Category Archives: Gaudiya History

Bhagavata Parampara

The following questions were asked following Babaji’s podcast interview with Namarasa Das.

Question: The term bhāgavata-paramparā is commonly used in our saṃpradāya, but you seem to doubt it. I was under the impression that there is no difference between śīkṣā-paramparā, the process of receiving spiritual knowledge through Hari-kathā or spiritual instructions, and bhāgavata-paramparā. Can you please clarify?

Answer: The only usage of the term bhāgavata-paramparā that I have read concerns the descent of Śrīmad Bhāgavata. There are two such paramparās described in Śrīmad Bhāgavata itself. The first one comes down from Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He gave the four-versed Bhāgavata to Brahmā, who in turn taught it to his son, Śrī Nārada. Śrī Nārada instructed Śrī Bādarāyaṇa Vyāsa, who sat in samādhi and then manifested the Bhāgavata that is available to us. Vyāsa taught it to his son Śukadeva, who in turn recited it to King Parikṣit on the bank of Gaṅgā. Ṣūta Gosvāmī was also present in the audience; he spoke it to the sages of Naimiśaraṇya, headed by Śaunaka Rṣi.

The other bhāgavata-paramparā originates from Śrī Saṅkarṣaṇa, who taught the Bhāgavata to the Kumāras. I have read articles related to these two bhāgavata-paramparās by some scholars. However, I have not read this phrase being used in any other way. 

During conversations with ISKCON devotees, I have heard this term used as the name of their paramparā. You confirm this by saying that this term is commonly used in “our saṃpradāya.” I understand that by “our,” you mean “ISKCON/Gauḍīya Maṭh.” If, however, you mean “Gaudīya,” it is not true. Whenever I inquired from ISKCON authorities about what this term meant, I received no clear answer. This is exactly what I said in my interview: “I am not clear what they mean by it.” 

Someone said that Śrīpāda Svāmī BV Tripurārī Mahārāja wrote a book on this topic, but I have not read it. So, I am not clear about the sense of its usage by present-day Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. That being the case, I am unable to answer your question regarding the clarification of the terms śikṣā-paramparā and bhāgavata-paramparā. Moreover, if there is no difference between the two, as stated by you, then why are there two different names? There must be some difference.


Question: In your YouTube interview with Namarasa, you mentioned bhāgavata-paramparā. Is it valid to have Madhva-tīrtha sannyāsīs in our Gauḍīya line? Recently a signboard was displayed at Shyamananda Pandit’s Radha-Shyamsundar Mandira in Vrindavan, stating in Hindi, Bengali, and English that they have no relationship with the Madhvācārya line. I have heard this from other Vaiṣṇava pandits and would like your opinion.

Answer: This is a debatable issue. There are differences of opinion on it, and I can only give my own. We belong to the Madhvācārya-saṃpradāya. This is the general understanding of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas in Vrindavan. In Vrindavan, there is an old registered organization called Akhila Bhārtīya Mādhva-Gauḍeśvara Mahāsabhā (All India Mādhva-Gauḍeśvara Committee). We have regular meetings and also celebrate the appearance day of Śrī Madhvācārya with a traditional procession in town. 

However, we have many differences in philosophy as well as in practice. Therefore, those who are opposed to the above view claim that we do not belong to Śrī Madhva-saṃpradāya. They have a strong case.

My solution to this difference of opinion is that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to give Kṛṣṇa-prema and thus began a new school called “Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism.” Even though He is Kṛṣṇa Himself, He followed the custom of taking dikṣā. Therefore, we do belong to the Śrī Madhvācārya-saṃpradāya, although we differ on many points. We are a branch of the Madhva-saṃpradāya. Thus, we have both bheda and abheda—we are one with the Madhva-saṃpradāya and also different.



Female Guru

“Can a female be guru?” is a frequently asked question. Such a question did not arise in the minds of people a few decades ago because people in general, and in India specifically, were clear about their identities and roles. With the advancement of technology and science, our lifestyles have changed drastically. This has also brought about an immense change in our identities and roles. There are no watertight boundaries for gender-based roles and responsibilities. The general understanding is that all human beings are equal and that there should be no discrimination on the basis of gender. Although such is the trend, yet we see that there are certain areas in which a particular gender seems prominent.

The post of guru is generally dominated by males. Not only that, there is an unwritten belief in the minds of many that only males can function as gurus. Some are making an attempt to turn this into an ordinance. Is this valid?  

The answer depends on what sort of pramāṇa one accepts. There is a popular saying in Sanskrit, mānādhīnā meya-siddhir māna-siddhistu lakṣaṇāt, “Knowledge of a subject depends on a valid means and a valid means is understood from its definition.” Therefore, the first thing to be ascertained is the valid means of acquiring knowledge or pramāṇa. Those who do not accept scriptural authority, śāstra-pramāṇa, will reply to the above question on the basis of logic, human rights, and/or personal experience. Such replies do not concern us. A guru means a spiritual teacher, and spirituality is not subject to logic, human rights, or to one’s empirical experience. Śāstra is the only pramāṇa for spirituality. Therefore, we will investigate the above question solely on the basis of śāstra.

Different schools accept different śāstras as pramāṇas. As Gauḍīya Vaiṣnavas, our pramāṇas for spiritual subjects are the bhakti-śāstras; among them, Bhāgavata Purāṇa is supreme. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has categorically established this in Tattva Sandarbha (Anucchedas 9-29). One may read that part for understanding why we accept Bhāgavata Purāṇa as the supreme pramāṇa. Besides Bhāgavata Purāṇa, we accept Upaniṣads, Vedānta-sūtra, Bhagavad Gītā and the books of our predecessor ācāryas, such as the Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, as pramāṇa. The latter are primarily based upon Bhāgavata Purāṇa. We also accept  Purāṇas,  Smṛtis and Āgamas that do not contradict Bhāgavata Purāṇa as pramāṇa. Anything that goes against the spirit of Bhāgavata Purāṇa is not acceptable to Gaudīya Vaiṣnavas. So, let us investigate the above question based on this main pramāṇa.

There are various references to guru in Bhāgavata Purāṇa but there is no prohibition against a female becoming guru. However, one may argue that all references to guru are in the masculine gender i.e., the word “guru,” which has been used repeatedly is in the masculine gender. There is no usage of the feminine gender form, gurvī, anywhere in Bhāgavata Purāṇa. One may argue that this proves that a female guru is not recommended in Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Similarly, Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, the smṛti for Gaudīya Vaiṣṇavas, lists the qualification of a guru in verses 1.38 to 1.55. Here again there is no mention of a female guru. The same analysis can be applied to other śāstra such as Bhagavad Gītā. One could argue that these pramāṇas conclusively show that śāstra prescribes only a male guru, and thus a female is not qualified to be guru.

Such a conclusion, however, is not proper. First of all, there is no explicit prohibition for a female to become guru in any of these śāstras. Secondly, when the word “guru,” which is in the masculine gender, is used, it is inclusive of a female guru. When the characteristics of a class are described, the description is given for a single gender, but it similarly applies to the other gender also. This is the standard principle used in Sanskrit grammar—prātipadika-grahaṇe liṅga-viśiṣṭasyāpi grahaṇam (Vyādi-paribhāṣā 25, cited in Harināmāmṛta-vyākaraṇam 2.73, 6.32). For example, if one wants to describe the qualities of a dog of a particular breed, then it is common to use the male gender word “dog.” It is understood that this word is also applicable to a female of that particular breed. A gender-specific description will be given if there are differences in the characteristics of the male and female pertinent to that specific topic. Therefore, when it is said that a guru should be an expert in śāstra and in realization of the Absolute (śābde pare ca niṣṇātam SB 11.3.21), or that he should be a jñānī and tattvadarśī (BG 4.34), this certainly does not mean that it is applicable only to a male guru. The statement is applicable to anyone who takes the post of guru regardless of gender. For example, in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (1.59-63), although the qualities of a disciple are described by the use of the masculine form, such qualities obviously apply to a female disciple also. The same is true of the description of the qualities of a devotee given in many places in scripture. Such descriptions apply to every devotee irrespective of gender. Similarly, qualifications for a guru as described in scripture are applicable to both male and female gurus. In these descriptions, there is no intention to prohibit a female from becoming a guru.

Amarakośa (2.6.14), a well-respected lexicon of Sanskrit, gives separate words for the wife of an ācārya and for a female ācāryā; the word ācārya is a synonym for the word “guru.” Amarakośa refers to the wife of an ācārya as ācāryānī, whereas a female ācārya is called ācāryā. Similarly, it calls a female teacher of a part of Veda upādhyāyā or upādhyāyī. The wife of an upādhyāya, however, is called an upādhyāyānī (Harināmāmṛta-vyākaraṇam 7.225, 226). This is also stated in Siddhānta-kaumudi (505, Pāṇiṇi-sutra 4.1.49). Separate words for the wives of an ācārya and for an upādhyāya, and for females who are themselves ācāryās and upādhyāyās, would not exist in the Sanskrit lexicon and grammar if female gurus did not exist in the past.

Furthermore, every Sanskrit word has meaning, and there is an eternal relation between the word (śabda) and its referent. This is stated by Patañjali in his Mahābhāṣya, which is the most authentic commentary on the Pāṇini-sūtras and is accepted on par with the sūtras. In the entire Sanskrit literature, Patañjali’s commentary is the only one called mahābhāṣya, while others are called bhāṣya. Patañjali writes, siddhe śabdārtha-sambandhe lokto’rtha-prayukte śabda-prayoge śāstreṇa dharma-niyamo yathā laukika-vaidikeṣu (1.1 Paspaśā, Mahābhāṣya). Here he clearly states that the relation between a word and its referent is siddha, or eternal. This is also understood from Yoga-sūtra (3.17). Bhartṛhari explains that a śabda has the natural capacity to express its referent, just as our senses have the natural ability to sense their respective objects:

indriyāṇāṁ sva-viṣayeṣu anādir yogyatā yathā
anādirarthaiḥ śabdānām sambandho yogyatā tathā

(Vakya-padīyam Pada-sambandha 29) 

Nyāya-sūtra (2.11.56) also says, sāmayikatvāt śabdārthasambandhasya, “The relation between a word and its reference is conventional.” From this, it is understood that there must have been female gurus in the past because a corresponding word exists for them in the Sanskrit lexicon as well as in the grammar. Thus, it would be wrong to conclude that female gurus did not exist in the past. 

A pūrvapakśa can be raised for the above logic. There are statements in Bhāradvāja Saṁhitā which categorically forbid a woman to be a guru. The relevant verses are as follows [Note: The translation of the verses from Bhāradvāja Saṁhitā are not mine. They were sent by a questioner.] 

na jātu mantra-dā nārī na śūdro nāntarodbhavaḥ |
nābhiśasto na patitaḥ
 kāma-kāmo ’py akāminaḥ ||42||

Even then, a woman, a śūdra, and an antyaja can never act as initiating gurus, nor can anyone who is accused of a great sin or is fallen. And an aspiring disciple who is already accomplished in detachment (akāmī) should never accept a guru who is infected with material desires. 

striyaḥ śūdrādayaś caiva bodhayeyur hitāhitam |
yathārhaṁ mānanīyāś ca
 nārhanty ācāryatāṁ kvacit ||43||

Women, śūdras, etc., can give ethical and moral instructions and are also worthy of respect as per their qualifications and conditions but are not entitled to get the position of ācārya

These statements seem to clearly prohibit a woman from taking the role of an initiating guru. My reply to this is that if this prohibition was acceptable to our previous ācāryas, then why did they not refer to these verses? In the first vilāsa of Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, there is an elaborate discussion about the characteristics of both qualified and unqualified gurus. However, there is no prohibition mentioned for a woman to become guru, neither in the original text nor in its commentary by Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī. Similarly, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī discusses both the qualified and unqualified guru in Bhakti Sandarbha. But he makes no statement prohibiting a woman from becoming a guru. We also do not find any such statement in the writings of other ācāryas of our sampradaya, such as Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa, Śrī Kavi Karṇapūra Gosvāmī, Śri Viṣvanātha Cakravarti, and Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa.

Moreover, if we accept Bhāradvāja Saṁhitā as our pramāṇa, then we would have also to accept that it allows only a brāhmaṇa to be a guru. It says:

prapitsur mantra-nirataṁ prājñaṁ hitaparaṁ śucim |
praśāntaṁ niyataṁ vṛttau
 bhajed dvija-varaṁ gurum ||38||

“Thus, one who is desirous of surrendering with faith, should take shelter of a guru who is always engaged in chanting the mantra and is a knower of bhakti-siddhānta (prājñam), is always engaged, without any desire for personal benefit, in showering mercy on fallen souls (hita-param), who is always pure in heart or free of sins, peaceful, and always committed to his prescribed duties (ordained by his guru or by varṇāśrama). Such a guru should be the best of the twice-born (dvija-varam meaning brāhmaṇa).”

The book also defines who is a brāhmaṇa in the following verse from Bhāradvāja Saṁhitā (cited from the Wisdom Library):

jāta-karmādibhir-yastu saṁkāraiḥ saṁskṛtaḥ śuciḥ
vedādhyayana-sampannaḥ ṣaḍ saṭ karmasvasthitaḥ
śaucācārasthitaḥ samyag vighasāśī gurupriyaḥ
nityabralī satyaparaḥ sa vai brāhmaṇa ucyate

[Bharadvāja Muni said, “O best of the twice-born, Ṛṣi among the brāhmaṇas, best of the orators of Vedic knowledge, kindly instruct us in the differences between brāhmaṇaskṣatriyasvaiśyas, and śūdras.” Bhṛgu Muni replied]:

“One whose birth and subsequent works have all been purified by the appropriate saṁskāras, who has the qualities of purity and cleanliness, who is devoted to Vedic study, who performs worship of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu, and who instructs others in that worship, who is a paragon of the six activities of a brāhmaṇa, whose behavior is never impure, who eats the remnants of his guru’s prasāda, who is dear to the guru, who always carefully follows his vows, and who is fixed in the truth, is known as a brāhmaṇa.” (14.96 Bhāradvāja Saṁhitā)

According to this definition of a brāhmaṇa, the majority of male gurus of the Gauḍīya sampradaya would not meet the qualifications. The verse requires a guru to have undergone the various saṁskāras, beginning from one’s birth. These saṁskāras are described in smṛti-śāstras. They also require birth in a brāhmaṇa family. According to the smṛtis, these saṁskāras cannot be performed for one who is not born to brāhmaṇa parents. The above verse from Bhāradvāja Saṁhitā also talks about the six activities of a brāhmaṇa: studying śāstra, teaching śāstra, performing yajña for oneself, performing yajña for others as a priest, giving charity, and accepting charity. If we apply this definition of a brāhmaṇa, then most gurus of the Gauḍīya sampradāya would not qualify. If, however, we do not accept this definition, then we apply śāstra selectively. That is considered a defect—ardha-kukkuṭī-nyāya. This means we accept what is convenient and reject what is troublesome.

Instead of searching for statements in Vedic literature to support one’s views, one should carefully study one’s tradition and the foundational books of one’s sampradāya. As mentioned before, there are no statements in Bhāgavata Purāṇa that prohibit women from becoming guru. Even when our ācāryas, namely Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī and Śrī Jīva Goswamī, extensively discuss the qualifications of a guru, they do not cite any verses that prohibit women from becoming guru. Anyone with basic Sanskrit grammar knowledge would not misinterpret the masculine use of the word guru to indicate an exclusion of female gurus; rather, the word refers to both masculine and feminine genders as a class.

Ma Yashoda

It is a fact that in various Gauḍīya Vaiṣnava traditional lineages, there have been many female gurus who gave dīkṣā. Some of them were very prominent but there have also been many others who may not be well-known outside their particular lines. For example, women have always been gurus in the Advaita vaṁśa, extending from Advaita Ācārya’s wife Sītā Ṭhākurānī down to this very day. Such female gurus mostly functioned within the family, giving dīkṣā to their sons or daughters-in-law, although now there are women functioning as dīkṣā gurus who are not the direct descendants of Śrī Advaita Ācārya. Probably the most prominent female Gauḍīya guru after Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was Nityānanda Prabhu’s wife Jāhnavī Devī. Virabhadra (or Viracandra) Gosvāmī, who is described in Gaura-gaṇoddeśa dīpikā as an avatāra of Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, took dīkṣā from her. In my own paramparā from Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita, there are four female gurus, ācaryās.

In conclusion, neither the Gauḍīya Vaiṣnava tradition nor the Gauḍīya Vaiṣnava pramāṇas oppose women from acting as guru. The qualifications of a guru—deep knowledge of scriptures and experience of Param Tattvado not depend upon gender.

Guru-tattva: Criteria of Re-Initiation

Question: I would like to hear from you some words about the criteria and sensibility to leave one’s guru and take re-initiation, since it´s a very delicate and personal issue. In other words, some devotees may receive re-initiation when that was not necessary, and vice versa. Any thoughts?

Answer: These are very important and relevant questions in the present times.  I have often been asked such questions by different devotees. Before I begin answering them, I will make some clarification on this subject related to guru. The first and foremost is that although the word “guru” has various meanings, such as “senior person, senior relative, respectable, heavy, big, dear, proud, Bṛhaspati, instructor, religious teacher, etc.” it has a very specific meaning in context of the above questions. Here it refers to a person who is a representative of Kṛṣṇa and has the responsibility to transfer knowledge of sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana to the disciple. This means that the guru himself must be qualified for that function. So, when śāstra is using the word “guru,” it assumes the guru to be qualified to execute this function. This is implied by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s statement in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.74), guru-pādāśrayastasmāt kṛṣṇa-dīkṣādi-śikṣaṇam, “Therefore [if one wants to follow the path of bhakti], one should take shelter of a guru and take dīkṣā and śikṣā from him/her.” It means that the guru not only gives dīkṣā but also śikṣā. Both go together. In fact, dīkṣā is the beginning of śikṣā. That is why it is called “initiation.” This implies that that the guru must be qualified to not only give dīkṣā but also śikṣā. Dikṣā is like taking admission in a university, and then the education begins. After taking admission, one is entitled to study. The purpose of admission is education. Admission is not the end of education. Dīkṣā, however, is much more than just admitting a student. One also gets mantras to be practiced.  

Mantra, Kṛṣṇa, and śāstra are one. Mantra is the essence of śāstra, and Kṛṣṇa is the personified form of śāstra. Mantra and śāstra are called śabda-brahman and Kṛṣṇa is Para Brahman:

śābda-brahma paraṁ brahma ubhe me śāsvatī tanū

 “The Veda and śāstra (ṣabda brahma) and the Absolute Reality, paraṁ brahma, both are My eternal bodies” (SB 6.16.51). 

It is by becoming proficient in śabda-brahman that one reaches Para Brahman:

dve brahmaṇi veditavye śabda-brahma parañca yat

śabda-brahmaṇi niṣṇāta para brahma adhigacchati

“There are two types of Brahman to be known, namely, śabda-brahman and Para Brahman. After becoming expert in śabda-brahman one realizes the Para Brahman.”

(Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.5.64, also in Maitrāyaṇi Upaniṣad prapāthak 6) 

One becomes proficient in śabda-brahman by the grace of a guru. Just as Kṛṣṇa is manifest as mantra and śastra, He is also manifest as guru—ācāryam mām vijānīyāt (SB 11.17.27). Similarly, it is said, devam ivācāryaṁ upāsīta “One should worship the ācārya just like God” (Āpastamba Sūtra 1.16.13) and sākṣād haritvena samasta śastraiḥ uktastathā bhāvata eva sadbhiḥ, “All the śāstras describe the guru as Hari directly and this is how the saintly people consider him” (Gurvāṣṭakam by Viśvanātha Cakravarti Thakura). Therefore, without guru it is not possible to become proficient in śāstra. So, we have to keep in mind that when śāstra uses the word guru, it means a guru who can give knowledge of śāstra. An uttama adhikāri in bhakti is one who is proficient in śastra and logic, śāstre yuktau ca nipuṇaḥ (BRS 1.2.17). 

A disciple should approach a guru to get knowledge of bhakti:

tasmād gurum prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam

śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ barhamaṇyupaśamāṣrayam 

“Therefore, one desirous of knowing the ultimate welfare should approach a preceptor who is well versed in the Vedas, who has realized the Absolute Reality and who has thus become the abode of peace.” (SB 11.3.21)

Here it is clearly stated that the guru is proficient in śabda-brahman as well as in Para brahman. Moreover, that person needs to have a peaceful mind and good character. Such a guru is called śāstrīya-guru or a guru who has the characteristics as given in śāstra, who knows śāstra and can teach it to others. 

The next verse commands a disciple to study the principles of bhakti from one’s guru: 

tatra bhāgavatān dharmān śikṣed gurvātma-daivataḥ

amāyayānuvṛttayā yaistuṣyedātmātmado hariḥ 

 “One should learn the principles of bhakti, by which Hari, who is the Self and gives Himself to His devotees, is pleased. One should accept the guru as dear as one’s own life and one’s object of worship and serve him sincerely without any deceptive mentality. (SB 11.3.22) 

Bhakti that is not based on śāstra would only lead to disturbance:

śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā

aikātakī harer bhaktirutpātāyaiva kalpate 

“Devotion to Kṛṣṇa that is not according to the injunctions of the Veda, Smṛti, Purāna and Pañcarātra, even if one-pointed, will only create disturbance.” (Cited in BRS 1.2.101)

Who is to be worshiped, how He has to be worshiped, what is bhakti is, and what is the ultimate purpose—all this is known only from śāstra. Such knowledge is not based upon some individual’s opinion.  

If one has a qualified guru, then the questions that have been raised here would not arise. Such a guru will not have an ill character, and the disciple does not have to think of re-initiation. That, however, is an ideal situation and may not be always possible.  A prospective disciple may have no idea about the qualification and function of a guru. We mostly get influenced by others’ opinion and may not have much ability to investigate the status of a guru. Indeed, sometimes even a guru may not know about his role and the qualification needed to fulfill it.

If it so happens that one accepts a guru who becomes materially implicated, such as having sexual relations with one’s disciples, consuming intoxicants, being greedy for wealth and power, or envious of great Vaiṣṇavas, then what should a disciple do in such a situation? 

First of all, the disciple has to do some introspection. What was the primary, the original purpose of accepting a guru? Was it spiritual or material?  Moreover, what is one’s expectation from one’s guru at present? I have seen many times people come for spiritual purpose but then later, for whatever reason, they change their priority. Similarly, there are others who did not have a very clear picture about the purpose of accepting a guru but later they learn that it is meant for spiritual upliftment and become serious about it.  

If one is truly serious about attaining bhakti and if one’s guru has deviated from the principles of bhakti, and one cannot expect any proper education from that guru, then one should seek out a qualified guru. Do not expect to attain perfection in bhakti if you do not have a qualified guru. Bhakti is defined in śāstra and one need to follow śāstra meticulously to achieve perfection in it. For this, the first step is to study it and then follow the prescribed method under the guidance of one’s guru. Even such a simple thing as chanting one’s dīkṣā-mantra has to be learned from one’s guru. But if the guru himself is ignorant about it, then certainly he cannot teach it to his disciples. Some sādhakas go on chanting for decades without making much progress. Proper result comes from proper action.  Proper action is based on proper knowledge. Proper knowledge comes from a proper guru. On the other hand, improper knowledge results in improper action, which gives improper result. 

If, however, one’s goal is not bhakti, then one can continue with one’s guru who is not following the principles of bhakti.

Question: Should there be some relative “period of hope and expectation” when the disciple, although perceiving that his guru is experiencing certain shortcomings, may wait for him to reinstate himself before accepting re-initiation? I think the Kṛṣṇa-bhajanāmṛta speaks something in that regard, even to the point where the śiṣya will instruct (in the spirit of service) his own guru, so he may reinstate himself.

Answer: First of all, consider that if the guru rectifies himself, would he be capable to guide you on the path of bhakti? If answer is yes, then wait for him to be rectified. Otherwise, no need to have hopes because he would not be able to help you anyway:

jñāna-hīno gurur tyājyo mithyāvādī vidambakaḥ

sva-viśrāntiṁ na jānāti para-śāntiṁ karoti kim 

“One should give up a guru who does not have knowledge of śāstra, does not speak the truth, and is a showman. He does not know the means to liberation for himself then how can he guide others?” (Guru-gītā 198, Siddha-siddhānta-saṁgraha 5.38)

You can also consider if his misbehavior was just a slip or a planned action. If it was only an accident, then no need to look for another guru. He would not repeat it. But if he has deviated consciously, then better to move on and look for another guru. Even if such a guru rectifies his behavior, it is not guaranteed that he will not relapse. Material saṁskāras are very powerful, and they force one to act even if one is unwilling, anicchannapi vārṣṇeya balādiva niyojitaḥ (Gītā 3.36).

Ultimately, one has to question oneself as to one’s own goal in life and whether that can be achieved from one’s guru or not. Truly speaking, one should ponder over this before one accepts a guru. It becomes problematic or offensive to scrutinize one’s guru after having taken dīkṣā. 

However, if the guru has become materially implicated, then it is advisable to find another guru. I do not think that modern disciples have the ability to rectify a guru or that a modern guru would be willing to accept any such advice as recommended in Bhajanāmṛtam. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī recommends finding another guru in such a situation (Bhakti Sandarbha, Anuccheda 238).

I am citing a part of this anuccheda here: 

“With the permission of one’s guru, one can render service to other Vaiṣṇavas, provided it doesn’t conflict with the service of one’s own guru, and this is also auspicious. Otherwise, such service will be flawed, as Śrī Nārada said:

‘One who worships someone else first in the presence of his guru attains an unfavorable result and his worship of Bhagavān is rendered futile.’

The characteristics of an authentic guru have already been discussed in verses such as this: 

‘Therefore, one desirous of knowing the ultimate welfare should approach a preceptor who is well versed in the Vedas, who has realized the Absolute Reality and who has thus become the abode of peace.’ (SB 11.3.21)

If, however, one has first failed to accept a guru of this caliber and his guru out of envy does not permit him to honor the great devotees of Bhagavān, there is nothing to be said about such a person [from the point of view of scripture], because he has rejected scripture from the very outset [by accepting a guru who doesn’t meet the criteria outlined in scripture]. Calamity certainly befalls such a person from both sides [because if he follows the order of his guru, he fails to honor the great devotees, and if he honors the devotees, he disobeys his guru]. With this in mind, the Nārada-Pāñcarātra states:

‘One whose instructions are not in resonance with scripture and one who hears such illegitimate teaching, both proceed to a dreadful hell for an unlimited period of time.’

Therefore such a guru should be respected only from a distance, and if he is envious of real Vaiṣṇavas, he should certainly be repudiated, as stated:

‘One is ordained to give up a guru who is self-conceited, who does not know what is to be done and what is to be avoided, and who has stumbled down the wrong path.’

Furthermore, such a guru cannot be considered a Vaiṣṇava because he lacks the character of a Vaiṣṇava, and thus the following admonition is given with such a guru in mind:

‘One goes to hell by receiving a mantra from a guru who is not a Vaiṣṇava. Such a person should again accept a mantra from a Vaiṣṇava guru, in conformity with the prescribed principles.’

If, however, an authentic guru endowed with the characteristics described earlier is no longer present, then regular service to a great devotee is most auspicious. Furthermore, one should accept a great devotee whose devotional mood is complementary to that of one’s guru and who is compassionate towards oneself. This principle is enunciated in the Haribhaktisudhodaya:

‘As a crystal reflects the color of an object placed before it, a person mirrors the qualities of a person with whom he or she associates. Therefore, a thoughtful person should associate with those belonging to one’s own community, for the progress of his or her lineage.’

It is essential to accept a great devotee who is compassionate towards oneself, because if he is not compassionate, the heart will not develop affection for him. As far as appropriate, therefore, one should render service to all those endowed with the insignia of devotees.” [end of quote from Bhakti Sandarbha]

So one should not associate with one’s previous guru but also not disrespect him. Associating with him will lead you astray from truth, and criticizing him will be offensive.

In conclusion, I will say that Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī has given a thumb rule. He says that if the witch in the form of desire for sense pleasure or liberation lurks in one’s heart, then there is no possibility of bhakti manifesting in such a heart (BRS 1.2.22). In fact, he says that bhakti is millions of miles away from a person whose mind is set on sense pleasures. In a similar vein, the famous author of Rāmacaritamānasa, Tulasīdāsa says that kāma (lust) and Rāma cannot exist in the same place. Wherever there is kāma, there is no Rāma, and where there is Rāma there is no kāma

Question: Although we have heard ślokas such as “guror api avaliptasya…” and many others concerning when to abandon a guru and accept re-initiation, I’m not so aware of specific instances along the Gaudīya history in that regard. Could you share some?

Answer: The most prominent case is probably Baladeva Vidyābhūṣana. It is understood from his own writing that he took dikṣā in the Madhva line, as he himself acclaims, and later in his life came to the doctrinal position of the Gauḍīyas and took dīkṣa from Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara Dās. In his case, this change of guru was not because his previous guru had deviated or was fallen but because Baladeva Vidyābhuṣaṇa’s ultimate goal had shifted.

Sri Bhakti-prasad Puri Gosvami
Śri Bhaktiprasad Purī Gosvāmī

Another perhaps not so well-known case is Ananta Vasudeva, aka Bhaktiprasāda Purī Gosvāmī, who was acclaimed as Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s successor in 1937. He and his close associate Sundarānanda Vidyāvinoda were the leading writers and thinkers of the Gauḍīya Math. A few years after Bhaktisiddhānta’s passing, they abandoned the Math and their initiation. Ananta Vasudeva gave up his saffron dress and left for Vrindavan where he lived the rest of his life more or less as a recluse. He took dikṣā from one of the Rādhāraman Gosvāmīs and simply called himself Purī Dās. 

Similarly, the author of “Saints of Vraja,” “Philosopy and Religion of Śrī Caitanya,” and other books, Dr. OBL Kapoor, whose initiation name in the Gauḍīya Math was Adikeśava Dās, took re-initation from Śrī Gaurāṅga dās Bābā, whose āśrama is adjacent to the Kṛṣṇa-balarāma temple, Vrindavan.

Of course, there are many such instances in the recent times. I can just cite one here. There was a Gaudīya Vaiṣṇava guru from Barasāna who became involved in physical relation with one of his lady followers. Some of them approached my guru and took dīkṣā from him. 

In these historical examples of re-initiation, I am not passing judgement whether the re-initiation was justified or not. I am just citing examples as asked by you.

Jiva Underground Classic Now Published as E-book

We have decided to publish the treatise In Vaikuṇṭha Not Even the Leaves Fall as our first Kindle e-book since it is about to go out of print. It is a systematic and thorough analysis of the bondage of the soul or jīva according to Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theology. The book was banned by ISKCON and has since become an “underground” classic. 


There is a long history behind the making of this book. Here I will just give a summary. I wrote the book in 1994 to settle a philosophical controversy that arose within ISKCON (International Society of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness) over the origin of the jīva in its conditioned existence. At that time, I had been serving as a Sanskrit teacher in the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula, Vrindavan. Although my service was to teach Sanskrit to Gurukula students, I also had begun teaching śāstras privately in my room at the request of several local devotees. I taught various books, including Bhagavad Gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavata with the Sanskrit commentaries of our previous ācaryas. Incidentally, this was also the period when I was studying under my teacher, Om Viṣṇupāda Śrī Śrī 108 Śrī Haridāsa Śāstri Mahārāja.

One of the books that I began teaching was Śrī Tattva Sandarbha of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, which is the first of the six books of the Ṣaṭ Sandarbha. Around this time (1988), Bhūrijana prabhu started the Vrindavan Institute of Higher Education (VIHE), which offered one-month courses on different subjects during the month of Kārtik. I taught the first two Sandarbhas as part of the VIHE for two consecutive years.

While I was teaching Tattva Sandarbha, some devotees proposed that I should translate the Six Sandarbhas of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. Although feeling unqualified, I took up this project as a service to the devotees and the paramparā. Kūrma Rūpa prabhu, who was an āśrama teacher at the Gurukula and my good friend, volunteered to do the editing. Jālandhara, a gurukula student, typed out my handwritten manuscripts. On Kūrma Rūpa prabhu’s request, Kuṇḍalī prabhu also came to Vrindavan and joined our Sandarbha project. Kuṇḍalī prabhu had been living in Thailand, working as an English teacher, and had experience as an editor for Back To Godhead magazine.

Kuṇḍalī prabhu began attending my classes and was impressed with the work of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī and with my commentaries on the Sandarbhas. He thought what I was doing was unique in the whole of ISKCON and that therefore, the Sandarbhas should be published by the BBT.

From my part, I wanted to have an educational institute in ISKCON where devotees could systematically study the Gosvāmī literature. I observed that although Śrīla Prabhupāda had successfully founded ISKCON, a great preaching movement, and established hundreds of temples worldwide, the movement seemed to lack a place to deeply study the scriptures. I felt that we should fill in this lacuna for the benefit of the devotees and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s society and thus formulated the idea of establishing the Jiva Institute for Vaiṣṇava Studies. My plan was to primarily translate and comment on the works of our previous ācaryas and to teach them to interested devotees. Both Kūrma Rūpa and Kuṇḍalī prabhus were enthusiastic about the idea, so we printed a small booklet describing the aims and objectives of Jiva Institute, which we called, in short, JIVAS.

From an ISKCON-leaflet 1994: Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa with team.

To solicit support for our plan, Kuṇḍalī prabhu sent a proposal to Harikeśa Swami, a prominent ISKCON guru, BBT trustee, and director of the Swedish BBT, which was one of the BBT’s most active and flourishing divisions. Kuṇḍalī’s proposal included the translation work that we were doing and our future plan to have an educational institute. He also sent him a draft of my translation and commentary on Tattva Sandarbha. Harikeśa Swami was highly impressed by the proposal and our work, so much so that he wrote that after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, these books would be most important. He was one of the prominent GBCs of the Māyāpur project and for years had not visited Vrindavan. However, he came to Vrindavan to meet me, being eager to manifest the Jiva Institute.

Harikeśa Swami had long talks with me and raised various questions to understand my real intention. Being convinced of its importance and utility, he decided to support the entire project financially, to print the Sandarbhas under the Swedish BBT, to buy land for Jīva Institute, and to fund the construction. The Swedish BBT purchased a large piece of land very close to where Jīva Institute is located today. Construction work soon began under the supervision of Kāliya Kṛṣṇa prabhu, a disciple of Harikeśa Swami and the headmaster of Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula. Harikeśa Swami also appointed Gopīparāṇadhana prabhu, who had worked on the Śrīmad Bhāgavata volumes printed after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure, to be our Sanskrit editor. Draviḍa prabhu was appointed as the final English editor. Upendrānatha prabhu had also joined us in Vrindavan, helping with typing and proofreading. We thus had a team of nine people.

The project was moving at great speed and full enthusiasm, and there was growing excitement about it in ISKCON at large, and especially at ISKCON Vrindavan. While teaching the Sandarbhas in the VIHE, however, a controversy arose over the issue of the conditioning of the living entity, the jīva. Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī clearly states that the jīva’s conditioning in the material world has no beginning and that no one can fall down from Vaikuṇṭha. He uses the word anādi (lit., beginningless) to describe the conditioning of the jīva.

My Sanskrit editor Gopīparāṇadhana prabhu was reluctant to accept my translation of anādi as beginningless. He proposed to translate it as “from time immemorial” to accommodate the ISKCON understanding that the jīva has fallen down from Vaikuṇṭha.

The controversy soon spread throughout ISKCON. We received many emails from devotees in different parts of the world, presenting their arguments against our view. There were also devotees supportive of us who shared their arguments and śāstric references.

When Tattva Sandarbha was almost ready to go to print in 1994, the translation of the word anādi was still unresolved. Gopīparāṇadhana and Draviḍa did not agree with my translation and explanation of the term; they therefore complained to the BBT trustees. The BBT then appointed Jayādvaita Swami to meet with us and mediate the controversy before the annual GBC meetings held at ISKCON headquarters in Mayapur, West Bengal. This is a time when temple presidents and GBC members meet to discuss various issues and institutional policies before the Gaura Pūrṇimā festival.

In Mayapur, Kuṇḍalī and I held long discussions with our two editors in the presence of Jayādvaita Swami. The issue, however, could not be resolved because the editors as well as the mediator refused to accept my translation and explanation of the word anādi. Since the book was to be published by the BBT, a meeting was held with all the BBT trustees. I was very firm on my view, while Gopīparāṇadhana, Draviḍa, and Jayādvaita Swami were firm on theirs. They proposed that I change my translation and accept the popular ISKCON understanding. I refused, because doing so would undermine the words of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī himself. To resolve the conflict, I suggested that Gopīparāṇadhana translate the Sandarbhas and write the commentaries himself. I offered my assistance with the translation work on the condition that my name not be mentioned in the work. Gopīparāṇadhana refused to accept this solution and said that he was incompetent to translate and comment upon the Sandarbhas.

After more discussion, the trustees proposed that my translation and commentary be published without changes. However, a footnote would be added to explain Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position, which differs from that of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. The footnote would include acknowledgment that ācaryas do have differences of opinion and that there was no harm in bringing out this difference. Kuṇḍalī and I agreed to this suggestion, but Gopīparāṇadhana, Draviḍa, and Jayādvaita Swami were still opposed.

At that time, Harikeśa Swami put pressure on Gopīparāṇadhana and Draviḍa to cooperate. Both devotees were receiving monthly remuneration from Harikeśa Swami for their contributions to the project. Therefore, after a long struggle, they agreed. With the consent of the BBT trustees, it was thus decided that Tattva Sandarbha would be printed with a footnote, explaining the opinion of Śrīla Prabhupāda.

After the meetings, we returned to Vrindavan and sent the final manuscript of the book to the Swedish BBT for printing. However, Gopīparāṇadhana, Draviḍa, and Jayādvaita Swami had not agreed from their hearts. When they returned to the United States, they made a plan to sabotage the printing. They held a meeting among themselves and with other devotees such as Hṛdayānanda dāsa Goswami, and devised a plan to stop the publication, utilizing a letter written by Drutakarma prabhu, which was published in the original Forward of this book. This letter was sent to all GBC members, temple presidents, and prominent ISKCON devotees. When Harikeśa Swami received the letter, he realized that he would be heavily criticized by ISKCON leaders if he printed the book under the auspices of the Swedish BBT. It is my conjecture that to avoid this, he immediately scraped the project, calling his disciple Kāliya Kṛṣṇa Dāsa in Vrindavan to inform him that the Sandarbha project was cancelled.

When Kāliya Kṛṣṇa relayed this news to me, I was taken aback. No explanation was given, so Kuṇḍalī called Harikeśa Swami to ask the reason for the cancellation. Harikeśa Swami simply forwarded Drutakarma’s letter in reply.

This happened on Janmāṣṭamī, so I accepted the decision as the will of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, although it was very disheartening at that time. The dream that we had nurtured for so long and that was about to manifest was crushed in a moment.

Anticipating some hidden grace from Kṛṣṇa in this whole drama, I decided not to take action against Drutakarma’s letter. I had a meeting with Kuṇḍalī and Kūrma Rūpa prabhus, my closest supporters, about our next step. We decided to print Tattva Sandarbha on our own, which we did a year later. However, Kuṇḍalī prabhu was not satisfied with this alone as he was a fiery person and loved to debate. During the period of controversy, we had numerous email exchanges with different devotees who tried to refute our point of view. Kuṇḍalī loved handling all such communication, as I had no access to a computer.

We coined the term fall-vādis for our opponents, who believe that the jīva falls down from Vaikuṇṭha out of envy for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. I had no intention of writing anything other than what Kuṇḍalī had already written during his communication with other devotees. The letter of Drutakarma, however, made him furious and he wanted to give a fitting reply. Therefore he prodded me to write a detailed refutation of the arguments presented by fall-vadis and to end the controversy once and for all. For this purpose, he presented me with a summary of their arguments.

It was on his inspiration that I wrote the first draft of this book. To give it a little sense of humor, we entitled it “In Vaikuṇṭha Not Even the Leaves Fall.” Kuṇḍalī prabhu edited my first draft and added material he had compiled from different sources. Kūrma Rūpa prabhu did the typing and Navadvīpa prabhu gladly agreed to edit it. We wrote, edited, and printed the book in about four months and then sent copies to Mayapur with Upendranātha prabhu to sell at the annual festival of 1995.

To our dismay, as soon as the books were displayed in Māyāpur, ISKCON authorities confiscated them and Upendranātha was not allowed to sell any copies. I received a phone call from Gopāla Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī, the GBC of the Vrindavan temple, asking me to come to Māyāpur immediately and to appear before the GBC board. Kūrma Rūpa and I then traveled from Vrindavan to Māyāpur. The GBC had formed a sub-committee to deal with the issue. We first appeared before the sub-committee where I had to explain why I had written the book. I told them that I had written the book to explain the truth and that I didn’t haven a hidden agenda to deviate ISKCON from śāstric principles or to become a prominent ISKCON leader, as alleged by Drutakarma in his letter. They could not argue on the philosophical points, but asserted that the book would be a great disturbance to the devotee community and therefore should be banned. I answered, “First of all, we do not know if it will disturb or satisfy the devotees. I suggest that you select a random sample of 100 devotees. Let them read the book and then see if they are disturbed by it.” My second argument was, “What I presented is not my concoction but is the view of our previous ācaryas, which is based on śāstra. Thus it is truth. If a devotee is disturbed by knowing the truth, then he is not truly a devotee.” The sub-committee did not accept my arguments and insisted that my book would be a great disturbance.

Since they were in the majority and I was alone, I had no desire to continue arguing.  Their arguments were not logical nor could they present śāstric references to refute mine. They reported to the full GBC board that this book is very dangerous and would create a disturbance throughout ISKCON. The next day I was called to appear before the full GBC body, where I was again asked why I wrote the book. I gave my reply and they again stated their reasoning that the book would be a disturbance to the society. They therefore decided to ban this book. Along with this decision, they stipulated that I was not allowed to study outside of ISKCON nor was I allowed to give public lectures. I was only permitted to continue my service as a Sanskrit teacher at the Gurukula.

After some contemplation, I realized that my time in ISKCON was over. I had given 16 years of my youthful life in the service of ISKCON and Śrīla Prabhupāda and now had to leave to follow my convictions. Overnight I lost my connections and acquaintances, all of which were ISKCON-related. I was branded as “ an envious snake,” “a demon,” and “a killer of Prabhupāda.” I began my life anew, from scratch. This is how I left ISKCON and came to establish Jiva Institute, with the help of my family members.

Every Gaudīya Vaiṣṇava wanting to understand the nature of the jīva should read this book. Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī explains that the essence of śāstra is to impart knowledge about sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana. Sambandha includes knowledge about the jīva and its relationship with Bhāgavan. It is crucial for an aspiring devotee to have clear understanding of the nature of the jīva to engage in abhidheya or the practice of bhakti to attain the ultimate goal, the prayojana. If our first step is misplaced, we cannot expect to reach the ultimate goal as enunciated in the Gosvāmī literature.

This book does not attack Śrīla Prabhupāda, ISKCON or anyone else; nor does it minimize Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position, or assert that he was wrong. Instead, it attempts to synthesize his views with the statements of our previous ācaryas.

Satyanarayana Dasa

“In Vaikuṇṭha Not Even the Leaves Fall” – Summary

This book consists of five parts or waves. Each wave is divided into chapters. The First Wave presents the conclusion or siddhānta of the Gauḍīya school and the verdict of the śāstra on the jīva’s bondage. Within the First Wave, the first three chapters relate the explanations ISKCON’s predecessor ācaryas Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatīon the jīva’s origin and the three types of jīvas. The Fourth Chapter gives references from the writings of Śrīla Prabhupāda, the Founder Acarya of ISKCON, who sometimes said that no one falls from the highest spiritual abode, Vaikuṇṭha, and at other times stated that jīvas fell from Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Why Prabhupāda made seemingly contradictory statements on this issue is answered in the Second Wave. The Fifth Chapter of the First Wave gives evidence from Śruti, Vedānta Sūtra, Govinda Bhāśya, Āgama, and the Nārada Bhakti Sūtra, all of which deny the possibility of a fall-down from Vaikuntha. Chapter Six gives further evidence from Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s commentaries on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Chapter Seven includes evidence from the writings of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, and Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī – the most prominent Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācaryas. In the following chapters of the First Wave, the term anādi (lit.,“beginningless”) is explained in detail. It is the philosophical term most commonly used by the ācaryas for describing the conditioned jīvas and is often misunderstood.

In the Second Wave, while establishing that preaching does not always mean presenting the siddhānta, we cite some historical examples of such preaching strategies being used by ISKCON’s predecessor ācāryas, including Śrīla Vyāsadeva. We conclude this wave by reconciling the siddhānta of no fall with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements that the jīva fell from Vaikuṇṭha. The Third Wave refutes the main objections of those who believe that the jīva fell from the spiritual world and became conditioned. In the Fourth Wave, more scriptural and logical arguments in favor of the no-fall down siddhānta are presented. The Fifth and last Wave lists the many philosophical inconsistencies in accepting a doctrine that eternally liberated spiritual beings, nitya-siddhas, can fall from Vaikuṇṭha, and then states the conclusion.


For some devotees, this book was a turning point in their spiritual lives. If you would like to share your realizations with other interested readers, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.

Cultural Principles in the Gauḍīya line

Question: In Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Antya 12.37 it is said:

peṭāṅgi-gāya kare daṇḍavat-namaskāra

govinda kahe śrīkānta āge peṭāṅgi utāra

When Śrīkānta offered obeisances to the Lord, he was still wearing his shirt and coat. Therefore Govinda told him, ”My dear Śrīkānta, first take off these garments.”

In his commentary, Śrīla Prabhupāda quotes from the Tantra: 

vastreṇāvṛta-dehas tu yo naraḥ praṇamed dharim
śvitrī bhavati mūḍhātmā sapta janmāni bhāvini

Anyone who offers respects and obeisances to the deity while wearing garments on the upper portion of his body is condemned to be a leper for seven births.

We all pay obeisances to the deity by wearing dhotī-kurta. Of course, outside of ISKCON, I have heard and seen that bābājīs of Gambhīra, Rādhākunda, uncover their upper garments, if they wear any, while paying obeisance. One bābājī advised me not to pay dandavat-praṇāma in front of the deity while wearing kurta and instead to pay panchāngapraṇāma.

But I could not understand how the external wearing obstructs our devotional service logically? How scientific is the principle behind the offense if we do dandavat wearing our kurtas?

Answer: Why do you think that every devotional principle has to have a scientific background? Why can it not just be a matter of choice or liking without scientific background? You know that we have two sides of our brain—one is logical and the other one emotional. We make decisions on the basis of both. Some of our decisions are rational and others are emotional. Thus some of our actions are rational and some are based on emotions. In fact, between rational and emotional decisions, mostly it is the emotional that overtakes. Love is not rational, and if we are trying to follow the path of love, then don’t expect everything to be rational. So if you love somebody, you do what is pleasing to that person and avoid what irritates them. This is the rationale behind not doing dandavat praṇāma while wearing kurta.

Paying dandavat obeisance is a sign of full surrender. It is a principle that in Vedic culture a surrendered male does not bow down like a stick with upper cloth on. You can do panchāngapraṇāma.

Question: In CC, Antya 13.53 it is said:

kāhāṅ pāilā tumi ei rātula vasana?
mukunda-sarasvatī dila kahe sanātana

Where did you get that reddish cloth on your head?” Jagadānanda asked. Sanātana Gosvāmī replied, “Mukunda Sarasvatī gave it to me.

So, here and also in Hari Bhakti Vilāsa, it is strictly prohibited to wear saffron clothes for Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, since these are the dress colors of Māyāvādī Saṁnyāsīs, and thus Jagadānanda Pandita was immediately very angry and took a cooking pot in his hand, intending to beat Sanātana Gosvāmī.

But how is this an offense, because even followers of Ramānuja-sampradāya wore saffron? If it is an offense, then why do the ISKCON/Gauḍīya Maṭha sannyāsīs wear saffron?

Answer: The answer to this is similar to what has been said above. The colors are related to the guṇas. According to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.2.23 Viṣṇu in charge of sattva, which is represented by white color. Therefore He may not be pleased by the red or saffron dress of His devotee. According to Hari Bhakti Vilāsa, Viṣṇu should not be offered red flowers but those Vaiṣṇavas who wear saffron, as mentioned by you, must have their own understanding and explanation for it. You need to approach them to clarify.

Question: In CC, Madhya 9.276, Mahāprabhu is speaking very strictly:

prabhu kahe karmī jñānī dui bhakti-hīna
tomāra sampradāye dekhi sei dui cihna

Both the fruitive worker and the speculative philosopher are considered non-devotees. We see both elements present in your sampradāya.

We know that we are connected with the Madhvācārya-sampradāya through Śrīla Mādhavendra Purī. But here Srīman Mahāprabhu is referring to “your sampradāya.” He indicates that Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas are not included in the Madhvācārya sampradāya. But how is this possible?

Could you please clarify what exactly Mahāprabhu wants to say? What is the proper meaning of the verse and how to understand it?

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu

Answer: The meaning of the verse is that in the Madhvā sampradāya there is much stress on varāśrama (which is karma, householders performing nitya-karma, and jñānīs, saṁnyāsīs are renouncing), but in bhakti propagated by Mahāprabhu karma and jñāna are not included. He is just stressing that point. The intention is not to criticize the Madhvā-sampradāya.

Moreover, when Mahāprabhu spoke these words, there was no Gauḍīya sampradāya.

Question: In CC, Madhya 24.313 it is said:

ahaṁ vedmi śuko vetti
vyāso vetti na vetti
bhaktyā bhāgavataṁ grāhyaṁ
na buddhyā na ca ṭīkayā 

I know and Śukadeva knows and Vyāsa may or may not know. The Bhāgavatam can be [only] grasped by bhakti, not by intelligence or [speculative] commentaries.

How are we to understand that the one who has written Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and is an incarnation of Lord Hari—Śrila Vyāsadeva—who is also a representative of guru, may or may not know the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam as told by Lord Śiva?

Answer: These states of statements have an implied meaning and should not just be taken literally.The point is that one understands the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam by bhakti. Otherwise, without bhakti even if one is Vyāsa one will not understand it. It is like the verse where Kṛṣṇa says, “I am not in Vaikuṇṭha—nāhaṁ vasāmi vaikuṇṭhe—or in the heart of yogis, but wherever my devotees do kīrtan, I am there.” This does not mean that Kṛṣṇa is not in Vaikuṇṭha. It is just to stress the importance of kīrtan. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa says that one who is His devotee is not His devotee but one who is a devotee of His devotee is His devotee.



Worship of Śrī Śrī Gaura Gadādhara

Gaura-Gadadhara of Bhaktivinoda Thakur
Gaura Gadadhara of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Godruma Dvipa

Question: I wanted to know whether your paramparā has any scope for Gaura Gadādhara upāsanā. We know that many of the Nadiyā bhaktas wrote songs in praise of them together. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākur and some of his followers also had a focus on Gaura Gadādhara.

The other thing is, does your paramparā think that Gaura Gadādhara worship is following in the mood of the Gosvāmīs, Kavirāja etc? There is some evidence that the Gosvāmīs accepted Gadādhara as Rādhā. But my specific question is if they worshipped Gaura Gadādhara together. In the majority of cases (padyāvalī/granthas) that I’ve seen, whenever they are together, Gaura’s Rādhā-bhāva does not flourish, hence my query. Hopefully the query makes sense.

Gaura Gadadhara at Jiva Vrindavan
Gaura Gadadhara at Jiva Institute, Vrindavan

Answer: We are worshippers of Gaura Gadādhara and our lineage comes through Bhūgarbha Gosvāmī. It is not true that Gaura’s Rādhā-bhāva does not manifest in the company of Gadādhara. I don’t know from where you got this idea. Rather, it is just the other way around. It is for this reason that Mahāprabhu kept Gadādhara in Jagannātha Purī but asked Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu to preach in Bengal and to not visit Him. Mahāprabhu is called “Gadādhara-prāṇ” or “the very life of Gadādhara”. He is always with Gadādhara. If Rādhā-bhāva did not manifest with him, in whose company would it manifest? When Mahāprabhu wanted to travel to Vantāvan, He forbade Gadādhara to accompany Him so that He could travel and not be just absorbed in Rādhā-bhāva.

Question: I’ve seen many instances where when they are together, Gaura’s Kṛṣṇabhāva manifests or Vraja-līlā manifests. Or rather Gaura seems in a more generalized bhakti- bhāva.

To illustrate that point further, in CC Antya līlā, when Gaura is succeeding more and more in his relishing Rādhā-bhāva, Gadādhara seems to recede more to the background, suffering separation in the temple of Ṭoṭā-gopīnātha. Instead, we find Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāmānanda Rāya as Mahāprabhu’s companions at that time of his relishing Rādhā-bhāva to the higher limits. So although Gadādhara is said to be always with Gaura, we see his close association absent during the critical point at which Gaura tastes Gadādhara. Kavirāja Gosvāmī even excludes him from the 3 and a half intimate associates at that time.

Answer: I would say that the reason for Śrī Gadādhara Prabhu receding is that his presence would incite Rādhā-bhāva more. He would act as uddipana vibhāva for Mahāprabhu. So he would stay away and suffer in separation. Moreover, Gadādhara himself would go into a high state of bhāva seeing Mahāprabhu and thinking of Him as Kṛṣṇa. Already the associates of Mahāprabhu had difficulty in dealing with the mood of Mahāprabhu and trying to keep Him calm. If Gadādhara had also joined Him, there would have been double difficulty.

Sri Caitanya hearing the Bhagavat from  Gadadhara Pandit
Sri Caitanya hearing the Bhagavat from Gadadhara Pandit

Question: What is the difference between the worship of Gaura-Nitāi and Gaura-Gadādhara in terms of mood, qualification and goal?

Answer: In the Pañca-tattva to the right of Mahāprabhu is Nityānanda who is non-different from Baladeva. Baladeva has sakhya-bhava along with vātsalya and dāsya.

To the left of Mahāprabhu is Gadādhara Paṇḍita who is nondifferent from Rādhārāṇi. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the origin of  mādhurya-rasa. Thus in Gaura-lila, Gadādhara Paṇḍita heads those devotees who are  absorbed in the sweetness of mādhurya-rasa. So those whose goal is to achieve Kṛṣṇa-prema in mādhurya-bhāva worship Gaura-Gadādhara.

Pancha-Tattva in assembly of sages
Pancha-Tattva in assembly of sages

Anyone who is chanting the Pañca-tattva mantra or worshipping the Deities of Pañca-tattva is naturally worshipping Gaura-Gadādhara. However, they may be doing it without specific awareness. 

Gadadhara Gaura at Sri Haridas Niwas, Kaliya-daha, Vrindavan
Gaura Gadadhara at Sri Haridas Niwas, Kaliya-daha, Vrindavan

Gadādhar Paṇḍita has the greatest love for Mahāprabhu. His love for Mahāprabhu is categorically greater than even that of Nityānanda or Advaita Ācārya. This is the reason that among the Pañcatattva he is the constant companion of Mahāprabhu. He is present both in Navadvīp as well as in Nīlācalalīlā. The reason is that he is nondifferent from Rādhārāṇī, the greatest lover of Kṛṣṇa. He is the personification of Bhakti-śakti. Sri Gadādhara Paṇḍita Gosvāmī is the foremost amongst Mahāprabhu’s intimate devotees. 

This however, does not mean that we should disregard the worship of Gaura-Nitāi or ridicule those who worship Gaura-Nitāi. Such a mentality is certainly hellish. Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita will not be pleased with such a mindset.

In Caitanya Bhāgavata it is stated:

gadādhara-devera sankalpa ei-rupa
nityānanda-nindakera na dekhena mukha

This is the vow of Gadādhara: He would never see the face of one who offends Nityānanda.

nityānanda-svarūpere prīti yara nani
dekha o na dena tare pandita-gosai

Gadādhara Paṇḍita would avoid being seen by anyone who has no love for Nityānanda Svarūpa.

(Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya 124-125)

gadādhara subha-dṛṣṭi karena yahare
se janite pare nityānanda-svarūpere

Whoever receives the merciful glance of Gadādhara can know Nityānanda Svarūpa.

nityānanda-svarūpo yahare prita mane
laoyayena gadādhara jane se-i jane

And whomever Nityānanda is pleased with can know Śrī Gadādhara. 

(Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya 7, 161-162)

Read more about the role of Śrī Gadādhara role in the Gauḍīya sampradāya here on our website.

New Publication: Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika

Gaura-gana-svarupaOne of the aims of Jiva Institute is to publish rare books. Dr. Demian Martins discovered this previously unknown work of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and translated it into English. It has been printed for the first time in Gaudiya history and is now available in our Online Store.

The author reveals here the identities of Sri Caitanya’s associates in krsna-lila and complements the list of names given by Sri Kavi Karnapura in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. He refers to the views of the previous Gaudiya acaryas and also to the Srimad BhagavatamPadma Purana, Rupa Gosvami’s Vidagdha-madhava, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja’s Govinda-lilamrta. One of the highlights here is the corroboration of the link between the Madhva and the Gaudiya sampradayas as presented by Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. At the end of this edition, there are comprehensive tables with a cross comparison between the identities of the Lord’s associates in Gaura-lila and Krsna-lila in the works of both Karnapura and Cakravarti.

Visvanatha Cakravarti’s “Gaura-gana” Release

By Dr. Demian Martins

It is a great pleasure to announce that nearly three centuries after its composition, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti’s Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika has now been printed for the first time and is available with an English translation. The text reveals the identities of Lord Caitanya’s associates in Krsna-lila and complements the list of names given by Srila Kavi Karnapura in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. One of the highlights is the corroboration of the link between the Madhva and the Gaudiya sampradayas as presented by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Following in his footsteps, the parampara list which appears in Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is was strongly supported by Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, but it has been object of criticism by other Gaudiyas and scholars. In the following paragraphs, sufficient evidence will be presented to refute their objections.

The history of the Gaudiya-sampradaya is primarily divided into two phases: the first comprises the years in which Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was personally present, and the second started after His disappearance. During the first phase, Lord Caitanya’s personal associates, headed by Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, took the task of elaborately describing in innumerable treatises the theological system taught by Him. The Gaudiya theology as explained by Lord Caitanya’s followers is based on the concept that He is the Supreme Lord. More specifically, that He is not an expansion, or avatara, of Visnu. He is Lord Krsna Himself, the avatari, the source of all incarnations. This view is corroborated by the Gaudiya acaryas on the basis of the statement of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32):

krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam

yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah

“In the Age of Kali, by performing sacrifices consisting mostly of congregational chanting, those who are intelligent worship a form of the Supreme Lord Who is Krsna Himself, although His complexion is not blackish, and Who constantly sings the names of Krsna. He is accompanied by His parts and parcels, divine ornaments, weapons and associates.”

Although this ontological view was not directly propounded by Lord Caitanya, His direct associates and the subsequent generations of followers adopted it. Based on this understanding they developed an elaborate philosophical school, which became known as acintya-bhedabheda, “inconceivable oneness and difference.” All the living entities, both in the spiritual world and in the material world, are energies of Lord Krsna, and are therefore considered eternally one with Him. Yet because they keep their individuality eternally, even in the state of liberation, they are simultaneously different from Him. The very same Lord Krsna now appeared in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu along with His eternal associates to perform transcendental pastimes, this time as a sannyasi. Mahaprabhu and His companions were classified in five categories, the panca-tattva. This is described in the following verse, which is attributed to Svarupa Damodara Gosvami:

panca-tattvatmakam krsnam bhakta-rupa-svarupakam

bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam namami bhakta-saktikam

“I offer my obeisances unto Lord Krsna in His five features as the form of a devotee, the expansion of a devotee, the incarnation of a devotee, a devotee, and the devotional energy.”

The pioneer work which gives a detailed account of Lord Krsna’s associates is Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Radha-Krsna-ganoddesa-dipika. It does not include, however, Krsna’s associates present in Caitanya-lila. Since the parallel between Krsna and Caitanya was clear, there arose a need to establish the parallel between His associates in both lilas as well. The oldest comprehensive text that we have knowledge of seems to be Kavi Karnapura’s Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, dated 1576 AD. In this book the author extensively correlates the prominent associates of Mahaprabhu with those of Krsna in Vraja. In the words of the author himself, this correlation was done based on the writings and statements of Lord’s Caitanya’s followers:

vilokyanyani sadhunam mathuraudra-nivasinam

gaudiyanam api mukhan nisamya sva-manisaya

vivicyamreditah kaiscit kaiscit tani likhamy aham

“Having seen, in the works written by Lord Caitanya’s associates, their names in Lord Krsna’s pastimes, and having heard those names from the mouths of the devotees from Mathura, Odisha and Bengal, according to their own understanding, I am writing these names, as I was repeatedly requested to do.”

There are several instances in which Kavi Karnapura mentions different opinions regarding the former identity of some of Mahaprabhu’s companions, and there are also instances in which a single person was attributed more than one identity simultaneously. Still many devotees mentioned in the standard works on Lord Caitanya’s pastimes were not included in Karnapura’s book. Other Gaudiya scholars attempted to give both an extended list of correlated names, and optional views regarding their identities. One such text is the Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika. Before analysing its contents, authenticity and authorship, it is appropriate to first analyse its sister work, Kavi Karnapura’s Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. Despite the latter’s popularity and large acceptance among Gaudiyas, its authorship is still questioned by some.

A few speculative writers even go extreme lengths in their stubborn attempt to disprove the link between the Madhva-sampradaya and the Gaudiya-sampradaya, which is so clearly stated in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. They claim that the text attributed to Karnapura was either composed or interpolated during the time of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who lived in the 18th century, or perhaps was even composed by Vidyabhusana himself, a claim which is baseless and malicious. While some directly or indirectly accuse Vidyabhusana of forgery, all of them unhesitatingly try to induce the readers to think that the Madhva-Gaudiya link was a concoction introduced by him. In discussing this topic, B. B. Majumdar referred to several other authors who wrote on it. According to him, the objections can be summarized in three points: Krsnadasa Kaviraja has neither mentioned the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, nor quoted any verse from it; the comparison between the associates of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna are not supported by the Six Gosvamis; and Karnapura does not mention why Lord Caitanya is said to belong to the Madhva-sampradaya. The first objection is far from ingenious. There is no scope in Kaviraja’s work to give an exhaustive list of all literary works composed by Lord Caitanya’s followers. If not being mentioned in the Caitanya Caritamrta is evidence of inauthenticity, then we would have to reject dozens of important Gaudiya works, including some written by the Gosvamis of Vrndavana as well.

If on one hand it is accepted that no emphasis was given to the Madhva-Gaudiya link before Vidyabhusana, on the other hand there is a good number of evidences that it was not something new or concocted by him. There is also no shortage of evidence that Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika was very well known as Karnapura’s work before the 18th century. In the Sadhana-dipika written by Radha-Krsna Gosvami, a mahanta of the Govindadeva temple in Vrndavana in the 17th century, the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika is quoted several times. In the ninth chapter, the author says: (…) sri-karnapura-gosvami-padanam sri-ananda-vrndavana-campu-sri-krsnahnika-kaumudi-sri-gaura-ganoddesa-sri-caitanya-candrodaya-natakadi, “(Further corroboration can be found in the works of …) as well as Kavi Karnapura Gosvami’s Ananda-vrndavana-campu, Krsnahnika-kaumudi, Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, Caitanya-candrodaya, etc.”

In the commentary of Anandi on Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s Caitanya-candramrta, verse 142, the following quotation is found: sri-gaura-ganoddesa-dipikayam ca eko mahaprabhur jneyah sri-caitanya-dayambudhih, prabhu dvau sri-yutau nityanandadvaita-mahasayav iti, “In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika it is stated: It should be known that there is only one Mahaprabhu, Lord Caitanya, Who is an ocean of mercy, and that there are two Prabhus, the magnanimous Nityananda and Advaita.” The Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana refers to a manuscript which reads Sakabda 1645 (1723 AD) as the year in which Anandi’s commentary was concluded. Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika was also quoted several times in Narahari Cakravarti’s Bhakti-ratnakara (early 18th century), and probably in many other works pre-Vidyabhusana, but these instances are more than enough to dismiss the misconception that it was an 18th century composition. Those who claim that the verses suggesting a Madhva link are interpolations should show at least one old manuscript in which those verses do not appear. As demonstrated above, Karnapura’s work was sufficiently known to be quoted by different scholars in different places. That means that there were enough copies circulating before the 18th century, and from those many later copies were made. At present, there are innumerable manuscripts of the text all over India, and possibly abroad, so if the verses referring to the Madhva link are interpolated, why can’t none of those who raise the objection present even one manuscript in which such verses do not appear?

The second objection would be valid if someone could give evidence that the text was not written by Karnapura, otherwise who can question his authority? He received the blessings of Mahaprabhu while he was still in the womb of his mother, and was especially favoured by Him as a small child. Moreover, as he clearly stated in his book, he did not write it according to his own opinion, but rather according to the views of different associates of the Lord. All of the Vrndavana Gosvamis accepted the interpretation of the above-mentioned verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32), and it is commonly accepted that whenever the Lord appears on earth, He is accompanied by His eternal associates. Therefore the list given by Karnapura cannot be discredited simply because it did not come directly from the Gosvamis. Nor does it clash with the theology presented by them in any essential respect, although Karnapura may sometimes include his own understanding in his writings.

The third objection is also fallacious, for it is well recorded that Lord Caitanya was initiated by Isvara Puri, who was a disciple of Madhavendra Puri, who, according to several sources, came in the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya. To dismiss the claim that Mahaprabhu is in the Madhva line, strong evidence should be presented that Madhavendra Puri and any of his predecessors did not have any connection with it either. While it is evident that Madhavendra Puri, Isvara Puri and Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not adhere to the orthodox Madhva philosophy and mode of worship, this does not suffice to discard their connection with the Madhva-parampara by diksa. It is ironic that several writers have taken an interest in rebutting the Madhva link, but they do not seem so keen to argue against the link with the Sankara-sampradaya. In the Caitanya Caritamrta, several times Mahaprabhu declared Himself to be a mayavadi sannyasi, as his sannyasa-guru was Kesava Bharati, who is said to have taken sannyasa in Sankara’s line.

anyera ki katha, ami—‘mayavadi sannyasi’

amiha tomara sparse krsna-preme bhasi

“Simply by your touch, even I, a mayavadi sannyasi, am also floating in the ocean of love of Krsna, so what to speak of others?” (Madhya-lila, 8.45)

prabhu kahe — mayavadi ami ta’ sannyasi

bhakti-tattva nahi jani, mayavade bhasi

“Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, ‘I am a mayavadi sannyasi and I do not even know what devotional service to the Lord is. I am simply floating in the ocean of impersonal philosophy (mayavada).” (Madhya-lila, 8.124)

mahaprabhu kahe—“suna, bhatta maha-mati

mayavadi sannyasi ami, na jani krsna-bhakti

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, ‘Please listen, O learned Vallabha Bhatta. I am a mayavadi sannyasi and therefore I do not know what devotion to Krsna is.” (Antya-lila, 7.16)

Yet in His exchanges with Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Mahaprabhu clearly rejects Sankara’s interpretations and conclusions on Vedanta:

jivera nistara lagi’ sutra kaila vyasa

mayavadi-bhasya sunile haya sarva-nasa

“Vyasadeva compiled the Brahma-sutras for the deliverance of the conditioned souls, but if one hears the impersonalist commentary of Sankaracarya, then everything is ruined.” (Madhya-lila, 6.169)

Does He sound like a faithful follower of Sankara? Thus it is apparent that a formal connection through receiving an initiation mantra or sannyasa-mantra does not necessarily imply, in all cases, full adherence to the thought of a particular philosophical school. In those days, in order to take sannyasa, one would usually approach the Sankara-sampradaya, which held a high status in Indian society at large, while Vaisnava-sannyasis were not so prominent, either in number or in rank. In history there are cases of acaryas who had been initiated in a particular line, but in due course propagated a system quite distinct from that line. Madhvacarya is one of the best examples. Although originally initiated in the Sankara-sampradaya, he propounded a system which was diametrically opposed to Sankara’s philosophy. Vallabhacarya affiliated himself with the sampradaya of Visnu Svami, but philosophically such a connection is not beyond doubt. Ramananda Svami belonged to the Sri-sampradaya and kept this affiliation4 in spite of starting a new sampradaya, propagating his own ideologies. There are several other cases of philosophical divergences among different lines within the Sri-sampradaya, but all of them still claim to belong to the very same line founded by Ramanujacarya. The same is also true in the Sankara-sampradaya, where, in the centuries, several acaryas propounded philosophical concepts and conclusions quite distinct from their predecessors’, and yet all of them maintained their connection with Adisankara’s succession.

The question regarding Madhavendra’s title as ‘Puri’ instead of ‘Tirtha,’ as expected in the Madhva lineage, is indeed an intriguing one, but despite lots of speculations, it remains unanswered. Yet we definitely cannot rule out the possibility that he was somehow connected with the sampradaya of Madhvacarya for the reasons just mentioned. Here again Madhvacarya himself is the best example, for during his whole life he kept the title ‘Tirtha,’ one of the ten sannyasa names unique to the Sankara-sampradaya, although he dedicated his life to fighting against Sankara’s philosophy. Caitanya Mahaprabhu had many sannyasi associates with sankarite names, such as Paramananda Puri, Kesava Bharati, Brahmananda Puri, Brahmananda Bharati, Sri Visnu Puri, Kesava Puri, Krsnananda Puri, Sri Nrsimha Tirtha and Sukhananda Puri, who were all obviously exalted Vaisnavas to be in His company. It used to be common to take sannyasa at very early age, and later possibly convert into another religious sect. It was also the etiquette that those who were defeated in a philosophical debate would join the sect of the winner. In any case, sannyasa vows were for life. Therefore there was nothing unusual in their keeping their sannyasa names despite a change of faith. Besides these, there are several other reasons which could be conjectured, such as the possibility that Madhavendra Puri was not at all connected to the Sankara-sampradaya but received his title elsewhere, since at that time this title was no longer an exclusively sankarite name, just as in the case of the title ‘Tirtha.’

Factually, the Gaudiyas are not the only ones to claim the connection between the Madhvas and the Gaudiyas, for the Vaisnavas in the Vallabhacarya-sampradaya also corroborate it in their own works, which we can assume are not affected at all by the Gaudiyas’ controversies on this topic. By the end of his SriVallabha-digvijaya, Yadunatha (16th century AD), grandson of Vallabhacarya, introduced the episode of Vallabhacarya’s taking sannyasa from Madhavendra Puri in the following words: tato madhva-sampradayi visnu-svami-matanuyayi bhagavad-anugrhito madhavendra-yatih samagatah | tasya prasamsadi vidhaya nivasitah | tan-mukhat sannyasa-dharmah sravitah, “Then arrived Madhavendra, a renunciant much favoured by Lord Krsna. He belonged to the Madhva-sampradaya and also adhered to the philosophy of Visnu Svami. Vallabhacarya duly received him as a guest by offering sweet words, etc., and then heard from him about the religious duties pertaining to sannyasa.” Gokulanatha (16th century AD), another grandson of Vallabhacarya, in his Do Sau Bavan Vaisnava Ki Varta5 narrated the exchanges between Vitthalanatha and Madhavendra Puri: so ve madhavendra puri madhva sampradaya ke sannyasi hate aur adel mem rahete hate | vin ke pas sri gusaim ji padhve jate hate , “Madhavendra Puri was a sannyasi of the Madhva-sampradaya and was living in Adel. Gusaim ji (Vitthalanatha) used to go to him for reading sastra.”

There is yet another objection raised: in his Caitanya-candrodaya (8.4), Karnapura depicts Lord Caitanya’s criticism of Madhvacarya’s followers known as tattvavadis, therefore he could not have stated that Mahaprabhu Himself was a Madhva:

sri-krsna-caitanyah: kiyanta eva vaisnava drstas te ’pi narayanopasaka eva. apare tattvavadinas te tatha-vidha eva. niravadyam na bhavati tesam matam. apare tu saiva eva bahavah. pasandas tu maha-prabala bhuyamsa eva. kintu bhattacarya ramananda-matam eva me rucitam.

Sri Krsna Caitanya: “I have seen many Vaisnavas who worship only Lord Narayana. I have also seen similar Vaisnavas known as tattvavadis. Their philosophy is not free from blemish. I have seen many others who are worshipers of Lord Siva. I have seen many powerful heretics. However, O Bhattacarya, I only like the philosophy of Ramananda Raya.”

A similar criticism is also found in the Caitanya Caritamrta (Madhya-lila, 9.276-277):

prabhu kahe, karmi jnani dui bhakti-hina tomara sampradaye dekhi sei dui cihna

sabe eka guna dekhi tomara sampradaye satya-vigraha kari’ isvare karaha niscaye

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, ‘Both karmis (fruitive workers) and jnanis (speculative philosophers) are devoid of bhakti. We see elements of both in your sampradaya. Yet one good quality that I see in your sampradaya is that you accept the form of the Lord as truth.”

The objection raised on the basis of these passages is also fallacious and is also refuted by the above-mentioned points, for Karnapura simply mentioned that some of Lord Caitanya’s predecessors were initiated in the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya, and not that He subscribed to Madhva’s doctrine in all respects. Moreover in these passages Mahaprabhu criticizes the tattvavadis and their views, not Madhvacarya, who preached only pure bhakti. Even some leading Madhva scholars like Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya are of the opinion that the Sarva-mula is full of wrong readings and interpolations which led some followers to misinterpret Madhvacarya’s original teachings. Therefore it is quite appropriate that Mahaprabhu would say ‘your sampradaya’ instead of ‘our.’

As seen above, Mahaprabhu was much more critical of Sankara’s philosophy, yet this did not prevent him from accepting sannyasa in that line. A very pertinent question to those who staunchly raise all these objections is: if Lord Caitanya was not connected with the Madhva-sampradaya, then which sampradaya was He connected with? No one can deny that He was initiated by Isvara Puri, and to take initiation means to be connected with a specific line. The disputants simply evade this question and declare that Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Lord Himself and does not need to be connected with any sampradaya to start His own. By such a statement, however, they totally overlook that He did take formal initiation. If His supremacy is not undermined by accepting Sandipani Muni and Vasistha as gurus in previous lilas, then certainly the same is true regarding His accepting initiation from Isvara Puri and thus becoming connected with the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya. The Supreme Lord is known as a devotee of His devotees, therefore it is His pleasure to accept the spiritual lineage of such an exalted soul as Madhvacarya, who is actually His eternal companion and had previously appeared as Hanuman and Bhima. On the contrary, to propose that Mahaprabhu started His own sampradaya because He is the Supreme Lord and does not need an affiliation with any of the traditional sampradayas would completely clash with the Gaudiya theological view that He is the ‘covered’ avatara of Kali-yuga mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.38):

ittham nr-tiryag-rsi-deva-jhasavatarair lokan vibhavayasi hamsi jagat-pratipan

dharmam maha-purusa pasi yuganuvrttam channah kalau yad abhavas tri-yugo ’ tha sa tvam

“In this way, through Your various avataras in the form of human beings, animals, sages, demigods and aquatic beings, You maintain all the creation and kill those who are inimical towards the world. O Supreme Lord, You protect dharma in conformity with each age, but because in Kali-yuga you remained covered, therefore You are known as Triyuga, one who appears in three yugas.”

By declaring that Lord Caitanya is an open avatara Who started His own sampradaya, as does Lord Narayana, the word channah (covered) in the above verse would be meaningless in connection to Him, and the Gaudiyas would lack unambiguous scriptural evidence to support His open status as the Supreme Lord.

In fact, the Madhva-Gaudiya link was mentioned by several pre-Vidyabhusana authors. Perhaps the earliest known reference to this link is found in an unpublished Oriya manuscript entitled Bhakti-jnana-brahma-yoga, attributed to Acyutananda dasa (early 16th century), one of the members of the panca-sakha of Odisha. Prabhat Mukherjee refers6 to other two Oriya texts which mention the link: Isvara dasa’s (end of 16th century) Caitanya Bhagavata and Divakara dasa’s (early 17th century) Jagannatha Caritamrta.

In the introduction of the Nava-ratnam, Harirama Vyasa (early 16th century) states:

“All glories to Sri Madhvacarya, who is like a sun emanating rays of bhakti, which destroy the darkness of the wicked words of Mayavada and other deviant philosophies.

“I, Harirama Vyasa, repeatedly glorify the Vaisnavas who have firmly taken shelter in Sri Govinda, by whose mercy I now compose this brief delineation of our disciplic succession.

“One’s own disciplic succession by which exclusive devotion is accomplished should be always remembered by the devotees, without which they cannot attain perfection.

“As stated in the Padma Purana: ‘The mantras received outside a sampradaya are considered fruitless. Therefore in Kali-yuga there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.’7

“Laksmidevi accepted Ramanujacarya, Brahma accepted Madhvacarya, Rudra accepted Visnu Svami, and the four Kumaras accepted Nimbarkacarya.

“Our own sampradaya is as follows: the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, Brahma, Narada, Badarayana, Madhva, Padmanabha, Nrhari, Madhava, Aksobhya, Jaya Tirtha, Jnanasindhu, Dayanidhi, Vidyanidhi, Rajendra, the sage Jayadharma, Purusottama, Brahmanya, his disciple Vyasa Tirtha, Laksmipati, and then Sri Madhavendra Puri, the lord of renunciants, Isvara Puri, and then his disciple Madhava, who became very dear to Radha and Krsna. I, Harirama, became an object of his mercy.”

In the fourth chapter of the Advaita-prakasa, dated 1568 AD and attributed to Isana Nagara, it is described how during his pilgrimage around India, Advaita Prabhu reached Udupi, where he met Madhavendra Puri for the first time and heard Srimad-Bhagavatam from him:

“Advaita Prabhu gradually visited many places of pilgrimage and then reached Udupi, the place of Madhvacarya.

“Madhavendra Puri read to Advaita Prabhu the Srimad-Bhagavatam with Madhvacarya’s commentary and also gave him his further explanations.

“Merely by hearing it, Advaita Prabhu memorized the whole thing. Seeing that, the community of devotees became very surprised.”

Kavi Karnapura’s Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, dated 1576 AD, is another early and better known Gaudiya reference:

“Four founders of sampradayas appeared in Kali-yuga, which are named Sri-sampradaya, Brahma-sampradaya, Rudra-sampradaya and Sanaka-sampradaya, as stated in the Padma Purana, ‘In the Age of Kali there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.’ First of all, I shall describe the disciplic succession from Madhvacarya. Brahma, the lord of the universe, became disciple of Lord Narayana, the Lord of Vaikuntha. Narada Muni became Brahma’s disciple and Vyasadeva became disciple of Narada. Sukadeva received transcendental knowledge from Vyasadeva and thus became his disciple. Sukadeva has many disciples and grand-disciples in this world. The renowned Madhvacarya received initiation in the Krsna-mantra from Vyasadeva. After systematically dividing the Vedic contents, Madhvacarya wrote the Mayavada-sata-dusani, in which he established the supremacy of Brahman’s transcendental qualities over its impersonal feature.

The magnanimous Padmanabhacarya became Madhvacarya’s disciple. Padmanabha’s disciple was Narahari, and Narahari’s disciple was the brahmana Madhava. Aksobhya became Madhava’s disciple, and Aksobhya’s disciple was Jaya Tirtha. Jaya Tirtha’s disciple was Jnanasindhu. Jnanasindhu’s disciple was Mahanidhi. Mahanidhi’s disciple was Vidyanidhi. Vidyanidhi’s servant was Rajendra. Rajendra’s disciple was the sage Jayadharma. Among Jayadharma’s disciples was Sriman Visnupuri, author of the Bhakti-ratnavali. Another disciple of Jayadharma was the brahmana Purusottama. Purusottama’s disciple was Vyasa Tirtha, who wrote the Visnu-samhita. Vyasa Tirtha’s disciple was Sriman Laksmipati, who was like a reservoir of the mellows of bhakti. Laksmipati’s disciple was Madhavendra Puri,by whom this religion of love for God was established. Madhavendra Puri was the incarnation of a kalpa-vrksa in the abode of Vraja. This tree bears fruits in the form of the mellows of servitude, friendship, parental love, and conjugal love for Lord Krsna. Madhavendra Puri’s disciple was the renunciant Sriman Isvara Puri, who understood the mellows of conjugal love for Krsna and bore the fruit of conjugal love. Advaita Prabhu understood the sentiments of servitude and friendship for the Lord and bore both fruits. Sriman Ranga Puri took shelter in the sentiment of parental love for Lord Krsna. With great respect, Lord Gauranga accepted Isvara Puri as spiritual master and then flooded both the material and spiritual world with love for Krsna.”

In the Bhakti-ratnakara, fifth wave, in the section dealing with Raghava’s description of Lord Gauranga’s pastimes to Srinivasa, after narrating how the Lord accepted initiation from Isvara Puri, Narahari Cakravarti (early 18th century) writes:

“Who is able to understand this transcendental pastime of Lord Caitanya? He personally made the Madhva-sampradaya blessed.

“One who joins a sampradaya can attain perfection in one’s activities. The mantras received otherwise are certainly fruitless.

“In Kali-yuga, the sampradayas are known to be four: Sri-sampradaya, Brahma-sampradaya, Rudra-sampradaya and Sanaka-sampradaya. This is stated in detail in the Puranas.

“As stated in the Padma Purana: ‘Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara – in the Age of Kali these will be the four founders of sampradayas. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth. The mantras received outside a sampradaya are considered fruitless. Therefore in Kali-yuga there will be four founders of sampradayas.’

“These four sampradayas are eligible for bhakti. I shall now describe what is called sampradaya.

“Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Who is like a wish-fulfilling tree, in His form as Narayana is the guru of all.

“Mahaprabhu made the Madhva-sampradaya blessed in this Kali-yuga. I shall now first mention the names of the Lord’s gurus.

“Narayana, the Lord of the spiritual sky, is the primeval Lord of all. His disciple is Lord Brahma, the ornament of Brahma-loka.

“His disciple is Narada Muni, who is full of love for God. His disciple is Vyasadeva, who is the guru of Sukadeva.

“Vyasadeva’s disciple was the magnanimous Madhvacarya, who compiled a commentary named after him and whose glories are unlimited.

“From him this sampradaya became known as Madhvacarya-sampradaya. Padmanabhacarya became his disciple.

“Narahari became his disciple, whose disciple was Madhava. His disciple was Aksobhya, who preached everywhere.

“His disciple was Jaya Tirtha, whose disciple was Jnanasindhu. His disciple was Mahanidhi, the friend of the afflicted and destitute.

“His disciple was Vidyanidhi, whose disciple was known as Rajendra. His disciple was the sage Jayadharma, whose pastimes are wonderful.

“Among his disciples is counted Visnu Puri, who compiled the book called Bhakti-ratnavali.

“In the pure line of the sage Jayadharma, the name of Purusottama Brahmanya is well known.

“His disciple was the great scholar Vyasa Tirtha, who composed the book Visnu-samhita.

“His disciple was Laksmipati, an abode of good qualities. His disciple was Madhavendra, who was like a rising moon of bhakti.

“His disciple was Isvara Puri, a repository of mercy. Lord Gauracandra, the Supreme Lord, became His disciple.

“Lord Gaura Raya became Isvara Puri’s disciple and He personally sang his glories with His own mouth.

“Who is able to understand the Lord’s wonderful power? The Nimananda-sampradaya thus proceeds from the Lord.

“Among the Lord’s name, ‘Nimai Pandita’ is the chief. This name is very dear to Lord Nityananda.

“Even today it is seen in Nadiya among the Lord’s devotees that his sampradaya is called Nimai-sampradaya.

“Nimai distributed bliss to all the world and is therefore famous on earth as Nimananda.

“It is by the influence of Lord Caitanya that His disciplic succession is known as the Madhva-sampradaya, just as I have previously explained.

“As stated in the verses composed by Sri Gopala Guru, disciple of Sriman Vakresvara Pandita: Narayana, Brahma, Narada, Vyasa, Madhva, Padmanabha, Nrhari, Madhava, Aksobhya, Jaya Tirtha, Jnanasindhu, Mahanidhi, Vidyanidhi, Rajendra, Jayadharma, Purusottama, Brahmanya, Vyasa Tirtha, Laksmipati, Madhavendra Puri, Isvara Puri and Sri Krsna Caitanya, the desire tree of love for Krsna – this is the disciplic succession known in the world as Nimananda.”

These verses attributed to Gopala Guru are particularly important, since he was a contemporary of Lord Caitanya. In his Sampradaya-bodhini, Manohara Dasa states:

“Lord Narayana’s disciple is Lord Brahma. You should know that Narada is Brahma’s disciple, and his disciple is Vedavyasa, who composed the Srimad-Bhagavata Mahapurana.

“His disciple Madhvacarya ascertained the meaning of the Bhagavatam and became its commentator. He was like an axe to the Mayavada and made the principles of bhakti become very strong.

“Madhvacarya’s disciple was Padmanabha, whose servant was Narahari. You should know that Narahari’s disciple was Madhava, whose disciple was the famous Aksobhya.

“Aksobhya’s disciple was Jaya Tirtha, whose speech was very refined. Some say that he is the author of a beautiful commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam called Vijayadhvaji.

“His disciple was Jnanasindhu, whose disciple was the blessed Mahanidhi. His disciple was Vidyanidhi, who was an unalloyed devotee of guru and Gopala.

“His disciple was Rajendra, whose disciple was Jayadharma. His disciple was Purusottama, who had no other activity except bhajana.

“His disciple was Brahmanya, whose disciple was Vyasa Tirtha. His disciple was Laksmipati, on whom Madhavendra put his faith.

“His disciple was Isvara Puri, who served him very well according to the rules and regulations, to whom the Guru of the whole universe accepted as guru to give a good instruction to the world.

“At first being called Nimananda, He later became known by the name Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His unalloyed disciplic succession.

“From the beginning up to Madhvacarya, this disciplic succession is called Brahma-sampradaya, and the saintly people enunciate its multitude of virtues.

“You should know that up to Isvara Puri this lineage is known as Madhva-sampradaya, and after him it is well known as the Nimanandi sampradaya.

“The famous Gopala Guru, an associate of Mahaprabhu, compiled the names of the disciplic succession in very beautiful Sanskrit verses.

“The second proof is very well known. Nityananda Prabhu had a servant, the excellent Purusottama, who performed wonderful kirtanas and dance.

“His disciple was the great poet named Devakinandana, who described the four sampradayas in the assembly of devotees.

“This description of the disciplic successions was written in beautiful Bengali and everyone who reads it has all mental confusions dispelled. There is no cause for laughter here.

“A clever person should attentively reflect on this: being very merciful, Nityananda Prabhu and Advaita Prabhu accepted Madhavendra Puri as guru just for giving a good instruction to people.

“Vrndavana dasa Thakura, who was known to be established in bliss, composed the supremely sweet Sri Caitanya Bhagavata. Look carefully at the well known evidence written there.

“Now some say that Lord Gauranga took sannyasa in the Madhva-sampradaya and is therefore said to be a servant of the Madhva-sampradaya.

“You should know that it is definitely not so, for in the Madhva-sampradaya the sannyasis are named Tirtha, while Lord Caitanya’s sannyasa guru was named Kesava Bharati. Thus the raised argument is fruitless.

“It is written that there are only four sampradayas, therefore in the Padma Purana we find the following statement by Vyasadeva.

‘In the Age of Kali there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.’

“Hear another surprising thing: Madhavendra Puri was a sannyasi and had a householder disciple from South India called Svarupacarya.

“He belonged to the unalloyed disciplic succession of the Four Kumaras (Nimbarka-sampradaya) and became bound by the great mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

“Together with Kesava Kasmiri, he wrote about the modes of rasa. One who attentively reads that text attains intense love for God.

“Since then there is incomparable love for God in the sampradaya of Lord Caitanya and such treasure shines beautifully like gold encrusted with gems.

“It is heard from the Srimad-Bhagavatam that there are five kinds of evidences. Just ponder over them. Direct perception, inference and comparison are said to be very agreeable.

“And then there are two more counted among the evidences: scriptural testimony and history. There is no doubt that the devotees accept all of these.

“Among these, history means the facts known to have happened earlier and later. Just hear from the disciplic succession, for this is definitive.

“In Gaudadesa, from long ago until nowadays, everyone, even the children, the elderly and the women folk, say that this is the Madhva-sampradaya.

“Now a new opinion is heard in the society of devotees. Do not let this dilemma enter your mind. The best view is that which prevails both in the beginning and at the end.”

In describing the four Vaisnava-sampradayas at the end of the Anuragavalli, dated Samvat 1753 (1696 AD), Manohara dasa states:

“Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the son of Nanda Maharaja Himself, so for what purpose would He accept a guru?

“If someone says that the Lord Himself takes the process of bhakti so that people may understand it, then why would Lord Gauranga, the Guru of the whole world, accept a guru from outside a bona fide disciplic succession?

“The Lord acts in order to establish the sanatana-dharma. Everyone knows the statement of the Padma Purana.

“Why would the Supreme Lord break the standard conduct of bhakti? Thinking about this, my mind became very perplexed.

The author then says that after looking for evidence of the affiliation of Lord Caitanya with a Vaisnava-sampradaya for a long time, he found a manuscript with the above quoted Gopala Guru’s pranali: sriman-narayano brahma (…)

“The magnanimous Sri Purusottama was a dear disciple of Sri Nityananda, and his disciple was Daivakinandana Thakura.

“He composed a large Vaisnava-vandana in which he wrote about the four sampradayas.

“Therein he made all the above quoted verses about the succession in the Madhva-sampradaya to become known in Bengali.

“This was spread in every place all over the country. Just see, hear and know the conclusion.

“In the beginning there was Sri Madhvacarya, who wrote many commentaries on the scriptures. In his commentaries, he established the conclusion of the principle of bhakti.

“I tell you that up to Isvara Puri, this line was known in the world as Madhva-sampradaya.

“When Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared, before all other names, He got the name Nimai.

“In due course, by the will of Caitanya Mahaprabhu from this name His sampradaya became regularly known as Nimanandi.”

In the Murali-vilasa, 21st Pariccheda, Rajavallabha Gosvami (17th century) glorifies his guru and disciplic succession and then quotes the same verses from the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. In his Bhakta-mala, Laladasa (early 18th century) states:

“The evidence on the sampradayas is known from the Padma Purana, where it is said that there are four celebrated sampradayas in this world.

“In the Age of Kali there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.

“In this regard, I will now glorify the holy disciplic succession of the Madhva-sampradaya.

Then he quotes those same verses from the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (paravyomesvarasyasit…).

In his Bhakta-mala, dated 1717 AD, Raghava dasa describes the Madhva-sampradaya in the following words:

“We offer obeisances to Lord Brahma, who is the original tree of this disciplic succession and spread the pure rasa of the Vedas. Drinking this sweet nectarean rasa, Madhvacarya is in ecstasy.

“Many saints and religious leaders who appeared on this earth crossed this path, and in their association many more people also crossed it by worshiping and honouring Lord Hari.

“What can a wretch like me describe? My intellect cannot grasp all this. The following five religious leaders are very famous scholars of West Bengal.

“Sri Krsna Caitanya, Nityananda, Rupa and Sanatana were always chanting Rama’s Holy Name, their hearts enraptured, and thus they attained full benefit by such mode of worship.

“Jiva Gosvami ascertained the conclusion of the scriptures as if separating the water from the milk. All glories to him, whose meditation was like that of Dhruva and who was therefore incomparable in all the three worlds.”

In the second chapter of the book Mahaprabhura Siksa, Bhaktivinoda Thakura expresses his view:

“By all of these statements it is clear that the sampradaya of Lord Caitanya and His followers is the Brahma-sampradaya. Accordingly, Kavi Karnapura corroborated this disciplic succession in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, and Baladeva Vidyabhusana also confirmed it. Anyone who does not accept this disciplic succession is without doubt the greatest enemy of Lord Krsna Caitanya and His followers.”

Sundarananda Vidyavinoda and others try to dismiss the authenticity of some of the above quoted texts, but although some of their objections are valid, it is more than unlikely that so many unrelated works written by unrelated authors in different places, languages and centuries would be all spurious or interpolated as claimed.

In books like Prameya-ratnavali, Govinda-bhasya and Siddhanta-ratna, Baladeva Vidyabhusana brilliantly highlights a strong common philosophical ground between the Madhva and the Gaudiya systems, thus evincing that there is nothing inconsistent in their disciplic affiliation. Yet at the same time, in his scriptural exegesis, he always brings up the Gaudiyas’ unique mood and identity that make them a particular sampradaya on their own merit, albeit their historical and contextual connection with Madhvacarya’s line. As it is clear from the innumerable sources quoted above, this underlying relation between both Vaisnava traditions was already well known for centuries before Vidyabhusana appeared on the scene. His earliest dated manuscripts were compiled in the 1740s, and the earliest documents which mention his name belong to the same decade. According to documentary evidence, he left this world in 1793, and based on these dates we can infer that he was probably born around 1700 and might have arrived in Vrndavana in the 1730s. By then practically all the texts quoted above had already been written long before, which entirely rules out any chance of Vidyabhusana having authored any of them. All he did was bring to light a fact which was perhaps not so relevant until his time period, when affiliation with one of the four traditional Vaisnava-sampradayas became an unavoidable requirement for a religious group to acquire social legitimacy. The concept of only four sampradayas possibly became popular in North India on account of Nabhaji’s (1570–1662) Bhakta-mala. Before describing the devotees in Kali-yuga, the author states:

“Lord Hari had previously appeared in twenty four different forms and now in Kali-yuga He manifested a fourfold form: Ramanuja is magnanimous like the moon and is a wish-fulfilling tree on earth; Visnu Svami is like a boat to help the living entities to cross the ocean of the material world; Madhvacarya is like a cloud which fills barren lands with ponds of devotion; and Nimbarkacarya is like a sun removing the fog of ignorance. These four acaryas established their respective sampradayas to propagate bhagavata-dharma and the proper way of action for all those born as human beings.”

In the early 18th century, Balananda Svami from the Ramanandi-sampradaya created the cara sampradaya akhada (Assembly of the Four Sampradayas) with branches in several cities. Having a large number of members, they soon attained considerable political influence and firmly established a sort of religious monopoly. G. N. Bahura remarks this fact by quoting the following verse:

sampradaya hi catvarah pancamo naiva vidyate

padmokta-vacanenaiva nirnitam panditaih kila

“There are only four sampradayas and not a fifth one. This was factually ascertained by learned scholars on the basis of the statements of the Padma Purana.”

Although from the outset it is very clear that the condition for legitimacy was affiliaton with one of the four Vaisnava-sampradayas, and although Vidyabhusana himself quotes the mentioned Padma Purana verses to corroborate this point, surprisingly, writers like Vidyavinoda and Kanai Lal Adhikari state that Vidyabhusana proved that the Gaudiyas are the fifth sampradaya!

Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika is yet another text to corroborate the Madhva-Gaudiya link. If we take into consideration the traditional account that Vidyabhusana was personally sent to Amber by Visvanatha Cakravarti to defend the interest of the Gaudiyas when their credibility was questioned, then it is more than plausible that Cakravarti became very pleased with the outcome of the debates there, which granted the Gaudiyas their sought recognition. It is quite expected that as the senior leader of the Gaudiya Vaisnava community in Vrndavana, Cakravarti would then write something to endorse Vidyabhusana’s proposition to dismiss the idea that the link was a new concept introduced by him. This would place the present text as perhaps the very last composition of Cakravarti. Or else, if it was an earlier composition, it served as the basis upon which Vidyabhusana could elaborate his argument beforehand, knowing very well what Cakravarti’s view was. Vidyabhusana’s background as a follower of Madhvacarya, although very appropriate to the situation, can only be considered mere coincidence.

Some question why Vidyabhusana did not directly refer to Kavi Karnapura in his books. It is somewhat apparent that in the context in which the debates in the kingdom of Amber took place, the scope was within orthodox scriptures and logic, and the disputants were court panditas and Vaisnava scholars of different denominations. In these circumstances, and as a matter of fact, Karnapura’s name was then absolutely unknown, therefore quoting him would not add much to the argument. Factually, Vidyabhusana’s philosophical treatises follow the orthodox standard of giving primary authority to the sruti and smrti, and there is hardly any instances in which he quotes individual authors. Moreover, in his Prameya-ratnavali, Vidyabhusana presents the list of names in the Gaudiya-parampara in a straight way as an established fact known to all, just as one who knows the names of one’s own forefathers is not required to give quotations. On the contrary, to quote a remote and unknown author rather than furthering his cause, would have sounded quite suspicious.

It should be observed that most of the names presented by Vidyabhusana come straight from the traditional tables from the Madhva-sampradaya. Although Padmanabha, Narahari, Madhava and Aksobhya were all direct disciples of Madhvacarya, still the order of names here is not inconsistent, for each became the pontiff or head of the sampradaya upon the demise of his direct predecessor. In the presence of a new pontiff, the godbrothers would behave as his disciples. The above-mentioned four names appear in the disciplic successions of the Vyasaraja Matha, Raghavendra Matha and Uttaradi Matha, all of whom attest their historicity. The mention of Visnu Puri’s name in Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika suggests that this is a list of prominent names, so there is nothing surprising if we do not find the names of Jnanasindhu and Dayanidhi (Mahanidhi) in the tables of the Madhva-parampara. Jaya Tirtha was one of the greatest preachers of the Madhva-sampradaya and he had innumerable disciples. It can be surmised that these two names were added to the list due to their prominence among Jaya Tirtha’s disciples besides Vidyanidhi (Vidyadhiraja). Another question that begs an explanation is: how could Vyasa Tirtha have outlived four generations of disciples before passing away in 1539 AD? There seems to be indications that he had a lifespan as long as 120 years, in which case there is no cause for doubts.

Gaura-gana- svarupa- tattva-candrika Prameya-ratnavali; Govinda-bhasya-suksma-tika; Gopala Guru Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika;Bhakti-ratnakara Bhakti-jnana-brahma-yoga Vyasa Tirtha
1. Narayana Krsna Narayana Bhagavan
2. Brahma Brahma Brahma Brahma
3. Narada Narada Narada Narada
4. Vyasa Vyasa Vyasa
5. Madhva Madhva Madhva Madhva Madhva
6. Padmanabha Padmanabha Padmanabha Padmanabha Padmanabha
7. Narahari Narahari Narahari Narahari
8. Madhava Madhava Madhava Madhava
9. Aksobhya Aksobhya Aksobhya Aksobhya
10. Jaya Tirtha Jaya Tirtha Jaya Tirtha Jaya Tirtha
11. Jnanalabdha Jnanasindhu Jnanasindhu
12. Mahanidhi Dayanidhi Mahanidhi
13. Vidyanidhi Vidyanidhi Vidyanidhi Vidyadhiraja
14. Rajendra Rajendra Rajendra Rajendra
15. Jayadharma Jayadharma Jayadharma Jayadhvaja
16. Purusottama Purusottama Visnu Puri and Purusottama Purusottama
17. Brahmanya Brahmanya
18. Vyasa Tirtha Vyasa Tirtha Vyasa Tirtha Vyasa Tirtha
19. Laksmipati Laksmipati Laksmipati Srinivasa
20. Madhavendra Madhavendra Madhavendra Madhavendra Rama
21. Isvara Puri Isvara Puri Isvara Puri Kesava Bharati Laksmikanta
22. Caitanya Caitanya Caitanya Caitanya Sripati

In this way, the list given by Vidyabhusana is thoroughly consistent. In comparison to the other lists, the only divergence would be regarding the names of Purusottama and Brahmanya, both of whom sometimes appear as a single entry instead of two different persons. This probably happened due to poor readings in which ‘brahmanya’ (pious/religious) was read as adjective of Purusottama.

Attempting to avoid such outrageous accusations against Baladeva Vidyabhusana as done by the above-mentioned authors, Radhagovinda Nath takes the matter in another direction and claims that the parampara list in the Prameya-ratnavali was interpolated by someone else. This is, of course, another baseless speculation of someone who did not even care to analyse the available manuscripts. Vedanta Vidyavagisa’s commentary, entitled Kanti-mala, is included in nearly every manuscript of the Prameya-ratnavali, and was obviously composed in Vidyabhusana’s presence, or even by his instigation. This is one of his most largely distributed works, and copies of it can be found all over India, yet among the many copies I have seen, there is not even one in which the parampara list does not appear. While Nath’s attempt may appear noble, he actually discredits Vidyabhusana’s legitimate view just to present his own. Several such authors who vehemently oppose the Madhva link go on and on for pages and pages trying to demonstrate how the Gaudiya philosophy and theology differ from that of the Madhvas. Such efforts are as useless as beating a husk devoid of rice. Had they factually read his works, they would know that in several instances Vidyabhusana himself makes it clear that the Gaudiyas are not in absolute concordance with each and every view held by the Madhvas. The composition of Govinda-bhasya is itself enough evidence of this, otherwise in his debates Vidyabhusana could have solved the case by merely referring to Madhvacarya’s Brahma-sutra-bhasya. Besides this, in the last chapter of his Siddhanta-darpana, Vidyabhusana strongly refutes the theory that the three chapters in the Srimad-Bhagavatam dealing with Lord Brahma’s bewilderment are interpolated as claimed by the Madhvas. This disproves the view of other misinformed authors who claim that Vidyabhusana remained an avowed Madhva rather than a Gaudiya. Once again, this also corroborates that the view propounded by Vidyabhusana was mainly that of a formal affiliation through initiation, and not an uncompromising philosophical adherence. This remains so despite the many congruent points he might have raised in his works, as so well observed by B. N. K. Sharma: “These facts are sufficient to establish that Baladeva is virtually in agreement with Madhva on all the fundamental points of his system. That is why we find him proclaiming his loyalty to Madhva and affirming the historical and spiritual descent of the Caitanya-sampradaya from Madhva, without any hesitation or mental reservation, not only in the Prameya-ratnavali, but also in his Siddhanta-ratna, which is an introduction to his Govinda-bhasya and his own commentary on it, quoted earlier. This would suffice to place his allegiance to the Madhva-sampradaya beyond question.”

The Manuscript and its Authorship

To the present moment, only one manuscript could be located for consultation, preserved in the Sri Gauranga Grantha Mandir, which is obviously a second hand copy. Neither the text itself nor the transcription is dated, but from the paper, ink and style we can infer that it is not older than late 19th century. Unfortunately, the scribe did a very inattentive and faulty transcription, replete with spelling mistakes, missing words, and even missing verses. At the colophon we find the following words: iti sri-visvanatha-cakravartina viracita sri-gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika samapta, “Thus ends the Sri-gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika composed by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti.” After this it is mentioned: sri-rama-narayana-chatrako muda sry-ananda-narayana-bhusuraya lilekha vai gaura-gana-svarupa-tattvabhidham sundara-candrikam iyam (sic),“The pupil of Sri Rama Narayana joyfully copied this beautiful Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika for the brahmana Sri Ananda Narayana.” It is doubtful that this is the very same copy written by the said scribe, as common scribes would often copy the signatures of previous scribes without even realizing the blunder, especially if those were written in a Sanskrit verse.

Moreover it is grammatically incorrect to use the verbal form ‘lilekha,’ a reduplicated perfect, for an action done by oneself, for this tense usually expresses distant past not witnessed by the speaker, and the word ‘iyam’ is a gross mistake that should instead take the accusative form ‘imam.’ This simply corroborates what is so clear from the transcription of the text: that the scribe knew no Sanskrit at all. As for the name of Visvanatha Cakravarti as the author of the text, a few valid doubts may be raised regarding its authenticity, but none of them seem to be strong enough to totally rule out the possibility.

The first point is obviously the fact that apart from a single manuscript, no other copy seems to be available in any major library in India or abroad. Yet from the very manuscript it is evident that there must have been other copies of the text, which might still exist somewhere, possibly in some private collection. We also hear of some supposedly lost works of Cakravarti, as, for example, the Aisvarya-kadambini, so even if only one copy of Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika is extant at present, it might indeed be his composition, since all of his works did not circulate widely enough to reach our hands three centuries later. The same holds true in the case of several other works of prominent Gaudiya acaryas, which are somehow known to have been written, but were not preserved and propagated. Had Srila Jiva Gosvami not taken the required steps to copy and distribute the Gosvami’s literary heritage, perhaps we would hardly have access to but a few of the texts available in his days. Unfortunately, after Jiva Gosvami, such efforts were rare, if made at all, and many subsequent works fell into oblivion. Such was the situation in Visvanatha’s time, and it so remained until the appearance of systematic libraries and printing presses improved the situation to some extent: the former, by giving the manuscripts better conditions for preservation than those offered at homes and temples, and the latter, by ensuring that the texts would be spread far and wide – the best means to ensure that they will never be lost.

In this way, no matter how important Visvanatha Cakravarti and his works are considered today, we cannot say that the present text is not his merely because it was not sufficiently copied and distributed as were his other works. We also do not hear of any ancient and comprehensive list of his writings, so it is not expected that later biographers would mention a book which was unknown to them. In his commentary on the Caitanya-bhagavata, Adi-lila, 14.87, published in 1932, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati quotes some verses from a book named Gaura-gana-candrika attributed to Visvanatha Cakravarti, but none of them appear in this manuscript. Although he does not mention the source, it is possible that he got those verses from the notes written by Yashoda Lal Talukdar on Nityananda Dasa’s Prema-vilasa, page 249, published in 1913. The latter also did not mention his source, but it is probable that he consulted a manuscript of the text. Oddly, in the Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana, Haridasa Dasa lists three manuscripts with a similar name, all of them attributed to Cakravarti: Gaura-gana-candrika, Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika, and Gaura-ganoddesa-candrika. From the descriptions it seems that he actually had access to them and verified that they were different texts, but sadly he did not give many details.

The inconsistence of the transcription of the consulted manuscript poses several difficulties to assess its authenticity. We know the outstanding level of the scholarship of Srila Visvanatha from his innumerable works and it is absolutely not possible that he would write anything substandard in terms of grammar, prosody, rhetoric and philosophy. While the first two can be totally disfigured by an incompetent scribe, the latter two are hardly prominent in this genre of composition, which is solely meant to be a list of names with their respective identities in the previous pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Yet from the beginning there are clear traces of mellow and scholarship which are distinctly seen in Cakravarti’s writings. In the mangalacarana, the author beautifully plays with the gender of the words so as to impart to the reader the concept that Lord Krsna and Srimati Radharani are both combined in Lord Caitanya’s form. He then proceeds to state that the purpose of this compilation is to supplement the list of names given in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, a task which was very well done by presenting around sixty names which do not appear in that text. Although the Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika resembles and follows the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika in most aspects, the author was also bold enough to occasionally diverge from Kavi Karnapura’s correlation of identities, as it can be easily seen in the charts at the end of this edition. In a few instances, he backed up his statements with verses from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Padma Purana, Rupa Gosvami’s Vidagdha-Madhava and Krsnadasa Kaviraja’s Govinda-lilamrta, among other sources. Some interesting concepts presented here are the multiplicity of identities associated with a single individual and the abilitity of the Lord’s eternal associates to expand themselves in different capacities, such as direct manifestations (prakasa), partial expansions (kala), and expansions entering other personalities (avesa), features which are usually distinctly seen in connection with Lord Krsna and His different avataras, as described in the first chapter of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Laghu-bhagavatamrta.