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Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Saviour and the Saved

Biography of Lord Chaitanya: The primary sources for the biography of Lord Chaitanya are the notes of Shri Murari Gupta (pre-sannyasa period) and Shri Swarupa Damodara Goswami (post-sannyasa period). Besides, other associates of Lord Chaitanya like Shri Narahari Sarkara Thakura and Shrila Raghunatha dasa Goswami also passed on the tradition through their discourses. All the information were then compiled into authoritative biographies: Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata (pre-sannyasa period) by Shri Vrindavana dasa Thakura, Shri Chaitanya Mangala by Shri Locana dasa Thakura (disciple of Shri Narahari) and Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita by Shrila Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami (disciple of Shrila Raghunatha).

As far as philosophical position is concerned, they can be found in the works of His primary disciples: Shrila Rupa Goswami (Lord Chaitanya personally gave him instructions for 10 days at Prayaga. His principal work is Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. For the list of all works:, Shrila Sanatana Goswami (Lord Chaitanya instructed him for one month at Varanasi. His principal work is Hari-bhakti-vilasa. The list of his works: and Shrila Jiva Goswami (He was the nephew of Shrila Rupa and Sanatana and his primary works are the seven Sandarbhas; For the direct teachings of Lord Chaitanya, one may refer to Shri Sikshastakam consisting of eight verses.

Lord Chaitanya was the disciple of Shripada Iswara Puri and grand disciple of Shripada Madhavendra Puri. Many of the disciples of Madhavendra Puri were His senior associates, viz., Shri Nityananda Prabhu, Shri Advaita Acharya, Shripada Paramananda Puri, Shripada Brahmananda Puri, Shri Ranga Puri, Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi and Shri Raghupati Upadhyaya. Shripada Madhavendra Puri was initiated by Shripada Lakshmipati Tirtha of Dvaita sampradaya, but inspired by gopi bhava (neglected in Dvaita). He later preached in Vrindavana, Bengal and Orissa and his followers were known as Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

Lord Chaitanya, although given sannyasa by Shri Keshava Bharati, never used his sannyasa name Bharati nor he carried the ekadanda (broken and thrown into the river by Nityananda Prabhu). He converted the greatest Advaita philosophers of His times Shri Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Shri Prakashananda Saraswati (alongwith his 10,000 sannyasi disciples) into Vaishnavism. However, he was non-sectarian. He accepted the principles based on pure devotional service from any authorized person. He deeply appreciated the works of Shridhara Swami (Bhavartha-dipika commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam), Jayadeva Goswami (Gita Govinda), Bilvamangala Thakura (Shri Krishna-karanamrita), songs of Vidyapati and Chandidasa and Shri Brahma-samhita (the fifth chapter retrieved by Lord Chaitanya Himself from Adi Keshava temple, now in Kerala). In fact, his philosophy (termed as achintya bhedabheda tattva by Shrila Jiva Goswami) can be found in Shri Brahma-samhita.

Lord Chaitanya visited the prominent centres of Vaishnavism like Shrirangam (Vishistadvaita) and Udupi (Dvaita) and interacted with great Vaishnava acharyas like Shripada Keshava Kashmiri Bhattacharya (Dvaitadvaita) and Shripada Vallabhacharya (Suddhadvaita).The principle of achintya is very important as it tries to remove sectarian differences among Vaishnava sampradayas by stating that the contradictions are inconceivably reconciled in the personality and potency of Lord Krishna. These conclusions were later doctrinized by His disciples into achintya bhedabheda tattva, shakti parinamavada, etc. He abhorred Kevaladvaita of Shripada Shankaracharya because it ultimately rejects the Names, Forms, Attributes, Passtimes, Associates, Paraphernalia and Abodes of Lord Krishna.

I think this is a standard Gaudiya position.

The information is based on standard biographies, CB, CM and CC. 

However, I see internal contradictions. For example, CB and CC describe Sarvabhauma episode very differently.

The Gaudiya biographies are not objective historical texts, but poetic expressions of devotional ecstasy. In the Vedic tradition, the apparent contradictions within texts are resolved by commentaries on those texts. Therefore, it is futile to study texts or statements within them in isolation from the living tradition. Of course, from the perspective of critical scholarship, it may be interesting to study the texts from diverse points of view. But then, the researcher has to either reject the portions of the text beyond his epistemological limitations or interpret them based on his own or existing speculation(s).

If he converted 10000 advaita sannyasis, it is inconceivable that no contemporary advaitin such as Madhusudana Saraswati does not discuss him.

As far as the conversion (check CC) is concerned, it did not involve a change of monastic order. It was a transformation of heart. Since Lord Chaitanya did not have any separate institutional framework for His philosophical system (established later by His followers in Vrindavan, Bengal and Utkala), the conversion did  not affect the normal social allegiances within Varanasi.

Shri Madhusudana Saraswati is himself said to be influenced by Lord Chaitanya in his early life and towards the end emphasized bhakti over vivarta. He does not discuss Lord Chaitanya's philosophy in his works because the tenets of Gaudiya Vaishnavism were not yet doctrinized. As far as other contemporary Advaita writers are concerned, Shri Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya has works glorifying Lord Chaitanya. It would seeking too far to expect staunch Advaitists (who refused to accept Lord Chaitanya s line) to write about the infiltration of bhakti within their ranks.

Jagadananda Das: Biman Bihari Majumdar's Chaitanya Charita Upadan is now available in reprint from Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar in Calcutta. Tony Stewart's book on Chaitanya updates a lot of that information, shedding a great deal of light on various aspects of Chaitanya lila from a scholarly perspective. Both these books are invaluable for anyone doing historical research of Mahaprabhu's life.

Vivek Kaul: (mentions quotations from Jan Brezenski/ Hiranyagarbha/ Jagadananda and Tony Stewart, who quotes a unauthorized biography on Lord Chaitanya by a 16th century poet Jayananda)

Saurav Sarmah: Why am I to accept Jagatji's conclusions? Who is Jayananda? Why does Tonyji's opinion on accuracy of a historical event matter to me?

Vivek Kaul: Saurav, research and read this topic thoroughly and come to the conclusion. At least we need to see the points in detail. Jagadananda Das can perhaps let us know who Jayananda is. Perhaps he is of the biographers of Sri Chaitanya.

Vivek Kaul: Chaitanya-mangal of Jayananda ( biographical poem on Shri Chaitanya. So he is a devotee of Sri Chaitanya who lived during his time.

Saurav Sarmah: How do we verify that? Now, why should we accept Banglapedia's analysis? It says, "Lochandas's Chaitanyamangal mainly depicts Chaitanya's childhood activities and his human side." Human side!!! I think you have read Chaitanya Mangal.

Vivek Kaul: Saurav ji, please calm down. I just said that Jayananda is one of the biographers of Sri Chaitanya and has mentioned his death. Others remained silent about it. Now I just searched that page to show that Jayananda is indeed one of the biographers. I am not saying that the Banglapedia's analysis of the biographies is correct.

Vivek Kaul: Jayananda is not interpreted by Tonyji, Jayananda has just described Sri Chaitanya's departure. Others have not. It is similar to the issue of whether resurrection took place according to the version of the Bible or it did not (according to the Quran). If you are Muslim, you will believe in the Quranic version otherwise in the biblical version. You just have to pick the story that appeals to your heart.

Saurav Sarmah: Since you quote from Tonyji's book, it is his interpretation, unless you provide Jayananda's exact words. Even if it is a proper translation, who exactly is Jayananda?

Saurav Sarmah: Picking up stories appealing to our hearts do not lead anywhere near reality.

Vivek Kaul: Saurav ji, many religious scholars who practice GV consider this to be an accurate text as far as using translations of biographies. Now, if we don't like a certain answer because it is challenging to our belief that is fine. Will the Christian stop believing in the resurrection because the Quran says so? No, they will ask the same question, who exactly is this Muhammed to say that.

Vivek Kaul: Ok, pick the story that the person in the parampara you are initiated in believes in. That maybe a better way to put it perhaps. What else can you do?

Saurav Sarmah: I cannot do anything.

Vivek Kaul: Different lineages in Sri Chaitanya's order believe in different things. One lineage appeals to your heart and you accept the Guru in that lineage as absolutely write on this matter (for instance Srila Prabhupada for devotees in ISKCON). For example, some lineages don't believe that there is a spiritual realm in paravyoma for Sri Chaitanya, some believe. How do we know? We just believe in our guru's version. Whenever, a person in another lineage challenges your belief, then we believe in the guru of our lineage and his interpretation of scripture. We cannot know anything anyway. If we are sincere, we will pick the right lineage. I just gave you the story of Jesus and how they have to believed differently by us, Christians or Muslims. What is the basis to know which one is correct for conditioned souls? * As long as a devotee (like you must have experienced) is experiencing bliss chanting and following a KC lifestyle, how does it matter if your version of story is not absolutely correct. Perhaps he will experience and know the truth eventually. So just wait patiently, right?

Saurav Sarmah: The blissful chanting and KC lifestyle helps us to purify our heart, so that it becomes worthy to receive the truth. But it does not blur the line of demarcation between the savior and the saved. We do not become better than the previous acharyas by honouring diverse sources of data. Indeed, if these sources are blasphemous, we are constructing our own highway to hell.

*Madhvacharya's concept of taratamya and three-fold division of souls (My heart says it must be for one kalpa only. More reading is required.) gives me solace during situations when I can do nothing.

Saurav Sarmah: That was my final word on this topic. I cannot do anything. I cannot follow Jagatji's path to seek krsna prema within my own sensual and speculative propensities.

Vivek Kaul: Saurav, perhaps that is true. Anyway I have sent you a private message from a madhva follower. The long message is a quote from Madhva debates on Gaudiya non-affiliation to Madhva and serious differences in philosophy.

Vivek Kaul: Saurav, the point is that if you honor one particular lineage and believe in it strongly that you will offend another lineage that finds your interpretations of scripture offensive. I never said we are better than previous acaryas. I just said everyone has confidence in their particular acaryas. So if you say that Sri Chaitanya defeated the Madhva follower in Udupi in CC and don't give any arguments that took place that time, won't they find it offensive? Similarly in Madhva's biography Sankara is described as a demon and dvaita followers are required to believe it? Won't it be offensive and prepare their gates to hell if Sankara is supposed to be incarnation of Siva, not a demon? Anyway, you can resolve all these issues perhaps. The safe way is to just stick to one particular institution and not listen to anything that will trouble your beliefs and keep on associating with people who will reinforce your belief rather than challenge it. However, if one goes on a all preaching mission where one claims one has the highest Absolute truth, they need to find out the purvapaksin and consider their views carefully. But you don't need to do so with most people as they are not exposed to these things in detail and basic chanting and KC lifestyle will suffice.

Vivek Kaul: *(My heart says it must be for one kalpa only. More reading is required.) Above you said picking stories appealing to the heart does not lead us to reality but you made the above statement so I was surprised.

‎*The author Jayananda is trying to make a comparison between Krishna and Chaitanya (Krishna **** from arrow shot on his feet).

Saurav Sarmah: (My heart...) It was deliberate.

(Krishna... on his feet)

(Madhva issue) Spiritual contradictions among previous acharyas can be resolved by a later acharya only. If God defeats His servant, it is not offensive, some people are unable to identify Lord Chaitanya, that is the problem. It is also stated that the personality of Shankara consisted of two souls: a demon and a demigod. We cannot know everything as only God is omniscient. By hearing from the previous acharyas proper knowledge according to our constitutional position can be attained.

Vivek Kaul: Alright as you say. You did not deeply understand what I said. So Muhammed version of Jesus's story is better because he came later and he resolved the contradictions and so on. They also say, it is your problem that you did not identify him as the last prophet. Which sastra is it stated that Sankara has two souls, a demon and a demigod?

Anyway, until Jiva Goswami translated the verse in SB as referring to Sri Chaitanya, no one had brought evidence for him from the sastra. Sridhara Swami and Sri Sanatana Goswami had translated the verse from the 11th Canto differently and they did not refer to Sri Chaitanya. All direct references to Sri Chaitanya in the scripture which contain his name and his mother's name are not found in standard editions. That is true of many references given by madhva which are not accepted by others schools because they are nowhere to found in standard editions. Yes, it is subjective faith of everyone and they will identify God according to their faith. Blaming them for not identifying the God we believe in is same as them blaming you for not believing their version of the story as the Absolute Truth. Why don't you accept Swaminarayan as the latest acarya if the later acarya can correct previous acharyas?

Saurav Sarmah: (Two souls...) I read it in Madhva discussions. The reference, as far as i remember, is Manimanjari.

(Jesus and Muhammad) We cannot possibly know everything. It doesn't matter. The Bhavisya Purana seems to support the Ahmaddiya version.

(Blame game) The subjective faith of a person does not determine the ontological position of Lord Chaitanya. The divinity of Lord Chaitanya is established from the writings of His personal associates and confirmed later by sastric references. It does not really matter what faith I hold does not in any way affect the reality.

(Swaminarayan) There is no evidence. He seems to be a genuine devotee of Radha-Krishna, but why did he breakaway from the Ramanuja sampradaya? May be his faith did not fit in. The same can be said of Ramananda (the Sita-Rama devotee). That does not make them at par with Madhavendra Puri (who broke away from the orthodox Madhva line) because Lord Chaitanya chose him as His grand Spiritual Master.

I cannot address each and every point on facebook. Books are required to address all these issues. They require proper realization of truth and a lifetime of dedication. But would they represent the truth? It simply depends on submissively adhering to the acharyas

We don't determine the truth. We don't decide who is God or who is an acharya. We can receive the truth by the mercy of God and the acharyas. Only they can reveal their identities to us. Then can't we know anything? We can within our limited conditioning and (when completely purified) within our constitutional position.

Now, this can go on forever. Let me summarize and then you have the final word:

1. The objective truth is the the subjective cognition and contemplation of God and this truth is received and transmitted by the rishis and the acharyas throughout the material existence. Each living entity can receive the proper knowledge through their mercy and realize the same according to his constitutional position. It requires submissive hearing, analytical reasoning and realization through application.

2. Our subjective faith, if based on pure motivation, can lead us to proper sources of knowledge. However, the mercy of the saviour is independent. Therefore, we can just be fixed on our path, purify whatever ulterior motivations we have and wait for the mercy to dawn. This in no way should result in philosophical subjectivism.

3. If out of a desire to satisfy one's intellectual gratification, one associate with Jagatji and Tonyji, one is bound to commit offenses. The resultant effect is... I won't indulge anymore. Every point you can contend all the philosophical points I made, that I have no time to respond. I write these notes on facebook so that Vaishnavas and other intellectuals can offer constructive suggestions to improve my writings. However, I don't want to associate with Jagatji and Tonyji whose opinions are insulting to the previous acharyas and Lord Chaitanya Himself. You can be very open-minded and reasonable and swim in the ocean of material data and conditioned subjective opinions within your own domain. I don't need such offensive and misguided propaganda for my preaching.

(The single-point agenda of Jagatji, in alliance with Satyanarayan of Jiva Institute is to discredit Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, so that the flood-gates are re-opened for sahajiyaism to pollute pure bhakti. Finding it an invincible task, they seek to find flaws with Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, so that the base itself is weakened. Sahajiyaism confuses pure bhakti rasa with mundane sex, especially paramour love and homoerotica.) 

What is devotional service? To act for the pleasure of the Lord. What is the pleasure of the Lord? It is explained by the acharyas. Just think how pleasing your arguments are to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, and Srila Prabhupada. That also you have to verify from your Gurudev. That is the parampara. That is the vedic process. Otherwise, it is simply nonsense.

I blocked Vivek Kaul, so he was unable to have his final word.

Keshvanand Das: Vivek, You think every acharya's perspective is different. Just like lawyers fight in the court, but outside the court they are friends, similarly, for an experienced devotee, who is pure, all contradictions are actually not contradictions, but in perfect harmony if viewed from a pure perspective. See tat tu samvayat (vedanta sutra commentary of Madhva and Baladeva Vidyabhushan). Dvaita is non different from vishishta advaita and that is non-different from achintya bheda-abhdea tattva. All devotional philosophies are the same in principle and yet different in details. I think you got to read more and then argue and also perhaps you need more of chanting and become pure before you give some conclusions. Even to argue you need qualification! Come to me and I shall show you how all Vaishnava siddhantas are the same.

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