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.



One thought on “Cultural Principles in the Gauḍīya line”

  1. therefore to know all the intricacies of bhakti, one needs a sad-guru who is well versed and realized otherwise all the confusion in practice – sadhana will come on the path of practicing bhakti.

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