sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!
Year 1, Issue 2, Amāvasyā
Posted: 6 March 2019
Dedicated to and Inspired by
nitya-lila pravista om visnupada
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Māhārāja
“Gauḍīya Vedānta”, “Śrīla” & “Śrī Rūpānuga-dhārā”
Śrī B. N. Śukla, Sāhityabhūṣaṇa Mahodaya has submitted some questions to us. Because the responses to these questions are beneficial for everyone, they are being published in this edition of Śrī Bhāgavata-patrikā. –Editor [Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
Question (1): What is the śrī rūpānuga-dhārā (the “current” of conceptions of the followers of Śrī Rūpa)?
Answer: Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Himself Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of the king of Vraja. Although Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the viṣaya, or object of prema, He donned the mood and bodily complexion of Śrīmatī Rādhā and advented in this world in order to taste for Himself unnata-ujjvala-prema-rasa, the refulgent quintessence of the mellows of the divine love that is relished only by the āśraya (abode) of that prema and to deliver to the world for the first time a taste of those moods. In this manifestation as Śrī Gaura, He personally relished unnata-ujjvala-prema-rasa, which constitutes the moods of Śrī Rādhā, and then imparted instructions to his dear associate Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī on the step-by-step process of relishing the transcendent essence of that prema-rasa. Furthermore, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu imbued Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī with His potency.
Thus empowered by Śrīman Mahāprabhu and edified by His teachings, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, concerned for the welfare of the world and wanting its inhabitants to dive into the ocean that is the nectar of devotion and find the brilliant sapphire there, wrote Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Ujjvala-Nīlamaṇi, Dāna-keli-kaumudī, Haṁsa-dūta, Uddhava-sandeśa, Vidagdha-mādhava, Lalita-mādhava, Padyāvali, Stava-mālā and numerous other books, thereby ushering into the world a current of nectarean devotion, which brims with supreme wonder and which is ever fresh, each portion being perfect and complete in itself.
That current is still flowing today, uninterrupted, through Śrīla Raghunātha Gosvāmī, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī. In the present era, this line of thought is also referred to as the śrī bhaktivinoda-dhārā and is the purest tradition for worshipping the Divine Couple, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
The line of thought of Śrīla Rūpa’s followers entails wholeheartedly adopting the teachings of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, who is the crown jewel of rasikas and the personal companion of Bhagavān, as well as the standards of conduct he personally observed, the philosophical nuances he outlined, and the sequential process of bhajana. For those faithful individuals who want to relish kṛṣṇa-prema as practised and preached by Śrīman Mahāprabhu, it is extremely necessary to be in the guidance (anugatya) of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Without the guidance of Śrīla Rūpa, it is utterly impossible to taste the essence of unnata-ujjvala-rasa. There is no other path to that goal.
Question (2): What is the meaning of the word śrīla when it prefixes the names of exalted personalities?
Answer: The word śrīla is made up of two parts: śrī + la. Śrī has various meanings such as wealth, opulence, Lakṣmī (the goddess of fortune), Rādhikā (the embodiment of all Lakṣmīs), or devotion to Viṣṇu.
La (the verbal root lā + ḍa = la) means: “to accept”, “to bring” or “to grant”. Thus, those who accept prema-bhakti as the ultimate wealth and opulence and who thus devote themselves to the service of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, who is the embodiment of all Lakṣmīs; or those who have obtained that wealth and opulence and are granting that unto others – those associates of Bhagavān, who are jagad-guru and ācāryas, are addressed with the title “śrīla” prefixed to their names.
Usage of the verbal root lā itself conveys “existence” (in the present tense), “joining”, and “proprietorship” (adhikārī). Thus śrīla is used before the names of those within whom śrī exists, which refers to aiśvarya (divine majesty) and devotion to Viṣṇu, that is, prema-bhakti. In other words, it refers to those who are joined by or endowed with these treasures or who are proprietors of them.
Interpreted in the sense of lā, meaning “existence”, śrīla is used to prefix names of persons who live eternally. Those exalted personalities who are endowed with aiśvarya, [here meaning] the wealth that is prema-bhakti, never die; they live forever. Even after these glorious personalities have abandoned their organic bodies of five gross elements, they live on in the knowledge they shared: their books and teachings. Thus the title śrīla is used in front of their names.
Question (3): How is it possible for Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta and Bhakti Vedānta to have a mutual connection and synthesis? Bhakti sees Bhagavān, the personal aspect of God, to be everything, whereas Vedānta sees everything to be brahma, the immanent or all-pervading transcendence and sum of all existence.
Answer: Vedānta is the essence or pinnacle of the Vedas. Veda + anta means “the summation of the Vedas”, as the word anta means “essence or conclusion”, “head,” or “end”. The essence or conclusion of Veda, or the supreme truth taught by the Vedas, is bhakti. Therefore, bhakti is itself Vedānta. The word Vedānta refers exclusively to bhakti.
Generally, people mistakenly use the word Vedānta to refer to jñāna (knowledge). The knowledge they refer to is nirviśeṣa-jñāna (monistic knowledge). However, there is not even a single mention of the word jñāna in the entire text of Vedānta-sūtra composed by Śrī Vedavyāsa. The word Vedānta never refers to karma (fruitive work) and jñāna. Of all abhidheya-tattva (or means to attain the ultimate goal), bhakti is supreme. Karma and jñāna have no predominance. According to the conceptions of bhakti-tattva preached by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, nāma-bhajana is the greatest form of worship, and the holy name is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead – abhinnatvāt nāma-nāminoḥ (the name and the possessor of the name are non-different). This śrī nāma is the greatest object of worship (upāsya) and chanting śrī nāma is alone the greatest form of worship (upāsanā). This has been clearly elucidated in the Brahma-sūtra, otherwise known as Vedānta-sūtra.
In the realm of philosophy, a premise should share the same purport as its conclusion. If the beginning and end do not convey the same verdict, the result is philosophical insubstantiality. The first statement of Brahma-sūtra or Vedānta-sūtra (1.1.1) is athāto brahma jijñāsā, which asserts that Vedānta-sūtra begins with an inquiry about śabda-brahma, and the very last sūtra is anāvṛtti śabdāt anāvṛtti śabdāt (4.4.22), which conveys that repeated chanting (āvṛtti) or kīrtana of śabda brahma – or nāma-brahma (the holy name) – is the only way to attain the alleviation of suffering within this material existence [the cessation of the repeated cycle], and service to Bhagavān’s lotus feet, that is, service to nāmī-brahma, the Absolute Being whose holy name one is to chant.
In the very middle of the Vedānta-sūtra as well, the following statement is found: api-saṁrādhane pratyakṣānumānābhyām (3.2.24). This indeed propounds ārādhanā, which means “worship”, referring to bhakti. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the natural and genuine commentary on Śrī Vedānta-sūtra, reiterates this point about bhakti as well in (10.30.28): anayārādhito nūnaṁ bhagavān harir-īśvaraḥ.… – Surely this gopī (Śrīmatī Rādhikā) has truly worshipped (ārādhito) Bhagavän Śrī Hari, the supreme autocrat. Otherwise why has Govinda left us all and only taken Her with Him?” It is this Bhakti Vedānta that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, along with the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas who are His devout followers, preached and thus popularized as Gauḍīya Vedanta.
“Gauḍīya” refers to the rasika Vaiṣṇavas who are followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The origin of this word is geographical, but it also refers to particular persons. And there are philosophical factors as well.
(1) Geographical origins. In ancient times, Bhārata-varṣa (India) consisted of two major regions: Gauḍa and Drāviḍa. Northern India was divided into five regions that were referred to as Pāñca Gauḍa, while the south, divided into five regions as well, was called Pāñca Draviḍa. During the Middle Ages, that is during Muslim rule, Bengal, mainly, began to be referred to as Gauḍa. At that time, Ballāla Sena and Lakṣmaṇa Sena were the rulers of that region and the capital of the kingdom of Gauḍa was Navadvīpa, or Nadiyā. In a later era, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advented in that same land and preached the aforementioned śuddha-bhakti as propounded by the Vedas, Vedānta, and the Purāṇas. Hence, the lineage of His followers came to be known as the Gauḍīya sampradāya, and their philosophy, acintya-bhedābheda-tattva, was called the Gauḍīya Vedānta Darśana.
(2) One of the names of Śrī Madhvācārya, who was a disciple of Śrī Vyāsa in the Brahma sampradāya, was Gauḍa-Purṇānanda. Thus, the name Gauḍīya sampradāya refers both to the Madhva sampradāya and to the Śrī Caitanya sampradāya, a branch of Madhva’s lineage. Both are Gauḍīya.
(3) Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone is rasa-svarūpa (the personification of rasa), and rasika-cūḍāmaṇī (the crown jewel of connoisseurs of that rasa). He is the object of rasa. It is He who dons the āśraya-jātīya mood and complexion of Śrī Rādhā and manifests as Śrī Gaurasundara to relish the āśraya-jātīya rasa. The rasika sampradāya that is exclusively devoted to that Śrī Gaurasundara is named the Gauḍīya sampradāya. Its philosophy is referred to as acintya-bhedābheda-siddhanta (the conclusive truth of simultaneous oneness and variegation) and is called Gauḍīya Vedānta or Gauḍīya Darśana. This Gauḍīya Vedānta is Bhakti Vedānta.
Influenced by various misconceptions, people regard the impersonal monism preached by Śrī Śaṅkarācārya to be the philosophy of Vedānta. It was to dispel this misconception that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s intimate associate [Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s devoted one-pointed follower] oṁ viṣṇupāda aṣṭottara-śāta-śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja established Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti and added the name Bhakti Vedānta before the names of his tridaṇḍī-sannyāsī disciples. By this, he established the fact that bhakti is itself Vedānta, the conclusive essence of Vedas, and the Gauḍīya bhaktas, followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, are the true “Vedāntīs” or knowers of bhakti, the conclusive essence of Vedānta.
Translated from Śrī Bhāgavata-patrikā,
Year-12 (1966) Issues 4 & 5
by the Rays of The Harmonist team