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the same as Sri Caitanya’s?
Jiva Gosvami (1513-1598) is the youngest of the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana[i] who are honoured as genuine representatives of the teachings and faith of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534). All of them, except JivaGosvami, were personally inspired, instructed or commissioned by Caitanya. (Kapoor, 1984, 54). It seems that Jivadid not have the privilege to associate with and learn from Caitanya; in 1535, at the time he joined Vrindavana’sgroup, Caitanya had already left the world. At the same time, Jiva was fortunate to be trained by the two Gosvamis’ leaders, his uncles, Sanatana (1488-1558) and Rupa (1489-1564). From Rupa he received initiation.
Speaking about Jiva, Bhaktivedanta Svami, founder of the present-day most influential Gaudiya-Vaisnavaorganisation, ISKCON, said: “The Vaisnavas are by far the greatest philosophers in the world, and the greatest among them was Srila Jiva Gosvami.” (Bhaktivedanta, 1983, 354). Jiva is not only praised amongst the followers; acknowledging his greatness, Benares Hindu University dedicates an entire department to the study of his works.
Jiva Gosvami’s importance and role in the beginning days of the Gaudiya–Vaisnavas movement cannot be underestimated. As a leader of the first generation of devotees after Caitanya, he finalized the organisation of and systematized the philosophy of the young Gaudiyas movement. S. K. De writes: “Jiva became the highest court of appeal in doctrinal matters as long as he lived.”[ii] For that purpose, Jiva was exceptionally prolific; he wrote about four hundred thousands Sanskrit verses, which is four times more than the numbers contained in the world’s biggest epic Mahabharata. His six treatises on Srimad-Bhagavatam, called Sat-sandarbhas are certainly one of his most important works and methodically present the whole of Caitanya’s philosophy.
Although Jiva is widely honoured for this philosophical contribution, still some scholars have strong reservations about the validity of his presentation of Caitanya’s doctrine in Sat-sandarbhas. Stuart Elkmangrounded his doubts about a correspondence between Caitanya and Jiva on that of Sridhara Svami (1378-1414), called Bhavartha-dipika, the oldest complete Bhagavatam comment. Elkman’s objection is that Jiva’s Sandarbhasfollow Sridhara as much as he has to:
When we examine the contents of this work, however, it becomes clear that Jiva was not nearly as happy with Sridhara’s commentary as was Caitanya, and it seems likely that Jiva’s claim to follow Sridhara represents more a concession to Caitanya’s beliefs than a personal preference on his own part. (Elkman, 1986, 180).
Elkman’s suspicion that Jiva’s misunderstood Caitanya is grounded on the hypothesis that Caitanya’s admiration for Sridhara’s is also an indication of his own Advaitic tendencies. On the other side, Jiva’s use of Sridhara’scommentaries “on only the most minor points” and “ignoring all of his Advaitic interpretations” constitute an argument that Jiva ultimately does not follow Caitanya. (Elkman, 1986, 180).
This paper starts to examine Jiva’s faithfulness and the dynamic of his connection to Caitanya’s teachings based on their individual relationships towards Sridhara Svami, an ardent follower of Sankara’s (788-820) Advaiticschool. Since it looks like Sridhara is closely connected to both Jiva and Caitanya, clarification of Sridhara’s position will give a more precise answer to the question “Is Jiva Gosvami’s philosophy the same as Sri Caitanya’s?”
Svami is the teacher of all
Since Caitanya did not produce any writings except a series of verses known as Sri Siksastaka, for more details on his life and philosophical doctrine we rely on the biographies about him. Although there are several, it is widely accepted that Krsnadasa Kaviraja’s Caitanya-caritamrta, finished in 1581, is the most popular and offer the most authoritative insight on Caitanya’s life and teachings.
Caitanya-caritamrta is also the only biography that retells the incident wherein Caitanya directly speaks about Sridhara Svami, a devoted Advaitin and Sankara’s follower. When a Vaisnava named Vallabha Bhattaapproached Caitanya with a new Bhagavatam commentary wherein he apparently refutes Sridhara’s explanations as inconsistent Caitanya become very displeased:
You have dared criticize Sridhara Svami, and you have begun your own commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam, not accepting his authority. That is your false pride. Sridhara Svami is the spiritual master of the entire world because by his mercy we can understand Srimad-Bhagavatam. I therefore accept him as a spiritual master. Whatever you might write due to false pride, trying to surpass Sridhara Svami, would carry a contrary purport. Therefore no one would pay attention to it. One who comments on Srimad-Bhagavatam following in the footsteps of Sridhara Svami will be honoredand accepted by everyone. Put forth your explanation of Srimad-Bhagavatam following in the footsteps of SridharaSvami. (Bhaktivedanta, 1975, 63).
These words raise the question. How is it possible that Caitanya admired Sridhara so much, though he was a follower of Sankara’s Advaita school? Until that period two famous Vaisnava commentaries already existed: Ramanuja (1017-1137) and Madhva (1238-1317) practically challenged everything what Sankara stood for. This makes us wonder even more why Caitanya took a position of loyalty to Sridhara.
Krsna-bhakti is the only criteria
Although Caitanya’s extolment of Sridhara can reflect his actual beliefs, some suggest (Ek, 2004), that it could have been an intelligent technique for spreading his own teachings. Already during Caitanya’s life Sridharahad the status of an absolute philosophical authority all around India, and affiliation with him naturally gave authority to the Gaudiyas’ beliefs. If someone seeks approval for faith, first what should be looked at is a reference to some older source that is already unreservedly accepted. Older referencing material certainly lends more authority and Sridhara’s Bhavartha-dipika is the best choice.
There are opinions that the highest admiration for Sridhara is natural and expected because of Caitanya’sconnection to his sannyasa guru Kesava Bharati who belonged to the Sankara sampradaya. Although Krsnadas, in Caitanya-caritamrta, is trying to underestimate that connection, this dialogue with Vallabha reveals the truth. (Elkman, 1986, 182).
Caitanya’s Advaitic connection had further meaning. The truth is that only Advaitin renunciants were highly respected in society. As one of them, Caitanya was able to convert even those who were off the from path of bhaktion account of their own ignorance and self-conceit. It is proved in the cases of a famous logician SarvabhaumaBhattacarya and the most prominent Advaitin sannyasi from Varanasi, Prakasananda Sarasvati. (Kapoor, 1994, 51). Caitanya directly speaks about his own sannyasa mission:
I shall accept the sannyasa order of life, for thus people will offer me their obeisances, thinking of me as a member of the renounced order. Offering obeisances will relieve them of all the reactions to their offenses. Then, by my grace, devotional service [bhakti] will awaken in their pure hearts. (Bhaktivedanta, 1986, 264).
From all this we conclude that Sridhara’s Advaitic background is not at all an issue for Caitanya, who also has a formal Sankara’s connection. As Krsna in Bhagavad-gita states that He accepts someone’s offering in love and devotion, Caitanya as His devotee has the same criteria. Since Sridhara’s commentaries are undoubtedly devotional, as will be explained in the following paragraphs, Caitanya’s declaration of Sridhara’s glory means approval of his devotion.
Sridhara Svami as devotee
Caitanya’s great esteem for Sridhara clearly arises out of his acknowledgement of the importance of bhaktiand sentimental feelings for Visnu (Krsna) and his expansions. (Brzezinski, 2004). Explaining the Bhagavata verse (3.15.43), where in the four Kumaras left the impersonal path by turning into Vaisnava devotees simply by smelling the leaves offered to Visnu, Sridhara confirms the absolute superiority of devotional service to the Lord:
The bliss of devotional service to the Lord is greater even than the bliss of directly seeing the Lord. This is described in this verse, where Lord Brahma says: “When the breeze (vayuh) carrying the aroma (makaranda) of tulasi leaves (tulasi) from the toes of the lotus feet (padaravinda-kinjalka) of the Personality of Godhead (tasya) entered the nostrils (sva-vivarena) of those sages, they experienced a change (sanksobham) both in body (tanvoh) and mind (citta), even though they were attached to the impersonal Brahman understanding (aksara-jusam).” The change of body experienced by the four Kumaras was the ecstatic symptom of hairs on the body standing up, and the change of mind they experienced was intense happiness in the mind. (Bhagavata-sandarbha, 27).
In another place Sridhara shows devotional feelings for visnu-murtis, divine forms of the Lord: “The glory of these transcendental forms was not even to be touched (asprsta-bhuri-mahatmyah) by the jnanis engaged in studying the Upanisads (upanisad-drsam).” (Bhagavata-sandarbha, 55).
Of course, not all his Bhagavata commentaries are devotional; as a formal Advaitin Sridhara he was from time to time writing according to strict Sankara teachings. Referring to those tendencies, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, author of Gaudiyas’ commentary on Vedanta-sutra said: “…the Advaitic statements of Sridhara are like meat on the end of a hook, meant to lure fish.” (Elkman, 1986, 121). The purpose of using meat is not to feed, but to catch the fish. In the same way Sridhara Svami’s purports are not meant for giving Advaitic comments on Srimad-Bhagavatam but if he does not do that then the impersonalists will not be attracted and they will not read his commentaries.
Position of Bhavartha-dipika
One of the key elements in understanding Sridhara’s real position is historical relationship between his Bhavartha-dipika and Bhagavata Purana. Sridhara’s interpretations are synonymous with the Bhagavata’s, as proven by a traditional saying: “Vyasa knows, Suka knows; whether the king (Pariksit) knows or not, Sridharaknows everything, because of the blessings of the Man-lion god.” (Sheridan, 1994, 46).
We have to know that Sridhara’s lack of emphasis on maya as ignorance that comes from superimposition of the material world on Brahman, and his emphasis on bhakti reflect a four-century gap between Sankara’s teaching and him, during which time the Advaitins’ teaching become more devotionally tinged. (Sheridan, 1994, 49).Another consideration is the awareness that Bhavartha-dipika is also a much later text then the original Bhagavata.Those two considerations help us to see Bhagavata in more holistic light, without necessarily an Advaitic prejudice. Because of historical misconceptions Bhagavata Purana is not fared well nor been adequately contextualized in its historical setting:
Ultimately, the Bhagavata conceives of and envisions God as a distinct supreme being in a preeminetly personal form. At the same time, however, it promotes God’s identity with, and close connection to, the individual self and universe. Therefore, the Bhagavata merges dualistic and theistic philosophy with a unique form of “Advaitic Vedanta”. (Sheridan 1994, 45).
According to Sheridan modern scholarship is mistaken by compounding Sridhara Svami’s interpretations with Sankara’s teachings. Although Sridhara was initiated in Sankara’s lineage, his teachings emphasise bhakti and the Lord’s transcendence and do not give importance to Sankara’s views on maya, as was done by his great predecessor. This is well presented in his commentary on 1.7.6 of the Bhagavata:
The learned (Vyasa) composed the satvatasamhita for people who do not know bhaktiyoga for Adhoksaja, which directly removes unwanted things.
[Sridhara’s commentary:] It is stated: Isvara, who possessed all saktis, who knows everything, who has an eternally manifest, supremely blissful form (svarupa), controls maya by his knowledge-sakti. (Gupta, 2005, 74).
The explanation of the Lord who possesses all energies, who has an eternal form, and who controls illusion is the concept also used by Gaudiyas and opposed to Sankara’s understanding of the Isvara’s illusion. B.N.K. Sharma writes: “Sridhara is frankly dualistic in his interpretations, even where monistic one could be thought of… He is even anti-monistic at times.” As such Bhavartha-dipika caused a great effect amongst the Advaitins of his time. (Sheridan, 1994, 49).
Generally, reading Sridhara through Sankara’s Advaitic affiliation creates the impression that the Bhagavatais an eclectic and clumsy synthesis of Advaita and Visnu theism. That misunderstanding also presents the Vaisnavas’ writings on the Bhagavata as sectarian.
Jiva and the Svami
Although in the Sat-sandarbhas Jiva quotes the traditional Vaisnava sources as Ramanuja and Madhva, he mostly quotes Sridhara’s Bhavartha-dipika. Jiva relies on Sridhara’s writing so much that Sridhara’s commentaries are introduced simply by the words “tika ca”: “and the commentary says”. (Gupta, 2005, 69). Jiva is not hiding that the main reference in his writing is Sridhara:
I salute the venerable Sridhara, the sole guardian of bhakti. This commentary, bearing the name Krama-sandarbha,should be understood to function as clarifying what was not clearly stated by Svamin, or mentioning what was occasionally left unsaid. (Sheridan, 1994, 45).
Jiva perceives Sridhara as a Vaisnava who mixed in Advaitic ideas for the benefits of members of his own sampradaya. But if some of those ideas do not conforming to a strict Vaisnava standpoint, Jiva simply does not use them or he adds new ones. Commenting on text 2.2.35 of the Bhagavatam Jiva is consistent in using with Sridhara’s explanations and at the same time adding more Gaudiya ideas:
By psychical objects (drsyair) such as the intelligence, by his own self (svatmana), by characteristic (laksanair), and by arguments that lead one to make inferences, Bhagavan Hari perceived in all beings as the seer. (Gupta, 2005, 77).
This verse is an answer to the question how one can know Lord (Bhagavan). According to Sridhara Svamiantaryami or inner controller who is present in all living entities, can be inferred by logical tools from those things what are seen (physical objects). Jiva follows Sridhara’s argumentation by adding soul (jiva) and Bhagavan. Since there are two sva-atmanas in the body (individual and supreme), Jiva distinguishes them. With the adding of Bhagavan, Jiva ensures that in the Gaudiyas’ doctrines one aspect of God (Bhagavan) is always above any connection to this world. (Gupta, 2005, 78-9).
Jiva and Caitanya
Considering the relationship between Jiva and Caitanya, Elkman (1986, 180) detects that “Jiva nowhere claims to be presenting either the teachings or views of Caitanya”. De is also not so confident of Jiva’srepresentation of Caitanya’s own views because “Jiva was the youngest of the Gosvamins, who never came in contact with Sri Caitanya.” (Kapoor, 1994, 54). Finally, there is even a concern which raises the question of Jiva’sintegrity in writing and commenting on the basis of Bhagavatam:
Thus, considering the harsh criticism which Caitanya levelled against Vallabha for contradicting Sridhara’s commentary and interpreting Bhagavata from his own point of view, one may legitimately wonder whether Caitanya would have been any more pleased with Jiva’s nominal regard for Sridhara and his original interpretations of the Bhagavata. (Elkman, 1986, 181).
Although all interesting observations, these remarks should be accepted from the external platform only. Jiva never states that the Sandarbhas’ are his own works. He pays homage to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, another of Caitanya’sassociates, as the original author and presents himself as one who rewrites and puts in order the whole work. Concluding Tattva-sandarbha Jiva states that it was written according to the instructions of his teachers, Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami. (Tattva-sandarbha, 63). By showing allegiance to his authorities, he shows his meekness and humility, two of the most important Vaisnava qualities. All this indicates in Jiva’s complete validity in representation of Caitanya’s teachings.
In Sat-sandarbhas Jiva wants to prove that Srimad-Bhagavatam is the purest and the supreme Vedic scripture and Caitanya’s philosophy is explained in Bhagavata. The conclusion is that Caitanya’s philosophy is the topmost.
Some scholars doubt Jiva’s authenticity because of his too systematic and well-defined presentation of Caitanya’s philosophy. Caitanya’s life was “continuous and absorbing devotional ecstasies… [which] throw considerable doubt upon his personal responsibility in such scholastic pursuit.”[iii] This argument can be rejected as false and without a basis in any true evidence. Accepting Caitanya’s devotional ecstasies as real and the philosophy around him as accidental is an argument based on false understanding. Is it possible that Caitanya is surrounded with such powerful personalities while he as their teacher is disconnected from the world surrounding him? As the Gosvamis’ writings show their intellectual greatness, we can just imagine the greatness of their source of inspiration, Caitanya.
The incident between Caitanya and Vallabha Bhatta depicted in Caitanya-caritamrta only left much speculation about Caitanya’s real teachings. Although in all other biographies Caitanya is presented as harsh, almost inimical towards Advaitins, this episode demonstrates Caitanya’s genuine admiration for Sridhara Svami, Sankara’s committed follower.
Neither Caitanya’s Advaitin sannyasa connection, nor the advantage for spreading his own teachings werethe real motives for Caitanya’s glorification of Sridhara Svami. The ultimate reason for his glorification is the devotion for Krsna that flows from Sridhara’s writings on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Caitanya loves Sridhara because he sees him as a great Vaisnava who possesses, in essence, Krsna-bhakti.
On the other hand, Sridhara’s position as the first Bhagavatam commentator is misunderstood by most twentieth century scholars. Sridhara should perceive more in the historical context of the fourteenth century when the Advaitic sampradaya became strongly influenced by bhakti. At the same time the original Srimad-Bhagavatamwas intended to be without Advaitic influences. (Sheridan, 1994, 46).
It is also concluded that “Jiva’s claim to follow Sridhara represents more a concession to Caitanya’s beliefs than a personal preference on his own part” is not the truth. (Elkman, 1986, 180). Sridhara is for Jiva the “guardian of bhakti” and Jiva writes Sat-sandarbhas mainly relying on Sridhara’s commentaries.
From the above it can be concluded that Jiva’s writings in his Sat-sandarbhas are aligned with Caitanya’steachings.
[i] Their names are Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Gopal BhattaGosvami and Jiva Gosvami.
[ii] De, S.K. (1961). Early history of the Vaisnava Faith and Movement in Bengal, Calcutta, p150 Quoted in Elkman (1986, 23).
[iii] De, S.K. (1961). Early history of the Vaisnava Faith and Movement in Bengal, Calcutta, p85 Quoted in Kapoor (1986, 23).
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, A.C., (1973). Caitanya-caritamrta. 9 Vols. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, A.C., (1983). Srimad Bhagavatam. 18 Vols. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Brzezinski, J., (2004). bhagavad_gita_introduction Available from: http://www.ignca.nic.in/sanskrit/bhagavad_gita_introduction.pdf [Accessed 16/06/2006].
Ek (2004). Gaudiya Discussions -> Caitanya, Sridhar Svami and Sankara. [Online]. Available from: http://www.gaudiyadiscussions.com/index.php?showtopic=2095&st=60 [Accessed 16/06/2006].
Elkman, S. M., (1986). Jiva Gosvamin’s Tattvasandharbha (A Study on the Philosophical and Sectarian Development of the Gauòiya Vaisnava Movement). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Gupta, M. R., (2004). The Caitanya Vedanta of Jiva Goswami. Thesis (PhD). Linacre College, University of Oxford.
Kapoor, O. B. L., (1994). The Philosophy and Religion of Sri Caitanya. 2nd edition, New Delhi, MunshiramManoharlal.
Kusakratha, D. (1987) Srila Jiva Goswami’s Sri Tattva-sandarbha. Culver City, The Krsna Institute.
Kusakratha, D. (1989) Srila Jiva Goswami’s Sri Bhagavad-sandarbha. 7 Vols. Culver City, The Krsna Institute.
Rosen, S., (1991). The Six Goswamis of Vrindavan. Aylesbury: BPCC Hazell Books.
8 Comments to “ Is Jiva Gosvami’s philosophy the same as Sri Caitanya’s?”
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Thank you for the nice article. I have two questions in this connection.
You are writing: “Until that period two famous Vaisnava commentaries already existed: Ramanuja (1017-1137) and Madhva (1238-1317)…” Do you mean by this that there was a commentary on Bhagavatam by Ramanuja? I always thought that he did not comment on Bhagavatam. If there was one, what was it called?
What is the book by Sheridan that you are referring to? It’s not mentioned by title, and it seems that you overlooked it in the bibliography.
Thank you in advance
The thesis is a rather odd mix of academic research balanced against commentaries of the Vaishnavas. Views and opinions from outside the parampara system are being presented as noteworthy.
Most usually this type of research creates ambiguous conclusions that open up doubts and confusion.
In the end the author has reached the proper conclusion, but in the process takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through a litany of academic postulations on the presumption that they are viable views worthy of mention.
Can the academic world ever be rectified by comparative study and corrective measures?
The conclusion is that one ends up preaching to choir, as the academics who need most to read such a thesis are not of an open mind.
I echo the sentiments of Japa Jim above. When we consider our interpretations of Truth, we accept the higher authority. Srila Prabhupada sometimes used the example of seeing a coiled object in a dimly lit room. The disciple is with his guru. The guru says, “it is a rope” and the disciple says, “yes, it is a rope.” Then, the guru says, “it is a snake”. And the disciple says, “yes it is a snake”…and so on. The disciple both has faith in guru, and also does not accept the faulty perception of his own senses or mental speculation. Ultimately, Krishna advises that one learn from and serve a vaishnava who is tattvah darsinah, who has seen the Truth, or better, to whom the Truth has been revealed causelessly. We are warned that those who do not have the qualifications mentioned by Krishna are to be ignored. Use of linguistics, reconstructing history that is 600 years old, have little to offer. For example, linguistically, the modern linguists place the Srimad Bhagavatam at about 600 -800 AD…simply based on the Sanskrit that is found in the Bhagavat Purana.
Srila Prabhupada’s faith was as follows, as he personally described to me on a stroll on the roof of the first guesthouse in Mayapur. He said: “We must not think that the greatest philosopher, Vyasadeva, is telling us children’s stories in describing Krishna’s childhood pastimes. Do not think that Bakasura is imaginary. Vyasadeva compiled Vedanta Sutra, why would he waste our time with childhood stories. No! He is describing Krishna’s actual pastimes.” Srila Prabhupada concluded: “If there is one weak link in the chain, then the whole thing is spoiled.” This is the faith of Srila Prabhupada in the literature. He used Sridhara Swami’s commentaries extensively in his own translation and comments on the Srimad Bhagavatam. That is sufficient. He is tattva darshina. No controversy is necessary.. Prabhus, time for going Home, back to Godhead. Pusta Krishna das
Has it been firmly established that Sridhara Swami wrote his commentary on Bhagavatam as a follower of Sankaracarya as opposed to being a disciple of a Vaishnava sannyasi from the line of Vishnuswami? The name of the philosophy of Rudra Sampradaya is suddha-advaita – pure monism. Could this be why his commentary sometimes appear monistic? Several vaishnava sites list Sridhara Swami as belonging to Rudra samparadaya. They could be wrong, and people who treat Sridhara Swami as an advaitin could be wrong, too.
More importantly, research cited here treats vaishnava philosophy as if it was an ordinary speculation based on empirically available sources, in this case books and scriptures available to Jiva Goswami, rather than knowledge revealed in recognition of their faith and devotion – as per famous “yasya deve para bhaktir…” verse often quoted by Srila Prabhupada. Once one has that one knows “that by which everything else can be known” – a loose translation of Mundaka Upanishad’s 1.1.3 also quoted by Prabhupada, and so what ordinary people see as sources leading to conclusions becomes evidence proving what is already known, and any contradictions in the sources do not affect the outcome.
In the eyes of mundane philosophers there is a possibility that Jiva Goswami didn’t strictly follow teachings of Lord Caitanya but according to vaishnava method of acquiring knowledge it is unthinkable. To suggest this would mean an accusation that Jiva Goswami was not a great devotee but a more of a mental speculator, which we should reject out of hand.
It would be nice if the author of this article addressed concerns expressed in the comments otherwise this lack of response can be attributed to thoughts like “devotees are fanatics and engaging them in vigorous debate is impossible as they always bring up things like faith and then freak out when somebody’s faith or spiritual position is questioned.” I can see how my own previous comment can be interpreted this way.
The answer to this is simple – developing Krishna consciousness is not a function of debates and arguments but a function of faith. Arguments are good only until you meet with counterarguments, and you can’t prove God into existence – He either reveals Himself in your heart or He doesn’t. This, again, depends on the sincerity of the preacher whose prayers should trigger the chain of mercy that ends with the Supersoul lifting the veil of illusion in their hearts.
Academic debates must have their place, too, but what is it? Is it to fill the space with our propaganda before atheists do it themselves? We’ve had academic world polluted with Aryan Migration Theory for nearly a century, for example, and if we produce hundreds and thousands of papers expounding our views then everyone will accept them as true for the time being, which will be beneficial to the humanity as a whole.
Or we could say that Krishna conscious philosophy IS true so all academic debates must eventually end with our victory but principal part of this truth is that everything is connected to and depends on Krishna in every respect – a position that academics will not even consider and we ourselves concede that God cannot be brought into the debates. How much truth is left after that deduction? What is it that we want to prove?
You are writing: “Until that period two famous Vaisnava commentaries already existed: Ramanuja (1017-1137) and Madhva (1238-1317)…” Do you mean by this that there was a commentary on Bhagavatam by Ramanuja? I always thought that he did not comment on Bhagavatam. If there was one, what was it called?
Answer: Although it is not made clear in the article, the commentaries mentioned are commentaries on Vedanta Sutra, not Srimad Bhagavatam. Ramanujacarya’s commentary on Vedanta Sutra is called Sri Bhasya.
Dear Dina Dayala Prabhu.
Please accept my humble obiesances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
You cite a statement where, regarding Sridhara Swami, Lord Caitnaya said: “ I therefore accept him as a spiritual master”.
You begin your summary with:
“The incident between Caitanya and Vallabha Bhatta depicted in Caitanya-caritamrta only left much speculation about Caitanya’s real teachings. Although in all other biographies Caitanya is presented as harsh, almost inimical towards Advaitins, this episode demonstrates Caitanya’s genuine admiration for Sridhara Svami, Sankara’s committed follower.”END QUOTE.
There is no intellectual justification for speculation about Lord Caitanya’s “real teachings”.
Irrefutable premise 1:
Lord Caitanya’s anathematization of Sankara’s philosophy is ubiquitously cited in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Irrefutable premise 2:
Lord Caitanya accepted Sridhara Svami as His spiritual master.
Your statement that Sridhara Svami is a committed follower of Sankara is not accurate, regardless of the Svami’s affiliations.
We have to know that Sridhara’s lack of emphasis on maya as ignorance that comes from superimposition of the material world on Brahman, and his emphasis on bhakti reflect a four-century gap between Sankara’s teaching and him, during which time the Advaitins’ teaching become more devotionally tinged. (Sheridan, 1994, 49).
Sankara’s philosophy is an anomaly: however, this suggests that it is the basis and the bhakti tradition is an addition to it. Devotionally tinged mayavadi philosophy brings to mind modern popular yoga groups who chant Hare Krishna and say things like “bhakti Trumps all” They post descriptions of Gopal Krishna, which seem accurate until they end with:
Perhaps the most dramatic anecdote about Gopal is that once when he was an infant and lying on his mother’s lap, he yawned, and when his mother looked down, she saw the entire universe in his mouth. We are not what we seem to be; we have the whole universe inside us. END QUOTE.
The guru of the group then says the Bhagavatam stories are allegorical and:
The Hindu stories found in scriptures such as the Srimad Bhagavatam were written thousands of years ago when most humans did not have the consciousness to realize how something that seems benign like the milking of a cow could lead to the situation that we have in the world today… With the knowledge and perspective, we have now, we could never support keeping cows and exploiting them for their milk and/or babies at any time in the past, present or future.
It is patently naive to think these groups adoption of “Bhakti” can create Krishna Consciousness without directly surrendering to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. But the statement by Sheridan could be interpreted to mean Sridhara Svami was a product of a similar dynamic: impersonalism, evolving by, so called, devotional tinges, independent of the mercy of a pure viashnava in parampara.
Who is Sheridan? What are you citing by him?