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Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the modern world. Dealing with the varieties of challenges we face as practicing Gaudiyas amidst Western culture.

A Textual Presentation of Our Tradition - We don't really have one

Mina - Sun, 20 Feb 2005 00:34:35 +0530
Certainly we have plenty of granthas, and some with adequate English translations that have been published, but that does not make it an easy task for someone wishing to learn about the theology of Caitanyaism. The kirton and puja provide an introduction for people, and a series of lectures to go along with those programs is invaluable. However, we really need to think about how to best present the textual side of the tradition. Is having them read the entire Gita and Bhagavata Purana going to get them from point A to point B in their overall knowledge? I really don't think so. Besides, there is too much irrelevant content for them to sift through to get to the essence. The Goswamis and subsequent writers have already quoted the pertinent passages from earlier texts in their own works. CC is probably a good book for many to study at an early stage, but I think there still needs to be some basic primer in English to prepare them. Kapoor's Philosophy and Religion of Sri Caitanya has a good approach, but it is probably too dense for most to suffice as an actual primer. The IGM publications are only going to steer people astray in many ways, and will most likely set their feet on the path of vaidhi-marga rather than raga-marga.

Once they have mastered the basics via the primer, then the Dimock/Stewart English translation of CC and Haberman's English translation of BRS would be good recommendations. Once they get through those, then any good English translations of Goswami granthas would be the next step, along with publications by authors such as Sri Anantadas Babaji.

There are the Bhagavata-saptaha festivals in India held every so often, which are fine for the Indian audience, since the readers that comment invariably do so in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, etc. Those are certainly beneficial from the standpoint of at least hearing the Sanskrit slokas chanted, but not really an adequate medium for learning. Should we consider English language seven day readings? I think a better idea would be to have a condensed synopsis of the major points covered in the text in a single afternoon session instead, with some commentary of how that text fits into the teachings of the Rupanuga approach.

Somehow we have to make the teachings of our tradition accessible to the world at large. Currently they would need to first find the right resources among all of the bad translations and distorted teachings and then (if they're lucky enough) piece together the pieces to the puzzle. That is leaving too much up to chance, in my opinion.
Gaurasundara - Sun, 20 Feb 2005 06:00:45 +0530
QUOTE(Mina @ Feb 19 2005, 08:04 PM)
CC is probably a good book for many to study at an early stage, but I think there still needs to be some basic primer in English to prepare them.  Kapoor's Philosophy and Religion of Sri Caitanya has a good approach, but it is probably too dense for most to suffice as an actual primer.

I agree that this seems to be the case everywhere. Whenever I have inquired about the philosophies of Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita, for example, I have often been referred to the works of Dr. BNK Sharma and Dr. SMS Chari respectively rather than reading actual works and scriptures by the Acaryas themselves.

I admit that I have not read the book of Kapoor you mention above so I have only your word that it is too difficult. In this case I would say that a basic (and good) primer is yet to be written. Recently I introduced my girlfriend to some elements of Gaudiya philosophy; I introduced her to some of the basic concepts and also gave her the 'Raganuga-bhakti-sara' that Madhava wrote. She found it too hard to understand and that was probably because of the profusion of Sanskrit, I don't think she realised that she wasn't meant to read the Sanskrit but just the translations and commentary. I would suggest that Sanskrit be removed from any basic primer and just the references be provided. People can always learn the Sanskrit at a more advanced stage anyway, providing that they really want to.

Also, since 'Raganuga-bhakti-sara' is a file of the material contained at the website, neither appears to go into sufficient depth about who Radha and Krishna are, etc. The material is obviously intended for an audience that is already familiar with Gaudiya theology and practice (IGM, more often than not) and to educate them regarding the 'raganuga' aspects. There needs to be bottom-up approach that educates the reader as to the nature of religion as a whole, before introducing them to Radha-Krishna and so on. Just some thoughts..
Madanmohan das - Sun, 20 Feb 2005 15:28:07 +0530
I beg to differ on one of your points regarding the Bhagavat Puran. According to it's own testimony it can and does get you from A to B, but because the English is always going to be much more voluminous than the original you could not squeeze it in to a seven day reading. The fasted I've ever gone through it is six weeks and even that was quite intensive. But what is not overtly mentioned, is there by suggestion or implication, such as the revelation of Radha between the lines as it where,
The Gita Press edition is good and consistant, it also has the sanskrt text. My main difficulty is solitary study, whereas Sriman Mahaprabhu has recomended, bhAgavata para giyA vaisnavera sthAne, go and read Bhagavata with a Vaisnava.
Other than that I agree with you, but it is with the endevour to convey these truths that so many books are produced.
Of course there are the epics like Bhagavat, CC, CB etc., which require intensive reading and there are shorter works for extensive reading. It seems as there are Tattva books, Rasa books and books containing both.
For the systematic deliniation of tattva we require Sri Jiva's Sadsandarbha, but a reliable and complete English version is, as far as I am aware, unavailable. sad.gif
And Sri Jiva's reasoning is based entirely on the Bhagavat.
Mina - Sun, 20 Feb 2005 22:22:28 +0530
To actually being sadhana, I don't think there needs to be any formal preparation. I started doing nama-japa of the maha mantra before I had any inkling of the theology. I was handed a mala by Tapati's ex-husband, who happened to be the singer in our high school rock band. He told me to try chanting sixteen rounds of the mantra, which I did and certainly could feel its power. We both were members of Astara at the time, which was an extremely obscure organization that taught a meld of tantra and yoga via monthly lessons send in the mail as thin booklets. There were some standard bijas (seed syllables) they gave out to go along with the meditation they recommended. So, I was already interested in mantras to begin with, and I tried that experiment with the maha mantra without hesitation.

My wife is currently experiencing a crisis of faith. She doubts the existence of the Deity on account of the recent Tsunami disaster, and her Lutheran upbringing is coming up short on answers for her. Now I have to somehow come up with a convincing argument that will explain such natural disasters in the context of a universe that is the creation of a benign Supreme Being. It is a tricky situation, because she has an inherent distrust of anything related to Hinduism, hence my need to make any explanations I offer her valid and non-sectarian at the same time. If I could get her to make the same experiment with the maha-mantra as I had so many years ago, that would certainly help. However, that is not likely to happen.
Madanmohan das - Sun, 20 Feb 2005 23:56:37 +0530
I see, that's difficult. Is your good wife prepared to contemplate the eternal existance of the self beyond the manifest existance and the inevitability of birth, death and the various afflictions we are subject to in our present state? I wish I could as I'm sure it's the source of all well being and peace.
Anyway, I'm in no position to advise anyone.
Thakura Bhaktivinoda made a systematic presentation of the fundamental principles called Dasa Mula, which bassically catogorises the the Gaudiya doctine on the basis of Caitanya Caritamrta in ten points. But that's probably only of interest to the admires and followers of the Thakura. It is good though as it you can commit the ten points to memory and then contemplate the explanations.
It seems to cover just about every aspect of Gaudiya siddhanta because the endless details that fit in to each catagory.
Mina - Mon, 21 Feb 2005 01:28:16 +0530
She pretty much accepts the likelihood of reincarnation, although I am not sure that she is throroughly convinced of it. I have had discussions with her regarding the nature of Goloka and how it differs from svarga-loka, but I am not sure that she really finds the concept acceptible. Her deceased mother, who gave her the Lutheran tradition (her father was Serbian orthodox), used to refer to God as female - go figure. One thing we have in common is a fascination with mysticism. She accepts that jyotish is the mechanism of karma, but is not convinced of the need for using the sideral zodiac nor of the absurdness of newspaper column horoscopes that assume that everyone born under the same sun sign in the tropical zodiac share the same karma. We also share the same disdain for religious institutions that have been rife with corruption. She likes to make fun of my prior affiliation with IGM, and I don't really blame her for that. What she does not comprehend is how anyone in their right mind could get involved with that group. Admittedly there were some deranged individuals involved. Still, the majority were quite sane and rational, despite the more bizarre elements of the party line dogma spouted over there.

What I have blogged on other threads here is the need for narrowing the Rupanuga teachings down to the core components, which will then provide us content for a cohesive primer that clearly presents the path of raga marga. So, obviously the nature of bhakti and rasa need to be included, whereas the idea of yuga cycles and caste should be discarded and for very good reasons. As far as philosophy, that should be restricted to a few basic concepts. People in general are not going to be willing to take the trouble to seriously study Vedanta, so we should not expect them to master all of those intricacies, nor should we expect them to be willing to learn a second language. Knowing a few key Sanskrit terms is one thing, but vyakarana (grammar) is quite another. Bengali is actually a fairly easy language to pick up for native speakers of Engish, much as Spanish is. If they are going to travel in India, then learning Bengali and a little Hindi should be encouraged. It will make the whole experience go that much more smoothly for them.

There is really only three Hindu samskaras that we need be concerned with: Diksa, marriage and last rites. The entirety of Hinduism is really not something we need to include in our publications. If they are really interested in all of that, then they can study it on their own somewhere else. I don't really think, however, that it is going to give them any real advantage. If anything, it may just serve to confuse them.