and a real vaiṣṇava would have threaded here carefully. This once again shows that our objectors are more of mental speculators than devotees.

I thought I would finish this section today but, alas, it was not to be. There are a few more points there I must leave for another day.

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.

Vanity thought #1711. Family matters 6

Next tattvavādī argument against Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism is a tough one for me because I suddenly found out that I have no idea what ślokas they are talking about. Without reference it’s hard to refute anything, even though it’s still pretty easy to disagree.

They say that our premā pum-artho mahān, that premā is a fifth goal of life superior to dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa, is a figment of our imagination and does not exist. This is exactly what they say: ” ISKCON considers that there is a fifth purushârtha even superior to Moksha, which a true devotee of Krishna will seek. This is prema bhakti, of the same kind as the Gopis had for Krishna in His incarnation. This devotion involves performing some service to the Lord, which will continue even after liberation. This appears to be based on a superficial reading of a verse from Bhâgavata extolling the love that very exalted devotees have for the Supreme being by saying that their devotion is so natural and intense that they do not have even Mukti as their objective.”

This is the verse I have trouble finding. It could be something from the Tenth Canto and it’s so long that it would be impossible for me to find. Perhaps they mean SB 3.29.13, however:

    A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation — sālokya, sārṣṭi, sāmīpya, sārūpya or ekatva — even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

It doesn’t seem to fit exactly with the description given by tattvavādīs, though if we add the ending of the previous verse: “such devotional ecstasy, uninterrupted by any material condition, flows towards the Supreme Lord” it follows their rendering close enough in meaning. Still they talk about “do not even have mukti as their objective” while this verse says “does not accept liberation even when offered”. If we have different verses in mind then how can I test if our reading is “superficial”?

Or it could be SB 3.4.15:

    O my Lord, devotees who engage in the transcendental loving service of Your lotus feet have no difficulty in achieving anything within the realm of the four principles of religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation. But, O great one, as far as I am concerned, I have preferred only to engage in the loving service of Your lotus feet.

It doesn’t fit with tattvavādīs’ translation on the surface but the sentiment is the same. This verse is spoken by Uddhava, btw.

Another problem, apart from locating the exact verse, is that I don’t seem to know where our argument for premā being higher than dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa comes from. It’s easy to find in Caitanya Caritāmṛta, I guess, but Lord Caitanya is not an authority for tattvavādīs, I need something from at least Purāṇas. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī most certainly wrote about it somewhere in sandarbhas but I can’t find anything right now.

In any case, the objection seems to be silly because even I was able to find two verses (quoted above) in support of the idea that dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa are not of interest to devotees compared to their bhakti.

Now, let’s go back a paragraph in the “position paper” where they outline their own stand on the issue: “According to Tattvavâda, like all other schools of Vedânta, Moksha is the Supreme Purushârtha or objective of the Soul. The realization of one’s own nature of bliss for eternal enjoyment is by the grace of the Supreme Being. By His Aparoksha, the veils obscuring the Jîva’s own swarupa and that of the Supreme Being are removed. The intense love of the Supreme Being, called devotion, continues in Moxa as well. Since it is natural and is of the essential nature of the Jîva himself, it transforms itself into Bliss.”

Aren’t they saying the same thing in different words? Bhakti continues in mokṣa – doesn’t it mean that it is higher than mokṣa? Of course we can argue the meaning of “higher” but that would be semantics. We can tackle it from the other end – is mokṣa possible without bhakti? Is Brahman and Paramātma realization of the Absolute possible? They do not require bhakti and they do not state that bhakti is their goal, even if māyāvādīs might employ it as a method. We, the Gauḍiyā vaṣṇavas say that those types of liberation are not permanent and CAN lead to the falldown back to enjoyment in the material world as well as lead to developing attraction to real bhakti in the spiritual world. I’m not sure dissolving oneself in the body of the Supreme qualifies here, though – maybe that’s a true spiritual suicide.

Still, I can quote the same verse again: “A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation — sālokya, sārṣṭi, sāmīpya, sārūpya or ekatva..” We read it to mean that without bhakti they are tasteless. How tattvavādīs read it is impossible to tell. They do, however, give Madhvācārya’s quote from commentary on BG 2.50, but without translating it in English, making me feel inadequate again.

Strictly speaking, if there’s no translation then we can dismiss the evidence altogether but that is not very satisfactory to me. Madhvācārya’s purport to that Gītā verse is very long and it touches on liberation multiple times. What exactly tattvavādīs have in mind here? All I can see is rejection of various inferior forms of liberation again and again, perfectly in line with our Gauḍiyā siddhānta. Why do they say that mokṣa, any kind of mokṣa, can’t be surpassed?

Btw, they introduce Madhvācārya’s purport after stating the following: “..this love will continue even after Mukti and is not a substitute thereof. This concept is not accepted by Tattvavâda…” Wait, what? What is not accepted? Are they saying that loving devotion will cease to exist after achieving mukti? That’s something a māyāvādī would say, not a vaiṣṇava.

I would counteract it with Madhva’s quote from that Gītā purport that says this: “Achieving liberation and acquiring a spiritual body and through that body entering the abode of the Lord and lovingly interacting in ones eternal position with the Supreme Lord is understood to be liberation in similarity to Lord Krishna…” Or I could quote their own statement given earlier: “The intense love of the Supreme Being, called devotion, continues in Moxa as well.”

I don’t think these “tattvavādīs” even follow Madhva that well, quite the contrary – sometimes their arguments are more in line with māyāvāda.

Final objection in that section is to liberation granted even to those who hate the Lord, like Śiśupāla. They say that Śiśupāla got liberated because he was originally Lord’s servant Jaya, not because he hated Kṛṣṇa with every fiber of his being. Maybe so, I’m too lazy to argue. Our position is that while “haters” do achieve liberation it’s not the kind accepted in Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism, has no value for us, and we won’t recommend it to anybody. What are they objecting to exactly? That Śiśupāla’s hating Kṛṣṇa was no the whole picture? Who cares? He hated Kṛṣṇa and was absorbed in thinking about Him 24/7 and got liberated. Again, this is probably discussed somewhere in our books but I can’t pinpoint the location and too lazy to search.

Vanity thought #1710. Family matters 5

To remind myself – when I’m talking about tattvavādīs attacking Gauḍiyās I’m talking about someone’s personal activism and not the position of the Madhva sampradāya itself. Sometimes it looks like they can’t be following even their philosophy, what to speak of telling others (us) what to do. Take the next topic in their “position paper” – gradation of souls.

On one hand all jīvas are different and we can talk about relative value in their service to Kṛṣṇa – gopīs are closer to Him than members of His extended family in Dvārakā, but when tattvavādīs talk about it it’s as if they attach value of jīvas to their material bodies instead.

They start with declaring that Lord Brahmā and Mukhyaprāna (Madhva as Vāyu) are jīvottamas, the best among all souls, and their exalted position is a reflection of their inherent superiority (svarūpa uttamatva). Next they say that jīvas have their svarūpa unaltered through their eternal existence and unless this is accepted it would be like implying that the Supreme Lord displays defects of partiality and neglect. It’s not immediately clear why, at least not to me, but, on the other hand, why not? Jīva’s unaltered svarūpa is central to our Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism, too, so if they are attacking someone here it’s not us.

What they really have the problem here is our interpretation of ānandamāyo ‘bhyāsāt, which they lifted from SB 9.24.58:

    Both the Lord and the living entity, being qualitatively spirit soul, have the tendency for peaceful enjoyment, but when the part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead unfortunately wants to enjoy independently, without Kṛṣṇa, he is put into the material world, where he begins his life as Brahmā and is gradually degraded to the status of an ant or a worm in stool.

It’s this falldown of the jīva into the material world that bothers them, as they clearly state in their commentary: “This concept suggesting a fall from an exalted condition of the Jîva (though it is part of “the Supreme Personality of Godhead”) does not have any scriptural support.” I think I’ve said it already – this paper seems to follow the jīva fall issue that got prominent in our circles around the same time. I don’t think I can untangle it in this one post but look what Prabhupāda says – when jīva wants to enjoy independently, without Kṛṣṇa, he is put into the material world. There’s no falldown there, no one forces jīva to come to the material world against their will, the whole thing is a non-issue. It’s not like we walked on the roof, slipped, and gravity forced us to fall down. It’s more like we looked down, liked what we saw, and climbed down entirely on our own.

Another problem tattvavādīs have here is “part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead”, which they understood to mean that it’s Kṛṣṇa Himself who falls, because jīvas are parts of His body or some such. I’ve already addressed this objection earlier in one of the previous “family matters” posts – we are parts of Kṛṣna’s pastimes, which are non-different from Him. Kṛṣṇa does not exists without His pastimes and without His devotees, and it’s in this sense that we are His parts and parcels, not in the sense that tattvavādīs imply here.

Next is their accusation that in our philosophy jīva is capable of being both Lord Brahmā and a worm in stool mentioned in Prabhupāda’s quote. They say that according to Śrī Madhva our philosophy is incapable of causing mukti and they give a quote from him with their translation: “In other words, the gradation of souls is to be understood, and the quality of Hari as the Supreme to be understood based on this (that is, that Hari is not merely blandly superior, but is superior even to the highest of Jîva-s), and that without this understanding, no mukti is possible under any circumstance.”

This objection simply does not follow. They could use this verse to object to “parts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead” but it has no relation to the ability of the souls to degrade into lower species of life.

This is the part I don’t understand at all and where I seriously doubt they espouse true teachings of Śrīla Madhvācārya. Are they saying that degradation into lower species is impossible? Are they implying that jīvas get placed into the material world and they only way from there for them is up and up and up – judging purely by they material bodies they take in each life? Even that doesn’t make sense because if they attribute special features to Lord Brahmā and Madhva as jīvottamas then what to attribute the progress of mere mortals like us? If we get better and better lives as devotees – is it also because of special features in our svarūpa? Why do they insist on linking our material bodies to our svarūpa so much? Even Brahmā and Madhva do not exist in the spiritual world as Brahma and Madhva but as someone else. Their svarūpas and accumulated sādhana might have earned them the placement as founders of our sampradāya but so what? What has it got to do with the rest of us who get born here again and again millions and billions of times? Our svarūpa is not of much help here.

I understand how they might feel offended by the suggestion that Lord Brahmā as the founder of our sampradāya is capable of falling into lower species of life but Prabhupāda here talks about general Brahmās, not ours in particular. From Śrīmad Bhāgavatam we know that even our Lord Brahmā sometimes makes mistakes and it’s entirely plausible that, while dealing with the creation and māyā closely, he might become attracted to lower modes and exhibit lower states of consciousness. It is surely a long way down from his position to that of a worm in stool but once you start rolling with tamoguna everything becomes possible.

Speaking of worms – to us it might look like an extremely degraded form of life but it is actually a progress from whatever body that jīva had before – only humans can accumulate bad karma and go down, animal species can only go up. The body of a worm is attained by someone who was cast into hell and then got a chance to be born on Earth again. How that goes exactly – first jīvas fall down with drops of rain, then they get born as grains, I don’t really remember. Anyway, hell is real and jīvas do get punished there, I don’t believe real tattvavādīs would object to that.

So, they are surprised that we started with Lord Brahmā but any jīva born as a human can become a worm in stool, the only difficult part is how to get from Brahmā to humans, but that is not such a big stretch anymore. I wish Prabhupāda explained the matter in more detail but consider what could possibly happen to Brahmās after their lifespans are up and their universes are due for final destruction? Do they all go to the spiritual world? If not then becoming human is one of the natural outcomes. Maybe not in one step but eventually they will get there. The only way to surely escape the human form of life is to return to the spiritual world, and we can’t be sure all Brahmās in all the universes manage to keep their noses clean and achieve liberation.

Still, tattvavādīs can’t rely on one single sentence here and ignore the entirety of our teachings. We might not be able to explain what exactly Prabhupāda implied there but we take this verse in context and to us it means that Brahmā degrading into a worm in stool is a possibility, not certainty. More importantly, it still has nothing with gradation of souls. We accept the eternal unchanging svarūpa of every living being just as tattvavādīs do and so they object to god knows what here – more to their own interpretation of our take on falldown issue than to anything else. It’s all their minds, they’ve been corrupted by too much internet.

Vanity thought #1709. Family matters 4

Resuming defending out name in the face of old time allegations of deviancy by some wayward followers of Śrīla Madhvācārya. When I put it that way I’m not sure myself that there’s any use in that, we can surely put all this behind us and move on. On one level it’s true, but the allegations are actually tricky and hard to dismiss, which would always leave an impression in our/my mind that they are true.

Basically, Śrīla Madvhācārya did not have anything against our bhedābheda because it didn’t exist and when we “invented” it we had no intention of dismissing his legacy whatsoever. What we, or rather Lord Caitanya, offered was a continuation of the same philosophy, not something entirely new, therefore there could not be any contradictions between the two. The earlier one is simply a subset of the later one. Acintya bhedābheda intends to explain more phenomena than pure tattvavāda, it’s a step above, embracing and explaining contradictions tattvāvāda was trying to defeat.

Lord Śiva in his incarnation as ācārya Śaṅkara wasn’t wrong, he couldn’t be wrong because he was Lord Śiva, not some poorly educated Sanskrit grammarian, he simply gave people a philosophy they could twist to their own ends so that Kali yuga can advance smoothly and according to plan. So, when Śaṅkarācārya said that jīvas and Brahman are one they denied God’s existence and Madhvācārya was right to argue about that, but when Lord Caitanya introduces acintya bhedābheda he reconciled both views and formalized similarities between jīvas and viṣṇu-tattva that Madhva acknowledged but didn’t put into his philosophy per se.

When arguing against māyāvāda these similarities had to stay behind, when defeating māyāvāda wasn’t an issue anymore they were brought back, that’s all. By defeating māyāvāda I mean philosophically among ourselves, I’m afraid checking it’s spread among general population will take a lot longer and in the end it will still prevail – it’s Kali yuga, after all, Lord Śiva knew what he was doing.

The next complaint is against our interpretation of brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate verse (SB 1.2.11). They say that in tattvāvāda there’s no difference between these three kinds of realization and one’s individual realization depends on one’s own spiritual identity.

These are not two mutually exclusive claims, however. Every living entity is by nature Kṛṣṇa’s servant but it’s also obvious that not everyone realizes his original position. They are not seriously going to argue that there’s no such thing as realization of impersonal Brahman or that yogis never see the Supersoul in their hearts as the ultimate fruit of their meditation. That last one I knew even before I ever read our books from some fancy yoga manual I can’t even remember. Realization of impersonal Brahman is also what advaitins and their follower talk about all the time. Most of them are never going to achieve that but to say that it doesn’t even exist is preposterous.

What about four Kūmaras or Śukadeva Gosvāmī who were liberated souls enjoying their Brahman realization but later became attracted to worship of the Personality of Godhead? Did not happen? Sure Śukadeva Gosvāmī has his original position in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes but while he was down here it was the path he took – Brahman realization first and Bhagavān realization later.

The quote from Madhvācāraya tattvāvādīs give us does not exclude existence of Brahman and Paramātma realization either: “The auspicious qualities of the Lord are infinite in number & extent and cannot be visualized or even understood by anyone else. Mukti Yogya souls are required to understand and worship Him as Sat, Chit, and Ananda as well as Atma (their own inner controller). Superior souls with higher Svarupa abilities will worship gradually increasing numbers of the qualities, while Chaturmukha Brahma has the intrinsic capacity to worship all the infinite auspicious qualities of the Lord.”

In fact, it kinda implies that on early stages the personal form of the Lord would be inaccessible to aspiring yogis and that Paramātma form is different from “Sat, Cit, and Ananda”. It might be complementary but it’s spoken of separately by Madhvācārya.

We can strongly object to the concluding argument from the authors of this “position paper” – that “manifested forms of the Lord do not yield different results depending on which one is worshipped.” That sounds very close to māyāvāda, or rather later Ramakrishna’s take on it – all paths lead to the same goal. They are not saying that associating with Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana is the same as worshiping Lord Nṛsiṁha, which no one in the universe dared but Prahlāda? Why was Uddhava eager to follow gopīs’ footsteps if there was no difference between their love for Kṛṣṇa and his own service?

Next is the objection to jīvas being part of the Supreme Lord. This is based on misreading of what we are saying. We are not parts of Kṛṣṇa in a sense of being parts of His body but we are parts of the Absolute Truth, which does not exist without its energies, of which we are one. We are parts of Kṛṣṇa in a sense that Kṛṣṇa is never alone. He, being the most attractive one, needs someone to be attracted to Him, otherwise His name, which is also His essence, does not make sense.

The way tattvavādīs talk about it there is like jīvas are independent in origin and behavior, too, which is clearly nonsense. We are Lord’s energy, as Śrīla Prabhupāda quoted there – His fragmented parts. The word “fragmented” should give tattvavādīs a clue that we are not integral parts of Lord’s body but they still insist that we do not draw sufficient distance between jīvas and the Lord. This objection is unreasonable, they just want it to be there no matter what.

The next objection is kinda big one and I will discuss it another time. To conclude today’s post I just want to stress how this “position paper” is driven not by the quest for knowledge but by the desire to create a split between two vaiṣṇava schools that should never be there. The title “position paper” should rather talk about reconciling our differences and lead to peaceful coexistence, settling tattvavādīs minds once and for all, but instead it prepares them for a battle. Our ISKCON position papers on contentious issues usually stop further arguments and separate the warring sides but this one does the opposite – it incites further infighting between vaiṣṇavas instead. It’s clearly not a product of a brahmanical mind and for that alone it should not be taken seriously.

Vanity thought #1707. Family matters 3

Yesterday I discussed some unfortunate tattvavādīs’ accusation that we, Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavas, differ from Śrīla Madhvācārya in our understanding of the relationship between the soul and the Supreme. On one hand they took the matter into a technical area outside my [non-existent] expertise, on the other hand they made bold statements that simply can’t be true.

Their mistake could be attributed to the fact that Śrīla Madhvācārya did not argue against our bhedābheda philosophy because it didn’t yet exist in his day. Now that it’s there his followers try to differentiate themselves from it but to me it looks like an artificial attempt because bhedābheda is not meant to overwrite tattvavāda but to complement it by recognizing undeniable similarities between God and jīvas. We are both undeniably eternal, for example, and we are both fit to live in the spiritual world and have meaningful spiritual relationships. We are also God’s parts and parcels, plus the fact that Madhvācārya didn’t even think to argue against it in his purport to mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke verse. The quote from BNK Sharma’s book also does not seem to address our bhedābheda directly but talked about general things which are always, therefore, open to interpretations. I disagree that it was written against us anyway.

Let’s see what they have for us next – the chapter called “Authoritative sources”. They rightfully state that our main source of knowledge is Bhāgavata Puraṇa and that all other scriptures are accepted only when they support Bhāgavata conclusions. When there are inconsistencies between other Vedic sources we declare that Śrīmad Bhāgavatam reconciled them all already. What possible problem could they have with this?

They give a list of sources considered authoritative by Śrīla Madhvācārya and Bhāgavatam is surely among those. The list is beautiful by itself and deserves to be quoted:

    The four Vedâs beginning with the Rg Veda, Pancharâtra, Bhâratha, Mûla Râmâyana and Brahma Sûtras are accepted to be self-sufficient authorities.

    Whatever is not contradictory to these is also an authority and not otherwise. Whatever is opposed to them is not an authority under any circumstances.

    The Vaishnava Purânas (such as Bhâgavata) which establish the supremacy of Vishnu are also authorities as they also convey whatever is being conveyed by the Pancharâtra. Smritis like that of Manu and others are also authorities, as long as they are consistent with these.

We can subscribe to this without hesitation, however, we are accused of not putting Brahma Sūtras above others, as per next quote from Śrīla Madhvācārya:

    Since the Brahma Sûtras determine by valid Yukti (logical analysis) the import of the Vedâs (which, being Apaurusheya, i.e., authorless, are totally without defects), and have been composed by an Âpta, well qualified person, i.e., Sri Veda Vyâsa, they are the best authority and there is none comparable to them as the Supreme Authority for the purpose.

The answer to this is that we, following the example of Lord Caitanya, do not consider ourselves qualified to study Brahma Sūtras. It’s not that He didn’t know their meanings but that for numbnuts like us pontificating on Vedānta is bound to produce false and contradictory results. That’s why we stay with rather simple Bhāgavatam, which is Vyāsa’s own commentary on Brahma Sūtras anyway.

The Madhva’s quotes they give us also do not justify interpreting Bhāgavatam to fit with Mahābhārata, which they say is what Madhvācārya did. Why? Why would he put Mahābhārata above Bhāgavatam when Bhāgavatam itself talks about Vyāsa not being satisfied with Mahābhārata and even Brahma Sūtras? They rightly say that Madhvācārya resolved whatever inconsistencies that might appear between the two and other scriptures as well and that he refuted possible advaita interpretation of contentious verses but what has it got to do with our preference for Bhāgavatam?

Perhaps the last claim in this section explains it all – we do not follow Madhvācārya’s own commentary on Bhāgavatam. That seems to be our only real fault there. Well, they have Vijayadhvaja’s commentary on Bhāgavatam, too, as if Madhva’s wasn’t enough, so why go after us? We didn’t have our own commentary for hundreds of years, too, and it wasn’t a problem. After all, it’s the scriptures themselves that are infallible pramāṇa while commentaries help us to understand them correctly. Not reading a particular commentary is not a sin since there are plenty of others. Lord Caitanya happened to admire Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary and we are not sure Madhva’s had been even available to Him. We do not interpret Śrīdhara Svāmī in an impersonal way and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī dealt with some advaitists undertones in his writings. Vijayadhvaja reportedly did the same and clarified Śrīdhara Svāmī’s apparently impersonalist comments, too. He certainly did not reject Śrīdhara Svāmī so why reading from him is considered a deviation? From our point of view the matter should be closed but someone is probably jealous we don’t rely solely on Madhva’s own rather short commentary on Bhāgavatam (only on 300 verses, I believe).

Next is the long section on “Other doctrinal digressions” which begins with criticism of us putting two armed form of Kṛṣṇa above all others based on Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam verse. I’ve written about that verse extensively already but, in the context of this paper, could add that we are not saying that four armed Viṣṇu forms or avatāras like Kūrma or Matsya are inferior. They are all Viṣṇu tattva, after all. They are like candles lit form one another – they all give the same heat and light and when looking at them all it’s impossible to say which one is superior or inferior.

What our critics really object here is expressed in this sentence: “Though it is admitted that the forms are identical in terms of `tattva’ (essence), they differ in `rasa’ or more complete manifestation of the capabilities.” What do we get for this? Damnation to hell: “All these concepts are not only totally against Tattvavâda, but are classified as major sins (`nava-vidha dveshha’ — indicating the nine forms of hatred of the Supreme Being, by denying His unique greatness and freedom from all defects and limitations) which lead to eternal hell.”

The question is – how can they deny that two armed form of Kṛṣṇa, especially the one that was manifested in Vṛndāvana had relationships with His devotees that are impossible to find in other forms? Are they implying that Mahāviṣnu, for example, flirts with wives of other people and sneaks out at night to dance with them? Are they implying that avatāras like Lord Nṛsiṁha have loving mothers who tie them up for stealing butter? There’s undeniable difference in pastimes and in manifestation of rasa. Why should stating the obvious lead us to hell?

I have no idea how tattvavādīs themselves deal with these differences, we aren’t given any alternative to our Gauḍiyā view here, only that acknowledging these differences is a sin. We can’t take such accusations seriously, and thank God they have been largely withdrawn, sooner or later the internet will forget that this page exists, too.

PS. Tattva isn’t just essence, as mentioned in the above quote, but “truth”. Same tattva does not mean merely same essence but the same true nature. They should not have diminish its meaning there.