Q. Lately, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t discuss the intimate pastimes between Radha and Krishna until we get to a very advanced level and sometimes not even then. I was thinking that maybe these things are never appropriate for discussion because God deserves a private life. Are there things that are so intimate that Krishna doesn’t want to share them?
A. We do discuss many pastimes of Radha and Krishna, but there are some very intimate pastimes that are prone to be misunderstood even by devotees. Thus we stress the philosophical underpinning of Krishna lila, while tastefully discussing his lila directly. A diet of only sweets will give you indigestion.
Love wants to share itself with everyone, but soon finds that not everyone is able to appreciate it, thus love withdraws to a smaller circle. Krishna shares his experience with those who are qualified to hear about his love.
Q. In Bhagavad-gita 2.12 Krishna says that the self has no prag-abhava, or nonexistence, prior to its manifestation. Time is not involved so what does “manifestation” mean here? Doesn’t manifestation indicate some kind of beginning?
A. It is difficult to talk about these things, language being limited as it is. You can think of it like this: the conditioned soul exists eternally, yet it manifests and becomes unmanifest again and again with the breathing of Maha Visnu. Thus its “manifestation” is relative only to the creation.
Q. Some say that Govardhana sila (stones from Govardhana hill) should not be worshipped outside of the Vrindavana area. What evidence can we offer to the contrary?
A. What better evidence do you need than that of Mahaprabhu himself? He received his sila in Puri and engaged Dasa Goswami in the seva puja there. Later Raghunatha dasa travelled across India to Vrindavana with his sila.
Q. I was recently contemplating Krishna in the forms of Jagannatha, Subhadradevi, and Balarama. Sat-cid-ananda came to mind. Does each of these Deities represent one of the three aspects of sat-cit-ananda?
A. Jagannatha represents samvit (cognition), Balarama sandhini (existence), and Subhadra hladini (joy). These are the three components of Krishna’s antaranga (internal) sakti.
Q. I heard that while the jiva (individual soul) possesses no gender it is considered feminine. Is this true?
A. The jiva is feminine only in the sense that it is not the para purusa (Supreme Enjoyer). The para purusa is one, while all others are constituted of his sakti (energy). Read chapter thirteen of Bhagavad-gita for more insight.
Q. Who is the personification of jiva-tattva?
A. The personal source or the reservoir of the jiva-tattva is Maha Sankarsana (Visnu). Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami explains it thus: “There is one marginal sakti known as ‘jiva.’ Maha Sankarsana is the shelter of all jivas, ‘jiva’-nama tatasthakhya eka sakti haya maha-sankarsana—saba jivera asraya.”
Q. Sri Caitanya accepted Sri Madhvacharya and entered his line of succession through Madhavendra Puri. However, the philosophy taught by Sri Madhvacharya has major differences from that taught by Sri Caitanya.
One difference is that in the Caitanya tradition Krishna is considered to be the source of all incarnations, but this contention is not supported anywhere in the scriptures. The Gaudiyas do cite this verse from Bhagavatam “ete camsa kalah pumsam krishnas tu bhagavan svayam” (Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead) as the evidence, but Sri Madhvacharya gives a different explanation for this verse.
Can you shed some light on the authenticity of the Gaudiya connection to the disciplic sucession of Madhvacharya and how the Gaudiyas can claim to be in the line of Madhva when they differ with him on so many important points?
A. Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that Sri Caitanya is Krishna Himself. Their understanding is supported by sastra pramana (evidence from scripture). The supremacy of Krishna over Narayana is stated in the Bhagavatam (1.3.28) where it says “krishnas tu bhagavan svayam.”
I am well aware that Madhvacharya explains this verse differently. However, our tattva acharya, Sri Jiva Goswami, has substantiated the Gaudiya interpretation of this verse with over 300 points drawn from sastra in his treatise known as Krishna-sandarbha. Thus the Gaudiyas are not lacking in sastra or reasoning when they interpret this verse as they do. They have also substantiated from sastra their understanding that Sri Caitanya is Krishna himself, drawing from many diverse sources.
On these and other points the Gaudiya Vaisnavas differ from the experience of Madhvacarya and his corresponding interpretation of sastra. However, this does not mean that either the Gaudiyas or Madhva are wrong, but rather that the Lord has revealed himself to them from different angles of vision and has thus given them the power to support their respective visions with scripture.
Many of the followers of Madhva do not agree with the Gaudiya interpretation of scripture, nor do they agree with the interpretations of Ramanuja, Nimbarka, or Visnuswami, all of whom are respected acaryas representing Vaisnava lineages. Still they must respect the particular angles of vision of these acharyas because of their obvious spiritual standing and ability to support their experience with scripture. The present-day followers of Madhva should also show the same deference to Sri Caitanya and his sincere followers.
Although Sri Caitanya appeared formally in the Madhva line, he has revealed new insight. As Sri Krishna he started the Madhva line of disciplic succession when he gave knowledge to Lord Brahma, and he can adjust it if he chooses to reveal something special later on. This is what Krishna has done through the revelations of Sri Caitanya. Thus while the Gaudiyas are formally in the line of Madhva, in substance they differ spiritually, not in terms of whether or not God is personal or impersonal, but rather in terms of which manifestation of Godhead is the sweetest.
Who is sweeter, Krishna or Narayana? Madhurya means sweet—save the sweet for the end of the meal. In essence this is what Krishna has done through his connection with the Madhva sampradaya in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. By sweetness we mean that there is greater potential for rasa in relation to Krishna than there is in relation to Narayana, and scripture tells us that Brahman is rasa—raso vai sah, the reservoir of all rasa.
Is differing within an established lineage unprecedented? No it is not! Madhva himself was initiated in an Advaitin lineage, but he evolved an entirely different doctrine. Although the Madhva sampradaya claims that he later accepted siksa directly from Vyasa, we are left to accept this on faith. There is no conclusive evidence to substantiate this point. However, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas do accept it on faith and honor Madhva so much so that they claim that Krishna himself has chosen to appear again in Madhva’s lineage as Sri Caitanya.
Is it too much to ask the Madhvas to accept that Sri Caitanya is Krishna himself, the Kali Yuga avatara, when the Gaudiyas also support their contention with scripture? Is it any more of a stretch than that which the followers of Madhva insist we must make in accepting that Madhva had the darsana of Vyasa or that Madhva was an incarnation of Vayu, Bhima, and Hanuman?
If we accept the Gaudiya vision of Sri Caitanya, where is the break in the disciplic succession and who can complain if Sri Krishna Caitanya decides to shed new light on the teachings of Madhva and the Bhagavatam? New light from Sri Caitanya does not extinguish the light of Madhvacharya, rather the appearance and teachings of Sri Caitanya have enhanced the position of the Madhva sampradaya throughout the world. Who can deny this fact?
Those who choose to follow Madhva’s teaching while showing respect to Sri Caitanya will no doubt be successful in attaining the goal of the Madhva sampradaya, which is Vaikuntha, the abode of Narayana. In Vaikuntha the Madhvas will always think that Krishna is an avatara of Narayana.
At the same time the Gaudiyas will attain the goal of Sri Caitanya which is Goloka, Maha Vaikuntha, the abode of Krishna. In Goloka the Gaudiyas will think of Krishna as their friend or lover and that Narayana is God. Thus, in the end the Gaudiyas and Madhvas agree in the sense that from the vantage point of their bhava in Goloka the Gaudiyas accept Narayana as the Supreme God and Krishna, who is their lover or friend, as subordinate to Narayana. Still, they love Krishna more, and who can deny that Krishna is more charming?
Otherwise, overall both sampradayas acknowledge the virtue of nama kirtana and the importance of forgoing material sense indulgence. Focus on this and see which way your heart takes you.