Found in Sanga, Sanga 2002.

Q. As the festival of Madhva Navami approaches (the day Madhvacharya joined his guru at Badarikashrama), I would like to know what position the Gaudiya Vaisnavas give to Sri Madhvacharya. As a follower of Sri Madhvacharya I am interested to know how he has influenced Vaishnava thought worldwide. I learn a lot from your Sanga and look forward to continued association in the future.

A. In his Tattva-sandarbha the Tattvacarya of the Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage, Sri Jiva Goswami, has referred to Sri Purnaprajna Madhvacarya as a venerable Vaisnava, one whose insights he draws on in the course of establishing the Gaudiya scriptural conclusions.

Although there are doctrinal differences between the Madhvas and Gaudiyas, the Gaudiya lineage acknowledges formal ties to the Madhva lineage. As Sri Krishna himself initiated the Madhva lineage through Brahma, he similarly chose to bless the Madhva Vaisnavas by appearing personally in Madhva’s lineage as Sri Caitanya, at which time he inaugurated the Madhva-Gaudiya lineage, as our sampradaya is sometimes called.

Two principal themes of Madhva’s doctrine have been fully embraced by the followers of Sri Caitanya: the eternality of God’s form, and Madhva’s refutation of Advaita Vedanta (Mayavada). No one can be a Gaudiya Vaisnava without embracing these two themes. Thus Sri Madhvacarya is venerable by all Gaudiya Vaisnavas, and with this in mind Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura established a murti of Sri Madhvacarya in his principal math in Sri Dhama Mayapura.

Q. Could you please tell me where I might find the original Mahabharata? Is it in some temple or museum or is it lost?

A. According to Srila Madhvacarya, the Mahabharata current during his presence (12th century) was full of interpolation. Thus it is unlikely that the original manuscript is available anywhere today.

Q. In the Caitanya-caritamrta I came upon a quote that caused me to question the idea of sannyasa in Kali Yuga.

“In this age of Kali five actions are forbidden: the offering of a horse insacrifice, the offering of a cow in sacrifice, the acceptance of the order of sannyasa, the offering of oblations of flesh to the forefathers, and a man’s begetting children in his brother’s wife.” (Cc Adi 17.164)

A. I am happy to know that you are reading and studying deeply. Your question is good. The answer is that there are different kinds of sannyasa. In this verse from Brahma Vaivarta Purana that Mahaprabhu quoted to the Chand Kazi, all of the five prohibited acts are within the realm of karma, and thus the sannyasa referred to therein is karma sannyasa. Karma sannyasa refers to those who accept sannyasa in old age because their senses are weak or otherwise, even though they do not have self-knowledge. In other verses from Brahma Vaivarta Purana sannyasa is glorified.

Other than karma sannyasa, the scripture speaks of jnana sannyasa and Vaisnava sannyasa. In Padma Purana it is mentioned, jnana sannyasinah keccid veda sannyasino ‘pare karma sannyasinas vanye trividhah parikirtitah. The term veda sannyasa in this verse refers to Vaisnava sannyasa, in which the objective is paratmanistha, or loving service to Godhead. If you study the sannyasa of Mahaprabhu as he himself describes it in Caitanya-caritamrta, you will find that it is not karma sannyasa that he embraced, nor did he embrace jnana sannyasa, in which the goal is to merge into Brahman (sayujya mukti).

Mahaprabhu, while contemplating the sannyasa of the brahmana from Avantipura described in the 11th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, said that sannyasa is for the purpose of serving Mukunda (paratmanistha . . . mukunda sevaya). His desire after accepting sannyasa was only to go to Vrindavana for serving Krishna.

Q. I have a question on salagrama worship. Is it possible to worship a salagrama-sila as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu with Gaura mantra? Is it accepted in our Gaudiya tradition? If so, then will the offering of tulasi leaves be of the same importance, as in the case of worshiping salagrama as Visnu?

A. The saligrama is a manifestation of Visnu in stone that is only found in the Gandaki river in the Himalayas. It is possible that there are as many forms of saligrama-silas as there are avataras of Visnu. Each saligram bears particular markings by which the sila can be identified as Vamana, Sudarsana, Narasingha, etc. All of these deities are viddhi marg Deities of Vaikuntha, where worship is steeped in awe and reverence. While the yuga avatara aspect of Sri Caitanya is Gaura-Narayana, who is worshipped reverentially, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the most complete sense is Radha-Krishna combined, sri krishna caitanya radha krishna nahe anya. He is Krishna himself with the heart and halo of Radha. Although vaidhi bhakti plays an important part in his lila, his emphasis is on the raga marg of Vraja bhakti, not the love that characterizes Vaikuntha. So it would be difficult to find a saligrama-sila that represents this particular advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

However, the power of love is unlimited and by it all things are possible. Gopala Bhatta Goswami worshipped several saligrama-silas. On a Narasingha caturdasi, Gopal Bhatta Goswami was contemplating the love of Prahlada that caused the Narasingha avatara to appear before Prahlada from a stone pillar. At that time Gopal Bhatta Goswami found it overwhelming to think of the nature of this love and Sri Krishna’s reciprocation.

Prahlada was a devotee of Krishna. Krishna was his ista-devata and appeared before him full with six opulences in the form of Narasinghadeva. Gopala Bhatta Goswami was also a devotee of Krishna, and he wished he could be as fortunate as Prahlada. He also desired to have a Deity he could dress and decorate with ornaments, which for the most part is not part of the worship of saligrama.

At that time, Gopala Bhatta Goswami was living in Vrindavana, and he was waiting for Caitanya Mahaprabhu to again give him darsana, as he had said he would. The next morning when he awoke, to his surprise he found that his Damodara saligrama-sila had expanded into a Deity of Krishna, who from then on became known as Radha-ramana. Radha-ramanaji is considered to be the combined form of Radha-Krishna and thus the fulfillment of every detail of Gopla Bhatta Goswami’s aspiration. In this saligrama/Deity we find Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

So find out which saligrama you have. Then worship your saligrama appropriately with tulasi and love and try to understand the nature of pure devotion that Prahlada Maharaja exemplifies. Practice vaidhi bhakti and aspire for eligibility for raga marg bhakti of Vrindavana. Consider that the yuga avatara aspect of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared through Advaita’s worship of saligrama. Pray that you can fully embrace the significance of the yuga avatara aspect of Maharpabhu and thus qualify yourself to understand and realize the significance of the internal reasons for Sri Caitanya’s appearance in the world. In this way you will pass through Vaikuntha and enter Goloka Vrindavana, and if he so desires, Sriman Mahaprabhu might appear to you from your saligrama.

Q. There seems to have been some coolness between Nityananda Prabhu and Mahaprabhu toward the end of the latter’s life. During the last six years there is no record of a meeting between the two. Apparently, the intimacy of the early years is lacking. At the end of Caitanya-caritamrta a mysterious message from Advaita to Mahaprabhu is recorded, which some (Christian) scholars interpret as referring to some sort of divergent action on the part of Nityananda.

baulake kahika-loka haila baula baulake kahika-hate na caula baulake
hahika-kaye nahika aula baulake kahiha-iha kahiyache baula

“Tell our Prabhu, who acts as madmen do, that everyone has lost their sanity, and rice once high in price has no value. In love of God, half-crazed humanity neglects this world and all they once held dear; tell him a madman brings this to his ear.” (Cc Antya 19.20-21)

The book I am reading interprets these events in this way.

“This divergent action on the part of Nityananda can be the revolutionary social step which Nityananda Prabhu took in enrolling as Vaisnavas and disciples of his, Subarna Baniks, the goldsmith caste, wealthy indeed, but low in social order. This definite application on such a large scale of the principle undoubtedly implied in Caitanya’s teaching may have been too much for Caitanya’s inherited regard for the Hindu social system. Advaita Acarya held himself aloof from participation in it, and evidently did not believe in any such revolutionary practice of the ideas proclaimed by Caitanya. His descendants continued to maintain this conservative attitude, while Nityananda’s descendants, on the other hand, have continued to accept the discipleship of even disreputable elements in the social order.

A. The reason that Nityananda Prabhu was not personally involved in the last six years of Gaura lila in Puri Dhama is that Mahaprabhu himself asked him to deliver the fallen souls of Bengal. He so much wanted this that he told Nityananda Prabhu not to return annually to Puri. At the same time he informed him that he would be present with him during Nityananda Prabhu’s dancing in kirtana. Mahaprabhu gave these instructions to Nitai in the presence of Advaita Acarya, who is described in Caitanya-caritamrta as being very happy with this proposal.

Furthermore, Mahaprabhu’s final years in Puri involved his bhajana in the mood of Sri Radha’s feelings of separation (vipralambha) from Krishna. Ostensibly Nityananda Prabhu (Balarama) is not involved in this. When Mahaprabhu fully entered the mood of Radha during Ratha-yatra, Nityananda saw him actually take the form of Radha. At this time he himself paid respect to him/her from a distance.

The verse from Caitanya-caritamrta you cited was spoken by Advaita Acharya to Mahaprabhu. In this verse Advaita Acarya is expressing his satisfaction with the state of affairs that so concerned him before Mahaprabhu appeared. Disturbed by the lack of piety and disregard for bhakti in Nadiya, Advaita Prabhu appealed to Krishna to descend and do the work of the yuga avatara. Mahaprabhu was the answer to his prayer. He is Krishna himself who descends for his own internal purpose and simultaneously does the work of the yuga avatara. When Advaita realized that the work of the yuga avatara aspect of Mahaprabhu had been completed, he gave him permission to leave, and this simultaneously facilitated Mahaprabhu’s pursuit of his internal concern of relishing the mood (bhava) of Radha. Mahaprabhu himself has explained Sri Advaita’s words in this way to Jagadananda and other devotees.

Advaita Prabhu’s concern for the plight of humanity was far reaching. He wanted to see everyone embrace the yuga dharma. He had no distain for the downtrodden members of society. Indeed, he shunned brahminical pride when he honored Haridasa Thakura, who had previously been a Muslim, with prasada from the sraddha ritual he performed, an honor reserved for the most distinguished member of the brahminical community. In doing so he outraged the caste-conscious members of that society. His regard for Nityananda was no less than his regard for Mahaprabhu. This is the opinion of the spiritual descendants of Advaita Acarya.

Furthermore, Vrindavana dasa Thakura pens the words of Advaita Acarya speaking to Mahaprabhu thus in his Caitanya-bhagavata, Madhya 6.167-9: “If it is your intention to distribute devotion, then you must also give it to the women, the lower castes, and the uneducated. Those who would withhold devotion or obstruct your devotees out of pride in their knowledge, wealth, social class, or ability to practice austerities are most sinful. May they die and roast in hell, while the lowliest outcaste dances in joy at the sound of your holy name.”

I would like to suggest that the books you refer to in which this distortion of the reality of Gaura lila is offered contain no spiritual sensibility whatsoever. Moreover, such opinions are outdated even by modern academic standards and represent biased Christian missionaries’ superficial acquaintance with Gaudiya Vaisnavism. If you are interested in entering the reality of Gaura lila, such books will not be helpful and may prove detrimental.

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