Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. I have many doubts. We preach that our movement is eternal, that it is based on the Vedas (i.e. Rg, Sama, Yajur, Atharva), but actually they are hardly mentioned in our present literature. And the conception of the highest attainable goal being Goloka seems to be a quite recent development.

A. The ideal of Gaudiya Vaisnavism is represented in the Vedas covertly and to a limited extent. Krishna is mentioned in the Narayana Upanisad 4 thus: ‘brahmanyo devaki-putrah,’ ‘The son of Devaki is Brahman.’ The glory of Radha is mentioned in the Rg Veda. ‘Radhaya madhavo devo madhavenaiva radhika/ vibhrajante janesu.’ ‘Among all persons, it is Radha in whose company Lord Madhava is especially glorious, as She is especially glorious in His.’ Chandogya Upanisad 8.13.1 states, ‘syamac chavalam prapadye, savalac chyamam prapadye, syamac.’ ‘By the help of black (syama), we shall be introduced to the service of white (savala); by the help of white (savala), we shall be introduced to the service of black (syama).’ Here black indicates Krishna and white indicates the fair complected Radha.

If we are to understand the import of the Vedas, we must turn to the Puranas. The Puranas complete (purna) the Vedas and are said by the Vedas themselves to be the fifth Veda. So it is artificial to separate the Puranas from the Vedas. Whenever they were written, and of course the tradition differs on this point with the secular world, they make clear the import of the Vedas. Among the Puranas, the Bhagavata Purana is said to be the most perfect, and scholars will readily agree that its theology is most developed among all the Puranas. Please read my book Tattva-sandarbha for more insight on this.

The Vedas deal mostly with the three gunas. Gitopanisad makes this clear, and therein Krishna encourages Arjuna to transcend this portion of the Vedas (traigunya visaya veda nistrigunya bhavarjuna). The smallest section of the Vedas deals with transcendence, yet this does not make it any less important. If even less is written in the Vedas about the the highest ideal in transcendence (Vraja bhakti), this does not make it any less significant, nor should it cause one to doubt that this ideal is the highest. The higher the commodity is, the fewer customers there will be, and thus the less one needs to speak about it. The criteria for determining the highest truth is not the extent to which it is popular.

Q. Why is it that in degraded Kali-yuga we have access to such an intimate conception of divine erotic love, while in the other ages the aisvarya (awe and reverence) feature was meditated upon?

A. With the advent of this particular Kali yuga the time has come to popularize the highest and most secret ideal. Why? Because while ordinarily the yuga avatara of Kali yuga disseminates nama sankirtana and thus delivers the people of the age, in this Kali yuga Krishna himself (svayam bhagavan) has come in the place of the yuga avatara in the ecstasy of Srimati Radharani. Thus in this Kali yuga, the doors to Goloka have been opened widely. The parsadas of Gaurangadeva have been revealing this truth widely through their commentaries on the Bhagavata Purana, and through nama sankirtana in this particualr Kali yuga one can not only be delivered, but develop Vraja prema and enter the doors of Goloka.

There must be a zenith of mercy, and this involves not only giving the highest ideal, but giving it to the most unqualified persons. You want this to make sense. But does it have to? It is the maddness of God’s falling in love overflowing into the world. This staggering reality is very compelling if you understand it. Do not ask for justice in the face of mercy. While the doors of Goloka are usually only open to a few, only a few who have interest in this plane. Vaikuntha mukti, however, is always available, and comparatively, there is considerable interest in it. Prema is extreme selflessness, in which there is no desire for even mukti or the bliss of prema itself. When you think about it, you may find that you are not really that interested in it yourself, yet this is being offered to you and it is attainable through nama sankirtana.

Q. I did some research on the texts you quoted in response to my earlier question. The Narayana Upanisad is not accepted by Western scholars as a very ancient text. The glory of Radha is mentioned in the Rg Veda. A friend of mine has a Sanskrit edition of the Rg Veda which includes the parisista. This passage is not to be found there. In another source the translation of the verse is completely different and interpreted in context, seems to be more valid than yours. Personally I cannot bring myself to believe that Caitanya lila goes on in the eternal spiritual realm. I believe Rama lila happens in the material universe (‘mrdayanti yuge yuge’), but not in the spiritual. The same applies to incarnations such as Varaha, Nrsimha etc. This may all sound like a lot of speculation, but much of our present Vaisnava viewpoints were formed through speculation as well.

A. Originally you appealed to me for help in resolving issues so that you could progress happily in Gaudiya Vaisnavism, or so it seemed. However, from your reply it appears that you have already resolved these issues to your satisfaction through your own speculation and arrived at something other than Gaudiya Vaisnavism. You are entitled to your own opinion, but your speculation does not hold the same credibility as the conclusions of the Goswamis and other Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas, and it is audacious for you to think that it does.

While it may be true that the scripture the Goswamis cited in support of their insights can be interpreted otherwise, they have offered a comprehensive, systematic theology with scriptural support. Their personal spirituality is also an important factor in accessing just how credible their theological stance is. The conclusions you have arrived at make me think that you take yourself too seriously.

The logic of my initial reply is not weakened by your contrary interpretation of the Vedic statements I cited, your inability to locate them in current manuscripts, or your unwillingness to accept certain Upanisads as Vedic evidence. I understand the logic by which you arrive at your interpretations, etc., but I do not agree with it. Try to understand the logic of my conclusions with its emphasis on spiritual realization.

The scriptures are not intellectual property. They belong to the domain of the soul. Self realized souls—bhava bhaktas—are able to draw things from the text that others cannot. While their renderings of Vedic statements may not always seem appropriate to others, these statements contain hidden meanings that they alone can access. Many men and women had seen apples fall from trees, but when Newton saw one fall, he saw the law of gravity. Similarly, great souls see things in scripture that we cannot. When we dismiss the insights of great souls and consider our speculative intellectual conclusions equal to or better than their insights, we do ourselves and others a disservice.

Your speculations about the spiritual world are not only lacking scriptural support and arbitrary, but will likely impede your entrance there if you do not not abandon them. The Goswami’s conclusions regarding the gradation in transcendence are systematic being based on rasa vicara and replete with scriptural support. The spiritual world is a varied expression of possibilities in the realm of aesthetic rapture: thus the gradation from Vaikuntha to Ayodhya to Goloka. etc.

Regarding the Puranas relationship with the Vedas, Brihad-aranyaka states, ‘ . . . what is known as the Rigveda, Yajuveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda, Itihasa, Purana. . . has been breathed forth from that Supreme Lord.’ (Br.U. 2/4/10). Once again, the Puranas are not to be divorced from the Vedas. The Puranas help us to understand the Vedas. It is significant that Narada in Chandogya lists the Puranas as texts he studied. It also appears that the citation of Jiva Goswami in support of the Puranas being the fifth Veda that you objected to (Chandogya Upanisad 7.1.2) acknowledges a much earlier dating of the Puranas than the academic opinion you favor, and that persons such as Narada took the Puranas more seriously than you do.

I find it curious that you put stock in the Vedas yet not in the Puranas because of secular opinions about their dates, while secular authorities certainly do not put much if any stock in the Vedas in terms of their being reliable evidence as to the nature of ultimate reality.

Q. Thank you for taking the trouble to reply to my questions. I have not met any Gaudiya teacher who preaches in such a balanced way as you do. Indeed, if I would regain my faith in Gaudiya Vaisnavism, I would submit to you as my guru. I was a follower of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami for six years, but I couldn’t accept him as a pure devotee anymore, for different reasons. Unfortunately I have lost my taste and appreciation for Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

A. My diksa guru, Om Visnupada Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, appeared to me in a dream before I personally met him. This caused me to suddenly awaken and find myself in ecstasy. I personally met him three months later, and upon seeing him my eyes overflowed with tears, my hair bristled and the holy nake of Krishna spontaneously issued from my mouth. He looked at me and conveyed through his glance the feeling that he was my long lost friend. My tears, etc. were not mundane emotions. Prabhupada had the ability and bhava to bless one by his glance or will, as described in Bhaktirasamrita sindhu and the Gita commentary of Baladeva Vidyabhusana. He had the power to fill a room full of devotees with a semblance of his own ecstasy.

Sridhara Maharaja declared that he was empowered by Nityananda Prabhu. His divine status has also been confirmed by independent sources outside the Gaudiya Saraswata sampradaya. The late Radha Govinda dasa babaji sent one of his disciples to Prabhupada, instructing his disciple that Nityananda Prabhu had empowered Prabhupada for his preaching, and Nitai dasa babaji, who is considered a siddha mahatma, after emerging from a cave at the age of 80 and seeing the picture of Prabhupada immediately proclaimed him to be empowered by Nityananda Prabhu, and he keeps his picture to this day. All of these are independent sources reaching the same conclusion, and all of them clearly exhibited the characteristics of spiritually advanced souls, as did Srila Prabhupada for those who know what to look for.

You may not agree with the theology of the Goswamis and their followers, but their spirituality is undeniable. Yes, their theology and scriptural interpretations are influenced by their sentiment, but their sentiment is the culmination of theological pursuit. You say that their scriptural interpretations are not likely those intended by the authors of the texts. Regardless of who the authors were, or if the texts were authored at all, I say the Goswamis’ sentiment, their experience, is what the text is all about. If you can arrive at this by any method, do so. Scripture is only an outline to the book of life. Intellect is insignificant, and knowledge a small thing.

Stop thinking and let the heart come out – jnana sunya bhakti, jnana sunya bhakti. Intellect is not a suitable instrument for perceiving divinity. It takes the taste out of life, evaporating its juice. If one’s intellectual appetite is not curbed by the message of the Bhagavatam (jnane prayasyam udapasya) and replaced with devotion (namanta eva), it will devour his life, his faith (sraddha-mayo ‘yam puruso). He will be conquered and imprisioned by his intellect yet think he has conquered all. Whereas those who move in this world on the vehicle of divine faith imbibed from those who have it, they will conquer the unconquerable (‘jita jito).

Q. Narada studied the Purana (singular), not the different often contradicting Puranas that we have now, with their interpolations and recent origins in writing. We cannot say what Narada studied, nor do we know wether this statement by Narada was spoken by Narada Muni himself, or by an author who wanted to present a philosophy through a story, like Sanatana Goswami had Narada Muni say and do all kinds of things. – I.V.

A. The above paragraph underscores your present position. My position is this:

tarko ‘pratisthah srutayo vibhinna
nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam
dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayah
mahajano yena gatah sa panthah

“Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate.”

Find a Mahajana.

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