“Anurāga means the plane of direct experience of the world of Absolute Divine Reality, and there the experience is itself the highest confirmation. The śāstra is only pointing the way.”
At the same time that the articles śikṣā-paramparā and Eternally Liberated appeared on the internet, there was simultaneously another attack on the Gauḍīya Maṭha and iskcon paramparā being conducted in Vṛndāvana—in the very midst of the annual Māyāpura/Vṛndāvana festival. This time the attack against our paramparā was coming from a young Indian scholar (once a member of iskcon)—who was representing the arguments and objections of the anti-party guru—an elderly Hindu scholar. As it turned out, in their opinion, not even Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is bona-fide, what then to speak of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and his followers.
Shortly thereafter, I received several emails from a fellow Vaiṣṇava in Vṛndāvana informing me of the accusations against Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda and their respective missions.
To get a confirmation regarding the Vṛndāvana anti-party’s accusations against our guru–paramparā we sent two brahmacārīs to Vṛndāvana to seek an interview with the anti-party spokesman. We were successful in obtaining first-hand information regarding the propaganda against our guru-paramparā. It was no longer hearsay—the Vṛndāvana anti-party was on a campaign to disrupt the faith of innocent devotees who had taken shelter of our guru-varga.
The majority of the anti-party criticisms were aimed at Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda and iskcon. Gauḍīya Maṭha was lumped in here and there. The anti-party spokesman took serious objection as regards the preaching mission and siddhānta of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and also Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.
In many instances the remarks of the Vṛndāvana anti-party were outrageous, in other instances they were based on logic or argument, and were often followed with scriptural references. Sometimes the arguments were even childish. However, in every instance one thing stood out the most—the objections lacked substance. The very essence of Kṛṣṇa consciousness was lacking.
We are going to reproduce the main points of objection that the Vṛndāvana anti-party makes against our paramparā and respond with our comments. We are doing this because we have been requested to do so by several concerned Vaiṣṇavas who feel that the propaganda of the Vṛndāvana anti-party is an intolerable offense to our guru-paramparā.
Before beginning the main topic of this article we would like to say a few words to clarify our position. Some of our readers may feel that we are speaking too harshly against the Vṛndāvana anti-party. If so we would like to point out that we have not attacked the persons of the Vṛndāvana anti-party but only that which we perceive as their offenses and misconceptions. We should also add that it is they that endeavour to find fault in the divine succession of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and their followers—it is not we who have sought out our accusers with a view to offend their paramparā. It is they who have attacked us, not we who have attacked them.
Nonetheless, we would like to vindicate some of the anti-party members to some degree for we feel that they alone are not to blame for their having arrived at their present position of offending our paramparā. If we look closely at iskcon we will find that there are many devotees in iskcon who think and feel in a way which is conducive to the anti-party sentiments. This, we propose, is not the fault of the individuals but the fault of the institution in which they have taken shelter.
It is the concerned opinion of many older members of iskcon that since the disappearance of Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda the leadership in iskcon has not trained their students in the proper siddhānta and practice of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. It seems that the leaders have also over stressed the importance of external achievement at any cost, be it one’s own sādhana or even the dignity of another Vaiṣṇava, Vaiṣṇava aparādha. This we feel is largely due as a result of the iskcon leaders having completely cut themselves off from the senior members of the Gauḍīya Maṭha who are themselves living/realized representatives of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda.
It is also a fact that the Vṛndāvana anti-party spokesman and others of their camp have been poorly treated at times by iskcon leaders and they may naturally bear a grudge against iskcon and our paramparā as a result of their bad experience. It is indeed unfortunate. I can sympathize with their plight to some extent, but I cannot tolerate their propaganda against those who are very dear to Kṛṣṇa. We do not hate the sinner—we hate the sin.
The following are ten points of criticism of our paramparā by the Vṛndāvana anti-party:
Only śāstra (scripture) is an authority—no human can be so in any circumstance. Even God follows śāstra to show the example. Śāstra is there to make sure that the independent “self-effulgent” personalities do not appear.
Bhāgavata-dīkṣā does not exist—there is no logical meaning of bhāgavata-dīkṣā.
Only Kṛṣṇa is self-effulgent—no jīva soul can be, because self-effulgent means, in so many words, independent.
Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda is a rebel against the paramparā. He disregarded all the proper dīkṣā lines and attempted to establish his own concocted line by picking famous names from the Gauḍīya history.
Guru is sādhana-siddha.
Mantra is a secret that must be revealed. It must be heard directly from the guru. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, if he ever received initiation, definitely did not receive brahma-gāyatrī and sannyāsa mantra. Since his mantras are not received in a bona-fide disciplic succession they will never bear fruit—sampradāya vihīnā ye, mantrās te niṣphala matāḥ (Padma Purāṇa).
Mantra-dīkṣā are not bona-fide. (This point is based on the idea that the mantras which the anti-party spokesman received from his guru in the Gadādhara parivāra, are not the same as those given in iskcon and Gauḍīya Maṭha).
Hari-nāma initiation is a concoction. The idea of giving the holy name through dīkṣā has no genuine origin.
Acceptance of brahma-gāyatrī (upanāyana saṁskāra) is only a part of the varṇāśrama system in the Vedic tradition, and has no place in the Gauḍīya line.”
Sannyāsa is not to be given in the Gauḍīya line, it is only an external necessity of the ritualistic varṇāśrama society.
With the blessings of our guru-varga we have taken up these points against our guru-paramparā in this presentation, presenting counter arguments and clarifications.
I offer my humble-most praṇāmas to all the Vaiṣṇavas who have assembled at the lotus feet of our guru-paramparā to perform hari-bhajana and to broadcast the message of the Śrī Kṛṣṇa Sankīrtana Movement. Param-Vijayate Śrī-Kṛṣṇa-Saṅkīrtanam! Gaura Haribol!
In this section we will discuss the first point raised by the Vṛndāvana anti-party and briefly mention the second point as well.
The Vṛndāvana anti-party says: “Only śāstra is an authority—no human can be so in any circumstance. Even God follows śāstra to show the example. Śāstra is there to make sure that the independent “self-effulgent” personalities do not appear.
The first point of the Vṛndāvana anti-party is groundwork for their attempt to establish that the guru-varga of Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda did not preach according to the śāstra. The Vṛndāvana anti-party is of this faulty opinion for two reasons: 1- They themselves have not realized the purport of śāstra, and 2- they fail to understand that the pure Vaiṣṇavas are on equal footing with the śāstra in all circumstances. Not only are the pure Vaiṣṇavas on an equal footing with the śāstra but they are sometimes on a superior footing as well. A pure Vaiṣṇava can make adjustments to the śāstra when and if necessary. This is of course possible only by the Lord’s own direct arrangement, nonetheless it does happen. We will give some examples and evidence for this opinion as our article develops.
It is indeed imperative that the śāstra be accepted as the benign authority in human society. Yet we see that only those with the divine vision can see what is hidden in the śāstra—what it is that the śāstra seeks to tell us. Other than to the pure devotees, the truth remains hidden. In fact, it is almost without exception that the kaniṣṭha and madhyama-adhikārī devotees seldom (if ever) understand the real meaning, or the essence of the śāstra. If nothing else, the history of Hinduism in India will bear testimony to that.
Here is an example of how the hidden truth in the śāstra is only known through the devotees who have higher vision, the rasika-bhaktas. In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the essence of revealed truth, we find no direct mention of the name of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. We are told that the Bhāgavatam, from its first verse to its last verse, sings the glories of the service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Yet, we find no direct mention of Śrī Rādhikā in Bhāgavatam. So how are we to know these things? They are revealed through the writings and purports of realized souls. It is not by Sanskrit grammar alone that one can extract the essence of the Bhāgavatam, otherwise millions of jñānīs, smārtas, brāhmaṅas, māyāvādīns and others would have known this most secret of all secret truths long, long ago.
It is Kṛṣṇa and His pure devotees alone who can extract the essence of the śāstra. They can show us how Bhāgavatam sings the glory of Śrī Rādhikā, they can show us how the Bhāgavatam is the purport of Brahma-gāyatrī, and they can show us that the purport of Brahma-gāyatrī is the Divine Service of Śrī Rādhikā. They alone can trace all these things in the śāstra and therefore the Vaiṣṇava is the highest authority. Through him we can see and understand the śāstra. Without the Vaiṣṇava to guide us, the śāstra is static. It becomes dynamic when revealed by a pure Vaiṣṇava.
Whatever topics Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu revealed with His decent, the Six Gosvāmīs endeavoured to give support to by quoting the śāstra. Nonetheless only those fortunate souls with śraddhā (faith) have accepted their evidences. On the contrary, many learned persons have rejected the works of the Six Gosvāmīs, even going so far as to say that Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī was an outcast ācārya or a rebel.
In the not so distant past some scholars (like Giridhara Lal Gosvāmī) have criticized an ācārya like Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, considering that he had no proper understanding of the śāstra. Similarly in this decade we find a few so-called scholars criticizing the validity of the works of ācāryas like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.
The Vṛndāvana anti-party statement in point one is a direct attack on Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura for their having made revolutionary adjustments according to time, place, and circumstance in order to advance the cause of Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the world. Since the Vṛndāvana anti-party discriminates between the book Bhāgavata and the person Bhāgavata they therefore conclude that these adjustments are against the injunctions of the śāstra.
We strongly disagree with the anti-party on this point. It is the opinion of the followers of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s line that the actions and words of great ācāryas (pure Vaiṣṇavas) are themselves as good as the śāstra and thus they are acceptable as an ultimate authority. As confirmed by Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura: “sākṣād-dharitvena samaṣṭa-śāstrair—all the śāstras sing the glories of the ācārya as being the direct non-different form of the Supreme Lord Śrī Hari.”
Indeed, Kṛṣṇa Himself has said:
ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān nāvanmanyeta karhicit na martya-buddhyāsūyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruḥ
“One should know the ācārya as Myself and never disrespect him in anyway. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.” (Bhāg. 11.17.27)
What one hears from a bona-fide ācārya can be accepted as good as the śāstra. Just because the revelation of a pure Vaiṣṇava is above our present understanding we should not disrespect or criticize him as the foolish and less intelligent persons may do. One in the lower position cannot give the certificate to the Vaiṣṇava in the higher position. It is not the duty of the lower adhikāra Vaiṣṇava to instruct or criticize the higher adhikāra Vaiṣṇava. Also it is not the duty of an empowered representative of Kṛṣṇa to ditto the plane of our limited understanding.
Those who cannot recognize the higher adhikāra Vaiṣṇava are either covered by ignorance, false pride, envy, aparādha (offenses) or all of the above. They violate the injunctions of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam which declares that the paramahaṁsa’s activities are no longer ruled by the scriptures—avidhi-gocaraḥ (Bhāg. 11.18.28)
The difficulty with the anti-party is that they cannot see the divinity of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, neither from their writings, from their personal conduct, or from their preaching missions. The anti-party cannot see that Bhaktivinoda and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura had a higher transcendental vision of the necessity of their times or that they had a higher understanding of the purpose of the śāstra. The anti-party is not prepared to accept that these two were divine personalities and that they were inspired by the Supreme Lord within. Therefore, the Vṛndāvana anti-party rejects the contributions of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
Only Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura can save his critics from the darkness of ignorance—therefore we will now quote extensively from the words of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and allow the Ṭhākura to directly explain to the Vṛndāvana anti-party the truth regarding revealed scriptures.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes in Śrī Tattva-sūtra:
This Tattva-sūtra is obtained and proved by the eternal realization. Therefore, it can be known as the very essence of the Vedas. This is originated from the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya, and hence, is the origin of all the revealed scriptures. Only the reality has been accepted in this treatise.
The divine knowledge is characterized as the sun whereas all the scriptures (śāstra) are rays of that sun. This saying reveals that no scripture can contain the divine knowledge to the fullest extent. The self-evident knowledge of the jīvas is the source of all the scripture. This self-evident knowledge should be understood as God-given. The sages endowed with compassionate hearts have received this self-evident knowledge (axiomatic truths) from the Supreme Lord, and recorded the same in the scriptures for the benefit of all jīvas. This recorded portion of this primeval knowledge (God-given to the jīva) has been manifested in the form of the Vedas.
The independent cultivation of the self-evident knowledge is always necessary. This is the important thing needed in understanding the truth along with the study of the scriptures. Since the knowledge (divine knowledge) itself is the origin of the scriptures, those who disregard the root and depend upon the branches cannot have any well-being. Now, it may be argued that, when all the scriptures have been derived of the self-evident faith, where is the need for honouring them? The answer is that, in the conditioned state of the jīvas, the real knowledge is covered by the darkness of ignorance. In the devotional cultivation associated with retraction, when the hidden reality is gradually manifested in the state of bhakti-samādhi, the jīvas will be realizing the self-evident knowledge.
Beginning from the time of cosmic creation until today, a great amount of knowledge about the reality has been discovered by the sages. Apart from that limitless knowledge dis-covered, still the sages are occasionally delivering many new facts about the reality, obtained in their devotional trance of samādhi. All these discovered principles may be called as the scriptures. By the help of a certain principle another one may be properly understood. Therefore, it is imperative to carefully record all these discovered principles of reality. Without following this process, the ultimate conclusions of the discovered principles can never be attained.
Śrī Brahmā, the original propounder of the scriptures enlightened Śrī Nārada with the principles of reality discovered by himself and advised him to develop the same by the further discovery of other divine principles.
All the discovered principles of the reality will get added to the scriptural knowledge and help the future developments of the same. Therefore, those who believe in the self-evident faith, they can never disparage the scriptures if at all they are intelligent in the study of them. But, those who are not endowed with the study of the principles of bhakti, which is the essential purport of the scriptures, their scriptural learning is only a waste of labor.
Therefore, the ‘essence-seekers’ conclusion is that, all the principles will be decided by the help of self-evident knowledge. All the scriptures should be understood by the help of that unalloyed knowledge. But, this rule does not apply to those whose self-evident knowledge has been adulterated with the empirical knowledge. Hence the following aphorism:
‘Scriptural ordinances are intended for the regulation of the ignorant human beings whereas those who are endowed with discretion and divine wisdom are not controlled by them.’
Similarly, Manu also has elaborately explained the importance of scriptures and finally stated the following:
In this way: in all the scriptures these two signs can be seen viz., 1- honour of the revealed scriptures in general, 2- secondary importance of the scriptures in comparison to the self-evident faith.
But, the authors of the scriptures do not clearly indicate the lightness of the scriptures. The reason for such an attitude is that, the meritorious people who are authorized to discard the scriptural binding can naturally become independent of the scriptures by the help of the hidden indications of the scriptural authors and also by their own purified knowledge. Such meritorious persons can carry on the sinless activities by the help of their own intellect as well as by the advice of the scriptures. In that stage, the scriptures will not have any binding over them but only they serve as their guides. On the other hand, those who are unable to understand their own spiritual path due to the lack of self-evident knowledge and due to ignorance who may not be able to ascertain their duties and fall into misery due to sensuality, for such people the scriptural ordinances are imperative. Such persons should not know that there is any way for them apart from the bindings of the scriptures. When they become authorized due to their advancement, they will be able to know this secret by the suggestions of the scriptures.
Since knowledge itself is the root of the scriptures the one who has attained that self-evident knowledge will not be ruled by the scriptures, but only they guide him with advice. In case of ignorant people, this is not so. They must be governed by the rules of the scriptures for their upliftment, if not they will have their inevitable downfall due to the sensual addictions. It is argued that, instead of governing by means of tedious rules, let the scriptures help the ignorant people by means of friendly advice. The reason for such an attitude is that the ignorant people do not understand their own good and bad due to the lack of knowledge. Due to the instinctual habits they will engage in wanton activities.
Since their nature is mostly inclined towards the gratification of the senses, for their spiritual betterment the scriptures try to reform them through many types of tricks, by applying coercion, and with skillfulness etc. Often the scriptures threaten the ignorant people with punishment of hell, at times they put forth the temptations of heavenly enjoyments. Again, they reform the human beings depending upon their inclinations. In many scriptures one may see the sanction of liquor, polygamy, killing of animals etc. All those are meant for the gradual control of the barbarian human beings by means of sanctioning some type of restricted activities according to their inclination. By their gradual reformation, the scriptures want to put them in the path of detachment. The many types of fruits mentioned along with those activities are only meant for attracting the attention of the ignorant followers.
An argument may arise in this regard that, this Tattva-sūtra also being a scripture, why the secret purport of the scriptures has been openly given here? The answer is that, this book of Tattva-sūtra has been published for the benefit of the self-realized Bhāgavata devotees. They are authorized to know about all these thoughts. By the help of these aphorisms, their intellect will become favourable for the cultivation of divine love. Therefore, the author has openly declared here the scriptural secret.
Devotees of the Supreme Lord are not controlled by the scriptures since their activities are congenial to the divine wisdom. Therefore, when the self-realized devotees ordain any new arrangement, they should be agreed with as a religious code, even if such new arrangements are not found in the scriptural dictums of the previous sages. (Śrī Tattva-sūtra, pages 191-204)
How can even a single thread of doubt remain regarding the proper understanding of the relationship between the pure Vaiṣṇava and the śāstra after hearing from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura? If such doubts still remain in one’s heart it is surely due to the Supreme Lord being dissatisfied with that person.
According to the Vṛndāvana anti-party the śāstra should be taken as the basis of everything and the Vaiṣṇava can never be considered an authority—that is, unless he dittos the śāstra. This concept, however, is not the opinion of self-realized souls like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, who has been accepted throughout the land of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas as the Seventh Gosvāmī. Our readers should not take it lightly that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has been called the Seventh Gosvāmī. He was given this due respect not by the ignorant masses but by some of the most dignified and educated Vaiṣṇavas of his time. Paṇḍita Ṣaṭkari Chattopadhyāya Siddhānta-bhūṣana and other respected gentlemen of his mark all accepted the divinity of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura as the Seventh Gosvāmī, and it was thus accepted by all of Bengal. Not only Bengal, but in recent times the Harvard Divinity School has commented that, “Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has made the most significant contribution to theistic thought in this 20th Century.”
A proper understanding of the point regarding the innovations of religious principles introduced by bona-fide ācāryas is that one should accept those innovations to be as good as the śāstra. This is especially true in relation to Sarasvatī Ṭhākura having introduced the institution of sannyāsa, and the giving of Brahma-gāyatrī as part of mantra-dīkṣā. We discuss this topic at length in chapter four.
The actual basis of spiritual life or advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is śraddhā, faith, and association with sādhus. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has written: ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgo ‘thabhajana-kriyā. In the beginning, at the basis of everything there must be śraddhā, faith. Then comes sādhu-saṅga and then in the association of sādhus one begins the study of the śāstra, bhajana-kriyā. Only to those who have this śraddhā as the basis of their Kṛṣṇa consciousness and the association with pure devotees are all the purports of the Vedas (śāstra) revealed:
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā-deve tathā gurau tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” (ŚvetāśvataraUp. 6.38)
This is a hard lump for the scholars to swallow, but faith alone is the sole necessity for advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness—faith and faith in the Vaiṣṇava. Scholarship alone can never reveal Kṛṣṇa:
śabda-brahmaṇi niṣṇāto na niṣṇāyāt pare yadi śramas tasya śrama-phalo hy adhenum iva rakṣataḥ
“One may be expert in Vedic scholarship, but if he fails to understand the position of the Absolute Truth, all his study is a waste of time. His hard work will be his only reward, and his efforts will be like the labour of one who struggles to maintain a cow that has no calf and cannot produce milk.” (Bhāg. 11.11.18)
This is also confirmed in the Brahma-Saṁhitā 5.33:
vedeṣu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau
“The Lord cannot be understood by academic wisdom of the Vedas, but knowledge of Him is revealed to unalloyed devotees.”
Like many scholars, anti-party members seem to have been overcome by the anartha of prāyaśa, or trying by one’s own endeavour to acquire knowledge of the scriptures without proper guidance. The result of such prāyaśa is always the same, one fails to understand the purport of Vedic literature.
bahu-śāstre bahu-vākye citte bhrama haya sādhya-sādhana śreṣṭha nā haya niścaya
“If one becomes a bookworm, reading many books and scriptures and hearing many commentaries and the instructions of many men, this will produce doubt within the heart. One cannot in this way ascertain the real goal of life.” (C.c. Ādi-līlā 16.11)
The search for knowledge is certainly misleading in our ultimate quest for pure devotional service. In fact, although somewhat necessary in the beginning of devotional service, it nonetheless becomes the prerequisite for pure devotional service that one become free from knowledge, jñāna-śūnya-bhakti. By knowledge, it is meant the spirit of ascertaining the Absolute Truth with a calculative approach, the attempt to capture the infinite in one’s fist. In the ultimate issue Kṛṣṇa is unknown and unknowable. Śāstra points the way, but only faith can reveal the higher plane. Jñāna-śūnya-bhakti is the plane of divine love which is free from any calculation and does not consider even the opulence and power of the Lord—jñāne prayāsamudapāsya namanta eva. This is the standard of pure devotion of the eternal residents of Śrī Goloka Vṛndāvana.
The mastery of knowing everything must be hatefully rejected if we are to approach the highest domain, jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam. It is not possible to “know” anything about the infinite, either in magnitude or quality. The infinite is a flow of autocracy, so what can we “know” of it? Whatever we “know” at present can all prove false in a moment simply by His will.
Kṛṣṇa is the unconquerable, ajita, but He becomes conquered, jitaḥ, by the love of pure devotees, not by the knowledge of scholars or the study of many books. The anti-party wants to become expert in logic and argument to besmirch the path of pure devotion, the bhāgavata–mārga, but this is all a waste of the valuable form of human life. For all their scholarship and learning the anti-party has simply become an educated combatant with the guru-paramparā.
A good example of the higher position sometimes being given to a pure Vaiṣṇava with regard to his being an agent of revealed truth is found in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, a śāstra accepted by all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. We find in the discussions between Śrī Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya that there is a point where the śāstra retires and the authority of the pure Vaiṣṇava is taken as the final word.
Śrī Caitanya, at the beginning of the discourse with Rāmānanda requested Rāmānanda to speak about the ultimate goal of life and to support his statements with the śāstra.
prabhu kahe, “pada śloka sādhyera nirnaya”
Śrī Caitanya said to Rāmānanda Rāya, “Please recite a verse from the revealed scriptures concerning the ultimate goal of life.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.57)
This is certainly the generally accepted rule in spiritual circles in India—one must support his statements with reference to the śāstra, otherwise one will not be accepted as a spiritual authority.
“Devotional service to the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literature like Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, Nārada Pañcarātra, etc. is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.101 and Brahma-Yamālā)
Śruti means that which is given by the Lord and smṛti means that which is spoken about the Lord by His devotees. In any case only the māyāvādīns do not accept the smṛti to be as good as the śruti. To the Vaiṣṇavas, both the Lord and the Lord’s pure devotee are authority.
After each and every statement by Rāmānanda Rāya, Śrī Caitanya requested him to go further: āge kaha āra, “Please go further.” Thus the conversation between Śrī Caitanya and Rāmānanda progressed from one topic to another, step by step revealing the ultimate goal of life. At last the end of the discussions in mādhurya-rasa culminating in the transcendental loving affairs between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa were discussed. All this was done by Rāmānanda by quoting śāstra.
At that point Śrī Caitanya pleasantly surprised Rāmānanda Rāya by saying:
eho haya, āge kaha āra
“This is very nice. Now please tell me something more!”
Hearing this Rāmānanda replied:
ihā va-i buddhi-gati nāhi āra yebā ‘prema-vilāsa-vivarta’ eka haya tāhā śuni tomāra sukha haya, ki nā haya
“There is another wonderful topic (prema-vilāsa-vivarta) which you can hear from me but I do not know if you will be satisfied with what I say.”
Here Rāmānanda Rāya reveals before Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu that there was a feeling in his heart which he was willing to express on the order of the Lord but that he would not be able to quote from śāstra. As it is said, “dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitam guhāyāṁ,” the Absolute Truth is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. (Mahābhārata. Vana-parva. 313.117)
Rāmānanda then spoke a verse which was his own composition. This verse begins with the words, pahilehi rāga nayana-bhaṅge bhela (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.194). In these words, Rāmānanda gave a hint about the divine appearance of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in whom both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are combined.
For what Rāmānanda wanted to say, he had no śāstra to quote. Nonetheless, when Mahāprabhu heard the composition of Rāmānanda He was very satisfied. Indeed, Rāmānanda, by his own composition, revealed that which had never before been revealed in the śāstra.
Rāmānanda Rāya further said to Śrī Caitanya:
yei kahāo, sei kahi vāṇī ki kahiye bhāla-manda, kichui nā jāni
“I do not know what I am saying, but You have made me speak what I have spoken, be it good or bad. I am simply repeating that message.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.198)
What we find here in the discussions between Śrī Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya is a truth superior to that which the anti-party has attempted to establish in point number one. We do agree with all parties that indeed the śāstra is important and is not to be vilified, but the proper siddhānta according to Kavirāja Gosvāmī, the author of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, is that the Lord speaks personally through His pure devotees.
According to Vaiṣṇava ācāryas such as Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, the stage of anurāga (in which Rāmānanda Rāya was situated) is a stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness independent of the śāstra. The śāstra, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says, is to give us a confirmation of what we feel in our heart. The real thing, he says, is to be realized in the heart. Anurāga means the plane of direct experience of the world of absolute divine reality, and there the experience is itself the highest confirmation. The śāstra is only pointing the way. Furthermore, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says that the śāstras are the recorded experiences of those great personalities who have their special experience in the plane of infinite faith, śraddhā.
Not only does Kṛṣṇa speak through His pure devotees but He acts through them as well, for their every action is executed solely in conjunction with His will. Therefore, the proper conclusion is that the socio-religious adjustments that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura have made with regard to the preaching mission and especially with regard to the institution of sannyāsa, are to be considered as an introduction of religious principles for the benefit of all mankind according to time, place, and necessity. These adjustments are exclusively meant for the preaching of the saṅkīrtana movement, the prime benediction for humanity at large. This has also been confirmed by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in his Śrī Tattva-sūtra, as quoted earlier in this chapter.
We also find the following statement by Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja in the Mahābhārata, Vana-parva, 313.117:
dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitam guhāyāṁ mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ
“The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the śāstras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the self-realized predecessors advocate.”
Unfortunately, the anti-party lacks the spiritual sense to recognize that the contributions of realized souls are the very essence of the śāstra. It is also an obvious oversight of the anti-party that the śāstra, although eternal, does not come to us independent of the Vaiṣṇava.
The decent of the Absolute Truth which comes to us through the succession of pure devotees and which is the only life of a bona- fide (living) paramparā, is called a bhāgavata-paramparā. Indeed, the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, which is the most essential scripture for all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, only comes to us via a śikṣā or bhāgavata-paramparā. Kṛṣṇa spoke the essence of the Bhāgavata to Brahmā. Brahmā spoke it to Nārada, and Nārada in turn taught it to Vyāsa. Śukadeva, who was known not to have undergone any dīkṣā-saṁskāra, learned its essence from Vyāsa. Śukadeva spoke it to the Emperor Parīkṣit. At that time Sūta heard it as well, and he in turn spoke it to Śaunaka. This is the bhāgavata-guru-paramparā, a śikṣā-paramparā. This is also our answer to the second objection of the Vṛndāvana anti-party wherein they say, “Bhāgavata-dīkṣā and thus bhāgavata-sampradāya are bogus.” In a nutshell, our response is that without the bhāgavata-paramparā (as mentioned above) there is no Śrīmad Bhāgavatam! Here we might put a counter challenge to the anti-party: if you have no bhāgavata-paramparā then you have no paramparā!
Truth is first revealed within the heart of Brahmā:
tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye
“Vedic knowledge was first imparted into the heart of Brahmā, the original created being.” (Bhāg. 1.1.1)
Then, this transcendental knowledge is passed on to Nārada and next to Vyāsadeva who, in this millennium, is the compiler of the Vedas. And after Vyāsadeva many perfected souls contributed to the śāstra from their realizations. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself composed eight ślokas which all Gauḍīyas accept to be as good as śāstra. The Lord then inspired and empowered his representatives in disciplic succession to also write books on the science of pure devotion, and He also empowered them to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world.
If we trace the origin of all śāstra we come to Vyāsadeva, and then to his guru Nārada who heard the essence of truth from his guru Lord Brahmā in the form of the four nutshell verses of the Bhāgavatam. We do not find anywhere that Nārada received mantra-dīkṣā from Lord Brahmā. Lord Brahmā had realized the ocean of truth after he performed meditation on the three-fold gāyatrī, OṀ, which had manifest from the Divine Flute of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. OṀ is indeed the seed of divya-jñānam, divine knowledge, the seed of all knowledge from which manifests the gāyatrī. Next the Veda, then the Vedānta, and then the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Although it is said that OṀ emanates from Kṛṣṇa, it actually is emanating from Kṛṣṇa’s flute, and Kṛṣṇa’s flute is a nitya-pārṣada devotee eternally situated in śānta-rasa. Kṛṣṇa simply causes the flute to vibrate, when it comes in connection with His lotus lips. Kṛṣṇa does not directly vibrate the sound OṀ, but He causes His flute to do so. In this way, from the very beginning the position of Kṛṣṇa’s devotee is conspicuous in the process of receiving divine knowledge. Either the devotee is imparting knowledge according to his realization or the Lord is directly speaking through him. In either case the message is transcendental.
In the last part of the anti-parties’ first statement it is said, “Śāstra is there to make sure that the independent self-effulgent personalities do not appear.” I have not mentioned this point up to now in this article. Possibly they are trying here to make a twist on the siddhānta by playing on words. Anyway, the proper understanding should be that the śāstra is there to help us recognize “self-effulgent” personalities if and when they do appear, not to restrict such personalities from appearing.
We have written here a few words with regard to the objections of the Vṛndāvana anti-party against our guru-paramparā. Subsequent chapters will address further anti-party misconceptions.
Part One – Refuting The Anti-Party Chapter 4 – The Process of Initiation
Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja (Jagat Guru Swami) appeared on Annadā Ekādaśī at Corpus Christi, USA in 1946. After studies in haṭha-yoga, he took initiation from his guru, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda in 1970 and preached in the African continent for 3 years before accepting sannyāsa in 1976. After Prabhupāda’s disappearance, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja took śīkṣā (spiritual instruction) from Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī and Śrīla B.P Purī Gosvāmī. Although he spent most of his spiritual life preaching in India, Narasiṅgha Mahārāja also travelled to Europe, Mexico and the United States to spread the message of his spiritual masters. He penned over 200 essays and 13 books delineating Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta. He left this world in his āśrama in South India in 2020.