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Reviews of titles by Gaudiya authors, as well as by other relevant spiritual and secular authors. Tips for reading. Discussions on various books.

GopAla-tApanI UpaniSad - by Swami B. V. Tripurari

Advitiya - Fri, 17 Sep 2004 22:34:59 +0530
Recently, I just finished reading GopAla-tApanI UpaniSad with commentary by Swami Tripurari Maharaj. This is an excellent work inside and outside. As a Vedanta student, I read many upaniSads during my student life. This is for the first time I read a vaishnava upaniSad with a great delight.

I like to share my joy with all my vaishnava friends by giving a very brief summary in Tripurari Maharj’s own words, quoting some interesting texts here and there which you all might relish with great content.

Before I start, I like to thank Jagadanandaji for his enormous contribution to this work. Here is what Tripurari maharaj mentioned in his preface: A number of Shri Chaitanya’s devotees took part in bringing out this edition. My friend Jagadananda translated the Sanskrit verses into English. He also translated summeries of the commentaries that I drew from: the principal GaudIya commentaries and two commentaries from other lineages. In places where I quoted any of these commentaries, I used his translation. I sincerely hope that his contribution will be appreciated as much by others as it has been by me. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with him on this publication.

“gopAla” means one who protects (pAla) cows (go), in other words, a cowherd. “TapanI” means to shed light. Thus GopAla-tApanI UpaniSad is that esoteric doctrine that sheds light on the cowherd kRSNa.

By its own definition, it is a Vaishnava upanishad, and among vaishnava sects it is most at home with Gaudiya vaishnavas, the follower of Shri Chatanya.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the GaudIya lineage and all other schools of VedAnta is that while other systems of VedAnta stress the most worshipable object, Brahman/Krishna, the Gaudiyas emphasize the worshipable object of Brahman, Gopala Krishna’s principal consort, Shri Radha.

GopAla-tApanI UpaniSad is divided into two sections: pUrva-tApanI and Uttara-tApanI.

In the PUrva-tApanI, the goddess of revealed knowledge, zruti-devI, states that KRSNa is the Supreme God. The pUrva-tApanI ends with the words tasmAt kRSNa eva paro devaH: “Therefore, kRSNa is the Supreme Deity.”

The principal dIkSA mantra of the Gaudiya VaiSNava lineage is the eighteen-syllable (aSTAdzAkSara) GopAla mantra which consists of five distinct sections and is prefaced by the kAma-bIja is well explained in this previous section. Anyone who wants to know the meaning of GopAla mantra in detail I would suggest to read this book. Any Gaudiya devotee will be benifitted from reading this UpaniSad.

yo dhyAyati rasati bhajati so’mRto bhavati, so’mRto bhavati ||6||

Whoever meditates upon him, chants his mantra, and worships him becomes immortal. He becomes immortal.

In the Uttara-tApanI, we dive deeply into the mystery of spiritual love. The primacy of kRSNa, his devotees, residence, mantras, and more is explained through the medium of [I]zruti-devi’s narrative. The gopis will question KRSNa, KRSNa will answer them and direct them to the sage DurvAsA for further instruction. DurvAsA will answer questions asked by the gopIs’ group leader, GandharvI (zrImatI RAdhArANI), and in so doing narrate the history of his own conversation with BrahmA and BrahmA’s discussion with NarAyaNa.

anu kasmai brAhmaNAya bhakSyaM dAtavyaM bhavati ||2||

[The gopIs said:] To which brAhmaNa should food be given?

This delightful and meaningful narration will be posted in another thread.

GopAla-tApani is very esoteric. So too are the commentaries on it, dating back five hundred years or more. Prabodhananda Sarasvati was the first one to do the commentatery. The later commentaries attributed to Shri Jiva Gosvami and Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakur follow the lead of zrI prabodhananda and only nuance his work. Although Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s commentary does not follow the lead of Prabodhananda Sarasvati, it adds little to what has been written before him.

With all the interest in the GaudIya tradition in the world today, a contemporary commentary was needed and Swami Tripurari Maharaj has fulfilled that need following the lead of Prabodhananda Sarasvati.

This is what in the back-cover says:

Apply yourself in the discipline of GopAla-tApanI, the yoga of devotion that sheds light (tApanI) on the cowherd KRSNa (GopAla), and learn to love like you could never have imagined or reasoned was possible. This eternal text of revelation descends from a land of love far beyond the reach of the mind – where words cannot reach – and thus about which we cannot say enough.

Publisher: Audarya Press, 22001 Panorama Way, Philo, CA 95466