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

The vidhi - kripa problem - With reference to Prabodhananda Saraswati

Kamala - Tue, 14 Jun 2005 16:54:08 +0530
The point I was making recently about the Gita is that it is NOT a rule book like Manu Samhita. It's about direct experience of God's word or personal revelation.

But many of the "rule book" elements come from the writings of the Goswamis (most notably Hari Bhakti Vilas), and we are taught that the author(s) were not only direct associates of God (Mahaprabhu our most relevant and recent expression of direct divine decent into this plane), but also they are seen as nitya siddha manjaris with the closest "direct experience of God" of any living entity. We cannot so easily dismiss these "rule books" of the Goswamis as we can the Manu Samhita. Of course, Manu Samhita is a softer target. cool.gif

We keep coming back to the basic problem of why the Goswamis wrote technical and rule-based treatises as a postscript or elaboration to the teachings of Gaur-Nitai.

I am reading through some other material on Prabhodhananda, and think there are some questions to ask about the authenticity of the teachings of Gopal Bhatta Goswami:

In his important Sanskrit compilation of ritual, the Hari-bhakti-vilAsa, sometimes known as the Vaishnava-smriti, Gopala Bhatta, one of the renowned "six goswamis" of Vrindavan, does indeed make obeisance to Prabodhananda as his guru, describing him as “dear to bhagavat”, which according to Sanatana, the commentator, means Chaitanya.(14)

Prabodhananda showed a great enthusiasm for the antinomianism that was an apparent feature of Chaitanya's democratic religion. This, of course, was very much the mood of the early stages of the devotional movement as described in Chaitanya Bhagavata, etc. Chaitanya's merciful glance was sufficient to give what hundreds of years of spiritual practice might or might not give. As the movement became sanskritized, the necessity of various forms of sadAcAra became integral to the practice of devotion.

As a follower of Prabhodhananda, how could Gopal Bhatta Goswami justify such a drastic deviation from his guru's teachings in formulating the rules set out in HBV?

Was Gopal Bhatta Goswami the "Bhaktisiddhanta of his day" - introducing an entirely novel spin to Mahaprabhu's teachings?

Should we consider if there was a split in the siksa line of thought (what some would call the siksa parampara)?

And for those not in Gopal Bhatta's diksa line, why is it necesssary to follow Hari Bhakti Vilas anyway? Shouldn't he be seen more as a uncle or distant relative, rather than as direct spiritual ancestor/preceptor/authority if you are not in his diksa lineage?

[Possibly this is off topic, if so would mods please split it off?]
Jagat - Tue, 14 Jun 2005 18:49:00 +0530
There are a number of issues in the above post. First of all, the legalistic/spontaneous division is never absolute. There is a constant dialectic going on between the extent to which we need to circumscribe our lives with rules and the necessity to be free of such confinement. Different societies have different needs. Western society has a very strong rule of law, in the sense that we see our societies functioning more or less according to rules that have been put into place. Most economically and politically less-developed societies do not have this kind of social organization. Religion then becomes a source of structure that secular society is unable to provide. However, religious-based legalism seems to go hand in hand with authoritarianism and interference in the private sphere; the former makes corruption inevitable, the latter oppression.

Naipaul tells a good story about Khomeini (the report comes from an Iranian businessman who was in the room at the time), who openly told a group of mullahs who came to him for money for their religious projects (like mosques and schools) to extort the money from the wealthy people in their towns or villages.

In societies where the rule of law is strong, the fundamental purpose of religion is more in the sphere of the personal than the social.


In answer to the specific questions here, about Gopala Bhatta and Prabodhananda, it was my feeling on studying the material that this was indeed a source of friction in the sampradaya, with GB representing a more legalistic/Hindu approach to Vaishnavism, while Prabodhananda and Harivams were opposed to the domination of the rules-oriented approach. The actual tradition has taken a middle course, with the HBV being pretty much neglected for far overstating the case and also for missing the point (Radha is barely mentioned).

However, I don't think we can compare GB to BSS at all. BSS was not about this kind of legalistic approach. I actually feel BSS had a more nuanced understanding of society and religion than we sometimes give him credit for. His understanding of Bhagavata/Pancharatrika followed precisely these lines. He saw the Bhagavata approach as one that was freer and less stifling than the rules-oriented Pancharatrika approach.

He did not, however, throw out the rules-orientation; it is just that he relativized it. For him, the Holy Name and the initiation mantra represent these two aspects of spiritual life. He places the mantra in the middle, between the spontaneous experience of the Holy Name at the beginnings of the devotional life and the ecstatic experience of the Holy Name at the end--evaM-vrataH sva-priya-nAma-kIrtyA, etc.

The "vidhi" aspect of Gaudiya Vaishnavism changes significantly after Gopala Bhatta, who is still trying to find legitimacy for GV in the context of Puranic and Pancharatrik Vaishnavism. With the rise of raganuga bhakti as it developed in practice in Braj, with Siddha Krishna Das playing a significant role in this, the orientation of GV discipline turned to astakaliya smaran.

We are still trying to measure Prabodhananda's influence on the sampradaya. We know that Gopala Bhatta was very influential in the development of the Sandarbhas, as he is acknowledged as the inspiration (or according to Srivatsa Goswami) the real author of the Six Sandarbhas. The only work that we can see a direct connection between Prabodhananda and Jiva, however, is in the commentaries to the Gopala Tapani Upanishad. This is significant, however, as it indicates that Prabodhananda may well have been the source for much more theological content than he is generally given credit for. It may well be that his relation with Harivams set off a different mood in his writing and brought out the ecstatic in him. Or, more likely, revived the sentiments that had first impressed him when he met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.