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Discussions specifically related with the various aspects of practice of bhakti-sadhana in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Sayana Dvadasi and Caturmasya - Are Gaudiya Vaisnavas afraid of fire?



Keshava - Mon, 28 Jun 2004 05:33:42 +0530
Respected members, especially Jagat

Since the day after tomorrow is Sayana Dvadasi. I would like your views on why Gaudiya Vaisnavas don't celebrate by branding their bodies with hot irons as prescribed in Hari Bhakti Vilasa chapter 15. Madhva's indeed do this. And Sri Vaisnavas also but not on this day.

Also what is the significance (if any) to Gaudiya Vaisnavas of the Lord (Visnu) going to sleep for four months?

Is Caturmasya an important vrata? Or is only Karttika vrata important? And why?

Keshava
Advitiya - Mon, 28 Jun 2004 09:37:41 +0530
Oh, I'm glad it was corrected. I was wondering what it was - sanayana dvAdashi!
Madhava - Mon, 28 Jun 2004 19:11:20 +0530
In regards to branding, there is a story of Krishna Das Babaji of Ranabadi who desired to see Dvaraka, but had a dream-vision of Radharani advising him against the idea. The Baba proceeded nevertheless, and indeed toured Dvaraka and was also branded with the symbols of Vishnu as described in Hari-bhakti-vilasa. Upon his return, he had another vision of Radha who told him that he would no longer be able to serve Her as he had gone to Dvaraka against Her wishes and branded himself as a servant of Queen Satyabhama. In the end, Krishna Das Babaji burned in the flames of his viraha from Sri Radha. It is said that after this incident, the practice of iron branding was shunned. It is however quite likely that it was never widely practiced.

In regards to Kartika, or more precisely the Niyama-seva which starts on Papankusha Ekadashi in the month of Kartika and ends in Utthana Ekadashi when Hari awakens, Gaudiyas primarily celebrate the Vrata because Radharani is proclaimed to be the presiding deity of the Vrata, Sri Urjeshvari, for example in Sri Rupa's Utkalika-vallari. You may read some further thoughts on Urja-vrata and the month of Kartika from this last year's thread where the topic also surfaced.
Keshava - Thu, 01 Jul 2004 08:05:20 +0530
Dear Madhavaji, namaskaram

Thank you for that story. I had heard it before, perhaps with a little different detail. Servant of Rukmini instead of Satyabhama. Whatever. Can you tell me approximately the date of this Baba.

Also although the branding is not done. It is considered also to be a part of panca samskara or Vaisnava diksha. It is not mentioned in that part of HBV however but it comes as part of the defintiion of panca samskara.

tApaM puNDraM tathA nAma mantro yAj˝az ca pa˝camaH |
amI hi pa˝ca saMskArAH paramaikAnta hetavaH ||

This pramAna is accepted by Ramanujis, Madhvas, Nimbarkas, and even by Bhaktivinode. Other Gaudiyas may also accept it. I don't know. But my question is why don't Gaudiyas accept the process? The idea of branding is to purify the body. Bhaktivinode suggests in his article on Panca Samskara that it could be done with gopicandana (or I guess with Radhakunda mRttika). And instead of the symbols of Visnu Bhaktivnode suggests harinama be drawn or printed on the body. We see that many Gaudiya's in fact do this. But why is this not done at diksha like in all other sampradayas?

Keshava
Advitiya - Thu, 01 Jul 2004 10:22:54 +0530
Thank you Keshavaji to bring this topic.

This is quite a story. Is it described in HBV or in Bhagavatam? Where can I find it exactly?

The practice of iron branding! I never heard of this before. I got to read HBV ch.15
Madhava - Thu, 01 Jul 2004 17:46:55 +0530
QUOTE(Keshava @ Jul 1 2004, 02:35 AM)
Thank you for that story. I had heard it before, perhaps with a little different detail. Servant of Rukmini instead of Satyabhama. Whatever. Can you tell me approximately the date of this Baba.

Yes, it might have been Rukmini. It's been a while since I read the story.

Sri Krishna Das Baba of Ranabadi was a contemporary of Siddha Jagannath Das Babaji, perhaps a little bit earlier. This would place his departure somewhere in the second half of the 1800's I believe. It is told that when Krishna Das Baba was in the final stages of self-combustion, Jagannath Das Baba placed a gheewick on his forehead to aid him through his penance caused by the flames of viraha from Radharani.
Madhava - Thu, 01 Jul 2004 18:11:56 +0530
QUOTE(Keshava @ Jul 1 2004, 02:35 AM)
The idea of branding is to purify the body. Bhaktivinode suggests in his article on Panca Samskara that it could be done with gopicandana (or I guess with Radhakunda mRttika). And instead of the symbols of Visnu Bhaktivinode suggests harinama be drawn or printed on the body. We see that many Gaudiya's in fact do this. But why is this not done at diksha like in all other sampradayas?

Aside the story of Krishna Das Babaji, I believe there are deeper reasons, namely reasons of developing a befitting mood for rAgAnuga-upAsana.

api tyaktvA lakSmI-pati-ratim ito vyoma-nayanIM |
vraje rAdhA-kRSNau sva-rati-maNidau tvaM bhaja manaH || manaH-zikSA 4 ||

"Also, leave aside attachment to Lakshmipati (Vishnu) residing in the realm of Paravyoma; O mind, worship Radha and Krishna of Vraja, who will bestow unto you the gem of attachment to them."

Hence the gauDIyas prefer to sanctify their bodies with the names of Radha and Krishna. The idea is that all aspects of upAsana would be true to their intent, that all ritual be transformed into an uddIpana of Radha-Krishna smaraNa.

Decorating the body with the names of Hari is given (BRS 1.2.84) as one of the 64 aspects of sAdhana-bhakti and is listed in the context of vaiSNava-cihna-dharaNa, so it is certainly not adopted from outside the range of common aspects of vaiSNavatva. Interestingly though, when elaborating on this aspect, Rupa Gosvamin speaks also of the four symbols of Vishnu (BRS 1.2.122) citing Padma Purana, though the commentators are fairly silent on that verse.
Keshava - Fri, 02 Jul 2004 04:27:14 +0530
So as in the case of HBV also with BRS there might be things that were included in order to give the apperance of following the general Vaisnava ritualism but which Gaudiyas have rejected due to their particular mood.

Thanks for the additon of the Jagannatha das portion. That is a great story.

I guess what I am trying to get at here is "What constitutes something that is against the mood?" For example many Gaudiyas wear gopicandana. But it comes from Dvaraka. So shouldn't they all wear Radha Kunda mrttika? Also Acamana is said using the names of Visnu, Keshava etc. Why not use only Radha Krsna nama? Etc, Etc.
Madhava - Fri, 02 Jul 2004 05:12:34 +0530
QUOTE(Keshava @ Jul 1 2004, 10:57 PM)
I guess what I am trying to get at here is "What constitutes something that is against the mood?" For example many Gaudiyas wear gopicandana. But it comes from Dvaraka. So shouldn't they all wear Radha Kunda mrttika? Also Acamana is said using the names of Visnu, Keshava etc. Why not use only Radha Krsna nama? Etc, Etc.

Generally what happens is that we superimpose an alternative understanding of the item to make it Vraja-centered.

In the case of gopIcandana, some link this to the pastime of Narada's bringing dust from the feet of the gopIs to cure Krishna's headache, and that this dust brought to Dvaraka would be the gopIcandana brought back from Dvaraka. One may come up with myriads of other explanations, too.

The same principle of superimposition applies to these various names of Vishnu we chant. For example, when Gaudiyas speak of Radha-Madhava, they don't really think of Radha and the husband of Ma Lakshmi roaming in the ku˝jas of Vraja, since Lakshmi-Narayana are an aizvarya-prakAza and the concept of Madhava being the original Godhead of which various bhagavat-svarUpas emanate is inharmonious with the naravat-madhuratA of vraja-lIlA. Some of the names have direct meanings related with Vrajendranandana Krishna, while the others take a bit more nectarine daydreaming to do. cool.gif

Are you familiar with the five-fold division of aspects of sAdhana presented in the first chapter of Visvanatha's Raga-vartma-candrika? To make the sAdhana worthwhile, we aspire to make all practices bhAva-sambandhI through aropana if they are directly not such; only when an item is directly and evidently opposed to the desired mood is it to be renounced.

Perhaps branding the four-fold symbols of Vishnu would be such an item.

Some temples at Radha-kunda do not blow on conch-shells, because Panchajanya is not present in Vraja-lila.
Keshava - Fri, 02 Jul 2004 09:24:52 +0530
This sounds like the same thing that acaryas like Madhva and Ramanuja do with names like Siva (auspicious) etc, which appear in Visnu Saharanama or with words like Agne (O Fire) when they appear in the Vedas. They give a meaning which indicates Lord Visnu.

Thanks for the Gopicandana explanation and also the story about the blowing conches of Radha Kunda (gee, it must be a conch muhurta today!)

What about Lord Krsna's instructions on Deity Worship in Bhagavatam 11 canto chapter 27? What do the Gaudiya acaryas have to say about those instructions? Surely since the Bhagavatam is the premiere sastra for Gaudiyas these instructions would have been commented on by the acaryas.

I understand if other things in Bhagavatam like Narayana Kavacham or meditation on the Sisumara Universal form or whatever are not important rituals for Gaudiyas but surely Lord Krsna's own instructions on ritual worship would be.

Keshava