editorials

Lively, insightful commentary on contemporary issues facing spiritual practitioners.

reviews

Book, film, and audio reviews of contemporary Gaudiya media, as well as a wide variety of media of interest to the spiritually minded.

news

News from around the world with an emphasis on alternative press that is especially relevant to spiritual practitioners.

classroom

Excerpts from classical Gaudiya texts, with and without commentaries, hosted by teachers with whom readers can interact and ask questions.

philosophy

Philosophical articles on Gaudiya Vaisnavism that focus on the tradition’s scriptural conclusions as well as its feeling for the nature of ultimate reality.

Home » philosophy

The Compassion of Sri Caitanya

Submitted by on March 12, 2017 – 12:33 am42 Comments

Chaitanya_sankirtan

By Swami B.V. Tripurari

Sri Rupa Goswami has described Sri Caitanyadeva as greatly munificent—maha vadanyaya. Similarly, throughout the considerable literature describing Sri Caitanya there is an emphasis on his compassionate nature, an emphasis that distinguishes him from other manifestations of the Godhead within Hinduism.  In contrast, the God of the Gaudiya canon—Bhagavan—is more typically noted for his impassibility, for his being incapable of feeling material suffering, which in turn brings his ability to empathize into question.1

The Godhead’s impassibility has much to do with why he is God and why he thus has the capacity to bring about salvation: He is not in need of being saved himself and is never touched by the deluding influence of his maya-sakti. Were he so influenced, his capacity to bestow salvation would be in question. At the same time, it is direct experience of the suffering of others that enables one to most readily empathize with them, to feel compassion for their plight. Thus the need to navigate the theological course between God’s impassibility and his compassion arises. How can he effectively remain impassible and at the same time be filled with compassion for the suffering animation?

While Krsna has no direct experience of material suffering, he does have abstract knowledge of this condition and understands its cause, as we see in his explanation in the Gita of how suffering derives from attachment. Thus his impassibility does not impinge upon his omniscience. However, the abstract knowledge and understanding does not drive his life and provides only a secondary, indirect impetus for his compassion. His life is driven by his love for his devotees, who are either entirely under the same internal sakti that governs his emotional life (in the case of nitya-siddhas) or gradually coming under its influence through their sadhana (in the case of sadhana-siddhas). In other words, Bhagavan is driven by bhakti.2 Indeed, he is controlled by bhakti. She rules his life, and it is in his relationship with his devotees that his ananda—his love—lies.

Thus the direct impetus for and object of his compassionate glance is his devotees in this world who are pursuing prema-bhakti. He comes to the world out of compassion for them and only indirectly out of compassion for those not yet touched by bhakti. Indeed, it is primarily through the compassion of such devotees that his compassion is passed on to the rest of the world. Such devotees do have direct experience of material suffering, and their resultant compassion for others does not go unanswered by Bhagavan, who lives to please his devotees. Out of love for his devotees, his compassion flows to those whom they feel empathetic toward. His devotees are thus the principal impetus and vehicle for his compassion. In his Gita Bhusana, Baladeva Vidyabhusana comments on how the devotees’ compassion plays out. Such devotees “lament for those who are suffering and think that no one should have to suffer for any reason.”3 Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Thakura Bhaktivinoda also describe the devotees’ compassion as a secondary quality inherent in their bhakti.4

The devotees’ experience of bhakti differs from that of Bhagavan in that Bhagavan is the object of love and his devotees are the vessel or shelter of love. As such his devotees see everything in relation to Bhagavan and ultimately only Bhagavan everywhere. They see him everywhere and every thing in him. Thus their love extends everywhere, whereas Bhagavan’s love is entirely focused on his devotees. His devotees are the principal manifestation of his krpa-sakti. They are simultaneously one and different from him. Bhagavan is one with the world and one with his devotees, as the energetic is one with its energies, while the two, energy and energetic, simultaneously remain different from one another. Bhagavan is full of compassion, yet it is through the medium of his devotees, who are both one and different with him in an interpenetrating panentheistic sense that his compassion for the world is expressed. (Western forms of panentheism stemming from Whitehead’s process theology render God immanent but not transcendent and thus subject to the “process” of life and the experience of material emotions such as empathy along with us. However, in Gaudiya panentheism, God is simultaneously immanent and transcendent and his emotional life is governed by his internal saktibhakti—rather than his maya-sakti, from which material emotions derive.)

However, in the case of Sri Caitanya we find Bhagavan in the bhava of a bhakta!  Thus his devotees have proclaimed him as the most compassionate manifestation of the Godhead. Although he has no direct experience of material suffering, he is nonetheless absorbed in bhakti from the vantage point of his own devotee. He is absorbed in Radha-bhava and Radha is said to be the compassionate nature of Bhagavan. She is the hladhini that bhakti is constituted of, and as such there is a little of Radha in every devotee. Sri Caitanya experiences the fullness of Radha’s love for him from her vantage point and this in turn causes an overflow of the dissemination of bhakti, the indiscriminate blessing that has caused Sri Rupa to refer to him as the compassionate avatara of Kali-yugakarunaya-avatirnah kalau.5

In Sri Caitanya we find both Bhagavan and bhakta, sometimes expressing the bhava of Bhagavan and sometimes the bhava of a bhakta, until he perfectly steps into Radha’s bhava and completes the inner purpose of his descent. With regard to his compassion, the difference in perspective between Bhagavan and bhakta is nicely illustrated in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta when Sri Caitanya glorifies Vasudeva Datta, one of his eternally liberated devotees. At that time, Vasudeva expressed great compassion and requested Sri Caitanya liberate all materially conditioned jîvas in the universe by giving him [Vasudeva] their karma so that they would be free to transcend material existence. While Sri Caitanya deeply appreciated the compassion of Vasudeva, in the mood of Bhagavan he also replied with an air of aloofness to the material condition, teaching that material suffering as a whole has no end and that the liberation of an entire universe was not of much consequence from Krsna’s perspective.6 In contrast, elsewhere we find Sri Caitanya absorbed in the bhava of a devotee expressing great concern to Haridasa Thakura for the suffering of even trees, plants, and insects.7

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has shown by his own example how compassionate love for all animation arising in the context of the culture of uttama-bhakti precedes the attainment of bhakti-rasa. He left his rasa-kirtana in Nadiya to give bhakti to the world, fulfilling the desire of Advaita. He walked the breadth and much of the length of Bharata broadcasting Sri Krsna sankirtana wherever he went. With Advaita’s permission, he entered a life of solitude in his Puri residence, the Gambhira. Thus he taught by his example how to enter his rasa-kirtana of Nadiya. He showed compassion for the suffering animation and administered the medicine of Krsna sankirtana, and in due course this same sankirtana took him inward, where he explored the depths of the ocean of bhakti-rasa. Following his example, showing kindness to all jivas in the context of nama-sankirtanajive daya krsna-nama sarva-dharma-sara—the sadhaka eventually enters the depths—gambhira—of bhakti-rasa. Thus the sadhaka gradually gains entrance to Gaura’s rasa-kirtana of Nadiya, where his dispensation begins, leading all willing jivas step by step into the courtyard of Srivasa Thakura in eternal nocturnal Nadiya sankirtana.———

  1. See Bhakti-sandarbha 180 and Paramatma-sandarbha 93. []
  2. See Sarartha Darsini 9.4.63–68. []
  3. Gita Bhusana 12.13–14 []
  4. See Visvanatha Cakravarti’s Sarartha Darsini commentary on SB 3.25.21 and chapter 8 of Jaiva Dharma. []
  5. Cc. 1.1.4 []
  6. Cc. 2.15.160–80 []
  7. Cc. 3.3.67 []

———

42 Comments »

  • Citta Hari dasa

    “However, in the case of Sri Caitanya we find Bhagavan in the bhava of a bhakta! Thus his devotees have proclaimed him as the most compassionate manifestation of the Godhead. ”

    But isn’t the devotee that he is in the mood of (Sri Radha) impassable as well?

    • As pointed out in the article, within bhakti the vantage point of the devotee is different from that of Bhagavan. Thus even nitya siddhas or Radha whom you refer to have added impetus for being compassionate (over Bhagavan) despite their lack of direct experience of material suffering. Bhagavan is one thing, bhakti is another, and again the difference between Bhgavan and bhakta in terms of visaya and asraya of bhakti rasa is a factor. That is why I cited the example of Vasudeva Datta, a nitya siddha who has no direct experience of material suffering.

  • Jagadish

    Very nice! Thank you for linking me to this article. I particularly appreciated the comparison between Mahaprabhu’s reaction to Vasudeva data’s compassion and that of Haridasa Thakura.

    I will look up those sections today in CC myself!

    Gaura haribol!

  • prahlada bhakta dasa

    What a theologically profound article!

    i had one question. At the end of his pastimes, although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stepped in the identity of Sri Radha, he was removed from public life and from actively showing compassion to the fallen. Now, we say that Radharani is the compassionate nature of Krishna, but why is it that when fully becoming Sri Radha Lord Caitanya is removed from his active role in bestowing compassion? Why does fully tasting Krishna-prema in the mood of Sri Radha cause him to forget, so to speak, the suffering of the conditioned souls?

    • Because compassion is only a secondary quality of bhakti and he is showing that through his acarya lila. Compassion comes first. Then bhakti rasa.

      • prahlada bhakta dasa

        Thank you very much Guru-Maharaja. So, now i understand that since compassion is an external or secondary quality of bhakti, it is not so much visible in the more advanced or internal stages of bhakti, although compassion for all is included in love of Krishna.

  • Vayu.

    If God cannot empathize with the human suffering, he is an elementary, rationally graspable and limited God. Such a God seems proper for certain maryādā traditions, not for bhakti-marga. To be God, shouldn’t the Supreme be able to approach the human suffering in a straightforward and completely incomprehensible manner?

    If Bhagavān is compassionate *, he should be able to directly feel my pain and get rid of it. To be truly omnisentient, he should be able to transcend his own omniscience. If he fails to do so, every person is ahead of him on the experience of human pain; so the man becomes a master to his Creator. | * [From Latin: cum-passio, “suffering with”].

    Also, if Bhagavān expresses his kṛpā-śakti only through his devotees, is it not possible he assume the form of a suffering bhakta in order to fully experiencing human pain? Could a līlā-avatāra directly embrace the pain of Vasudeva Data, Haridāsa Ṭhākura and all those Vaiṣṇavas who have experienced the paraduḥkha-duḥkhī? Asamartha nahe kṛṣṇa.

    There is an unwavering dogma in Hinduism: God cannot suffer. Even within the Vaiṣṇava theological framework, a suffering God is an impossible and disconcerting reality. But this impossibility really belongs to God or rather it is a rational limitation we impose on him?

    • In classical theism God is also impassible. So this notion is not limited to Hinduism. In the classical theism of Christianity, God’s compassion is expressed though Christ, who is thought to be fully transcendent and fully human. Gaudiya Vedanta resolves the issue differently as the article explains: God’s compassion is expressed through his devotees who are non different from him. Mahaprabhu feels what Vasudeva feels through his love for him. Thus he indirectly feels the suffering of others, as the article explains.

      I think you have to look at “indirect” here as being more direct than the word is typically understood to mean, in that Bhagavan’s devotees, although one and different from him, are more one than different. Maya-sakti is more different, thus she does not approach him. Jiva-sakti is in between, thus his indifference.

    • Also the emphasis here is on the devotees. We approach Bhagavan through them in all respects. They are dearer to him than himself. So we need to endear ourselves to them. This is a harder point to grasp than it appears to be at first. The kanistha is characterized by not understanding this point.

    • Gauravani dasa

      The root of our suffering is avidya (ignorance). God is not subject to avidya which prevents him from experiencing suffering like our own. As Maharaja mentions in the article, if God could be subject to avidya then his divinity comes into question. God can remove our sukha-duhkha by removing the root, our avidya.

      However, there is something about our humanity that attracts God to perform his lila here on Earth. I’ll leave it to others to describe this but I think the point may speak to your concern about God’s relationship with humanity.

  • Vayu.

    Yes, Christ is thought to be fully transcendent and fully human; more precisely, fully God and fully human (hypostatic union). Christ is God himself directly feeling the human suffering. That’s impossible to find in Hinduism: a suffering God, some kind of a suffering pūrṇāvatāra. In any case, it is a different theological reference frame.

    I appreciate your exposition within Hinduism. God’s compassion through his devotees participates in the acintya-bhedābheda principle. That’s very deep and beautiful. And I recognize that throughout the gauḍīya literature the identities of Kṛṣṇa and his true bhakta participate in that inconceivable simultaneity. As seen, for example, in SB. 11.17.27.

    In Christianity there is some similarity to that principle. In his simple language, Christ says: “Amen dico vobis: Quamdiu feciſtis uni de his fratribus meis minimis, mihi feciſtis” (Mt. 25:40).

    Apparently, every personality of God shares his profound identity with those who love him.

    Dhanyavāda.

  • Gauravani dasa

    Vayu sir,

    I do not think there is as much consensus among Christian theologians about the nature of Christ’s suffering as you present. Whether or not he actually suffered is an ongoing debate, that in my opinion, depends largely on whether or not you subscribe to the penal substitution theory of the atonement or not.

    While it may seem that Hinduism is limited because it excludes the idea of a suffering God, I would argue that Gaudiya Vedanata actually describes a much more expansive emotional range attributable to God, including fraternal, parental, and conjugal love, in addition to the passive reverential love we find in Christian theology. Arguably, we are more interested in these kinds of relationships–and are willing to suffer for them–than we are interested in merely forgoing suffering itself. In this sense, the conception of Krsna more closely aligns with our humanity.

    As Maharaja mentioned, much of our concern about whether or not God understands our suffering is addressed by the fact that his devotees understand our suffering, and further, his compassion extending through them.

    • While classical theism, as the Western mainstream philosophical theistic view associated with Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, St. Anselm, Aquinas, etc., embrace the impassibility of God, many forms of Christianity today do not. Some modern Christian dissenting views see impassibility as a shortcoming, an inability to empathize. And they reason that God should be able to do so. They take the biblical descriptions of God’s emotions literally and they do not see susceptibility to emotional pain as a weakness, but rather that it is a weakness for a person to be unmoved by human suffering and a strength to feel emotions, including pain, indignation, compassion, etc.

      However, as you point out Gauravani, Gaudiya Vedanta posits a fully emotional Godhead, moved by the love of his devotees—by the influence of his svarupa-sakti—in a manner that his compassion for them is extended to others. Thus he is not subject to the material emotional transformations that arise from avidya and subsequent attachment, but neither is he emotionally cold and aloof. Perhaps from the Gaudiya perspective the problem with such forms of Chistianity is that they do not see material emotion as derived from ignorance. Furthermore we acknowledge that Krsna understands the cause of suffering and is aware that it exists, and that he is indirectly moved by it but not driven by it, given the power of bhakti to completely overwhelm him.

      • Krsna is not unable to feel compassion, but rather he is free from material ignorance. And compassion for material suffering that also involves thinking it can be removed by material happiness alone is a form of ignorance. So neither Krsna nor his devotees are party to that.

  • Vayu.

    Healthy debate exists within every living tradition. I accept the Catholic view; its atonement theories doesn’t deny the passion and death of Christ, of God himself.

    Here we are speaking from two different theological frameworks: Vaiṣṇava and Christian. Kṛṣṇa-līlā includes the five principal rasas and caitanya-līlā only allows dāsya marbled with sakhya. In its own terms, Christ’s life consent serving, disciplic and friendly love. All rasas of Vraja-dhāma are not displayed in the emotional field of Nadīyā; and Jerusalem has its own emotional tissue with an outstanding dark thread. It is neither appropriate to look for an external parakīya-rasa in audārya nor compares the joy of Krsna to the seriousness of Christ.

    Since the beginning of desert monasticism, the distant impassibility of God (Deus) has not prevented Christ from a close friendship with human beings (homo) because he is Deus-homo at the same time. There is a meaningful Coptic icon from circa 6th-century portraying Christ embracing St. Mennas. That’s far from passive reverential love.

    Thanks to the Holy Spirit, every faithful follower of Christ has been showing his deep compassion (cum-passio) for men, especially for the lowest and hopeless beings. There is, for example, St. Teresa of Calcutta. If God’s compassion does not overflow through his devotees, who should care for the untouchables?

    The antya-līlā of Mahāprabhu delves into the realm of suffering. Upon entering the maturity of his spiritual life, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu felt an extreme pain (e duḥkha apāra) for all of us, for our future in material existence. He really suffers for a moment on account of all yavanas of kali-yuga (Cc. 3.3.51). What might have happened if he had been in the Jerusalem of 1th-century without the consolation of his devotees?

    In a sense, Christ intensifies and extends to its limit that eternal instant of suffering.

    • Gauravani dasa

      Vayu,

      It would be better to compare Christ and Caitanya rather than Christ and Krsna. In the case of Christ and Caitanya, both were very serious and had a deep impact on their contemporaries. Mahaprabhu in particular evoked shock in the senior sannyasis. Just the measure of his renunciation at a young age caused them to question their own commitment.

      Krsna, on the other hand, is God when he has no obligations. The extent of his power is reflected in his ability to play. But he is not setting an example for sadhakas as Mahaprabhu and his associates are doing in Nadiya-lila. Meanwhile, Christ is God who emptied himself to become a servant. A strong case could be made that Christ is showing the way for Christians. However, Sri Caitanya is Krsna in pursuit of Radha’s bhava. I think this is where the comparison between Christ and Caitanya fails, but we could at least draw a comparison between the fact that they are setting examples for their followers, while their goals are quite different. Mahaprabhu’s outreach is not merely the cessation of suffering, it is the gift of Vraja-rasa. Again, this is quite different from the gift of Christ. The goal of a particular tradition closely follows the conception of God therein. What can we get from a God who suffers, especially when our concept and experience of suffering is derived from a temporary identity? What kind of relationship can we expect to have with God based on a temporary, bio-psychological identity?

      Also, I would hesitate to compare the suffering of Christ on the cross and the “suffering” of Mahaprabhu in the Gambhira. Gaura is experiencing Radha’s bhava. His madness is externally suffering but internally blissful. We do not know much about Christ’s suffering and to complicate matters, Christian theologians continue to debate why there is suffering in the world at all.

      I agree that we are discussing two very different theological frameworks. If we are going to make comparisons we should note where they fail even if they initially seem to be comparable.

    • What might have happened if he had been in the Jerusalem of 1th-century without the consolation of his devotees?

      Christ was not without his devotees.

      But moving on from that point, Christ was a devotee—God as devotee. The father is born again as the son. To see Christ in this way takes him in the direction of Gaudiya Vedanta. God as devotee feels compassion for non devotees in terms of desiring to uproot their ignorance and bestow prema.

      In Gaudiya Vedanta it is thought that if God were preoccupied with alleviating material suffering, there would not be any. But there is. So he is not, and thus his omnipotence is not in question. Neither is this the primary preoccupation of his devotees. So the world of suffering continues, even while some are delivered.

  • Vayu.

    Correction: she is not yet officially “Saint” but Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

  • Vayu.

    At just 12 years old, Jesus Christ surprised many spiritual masters (διδάσκαλος – didaskalos) of Jewish tradition. And his teachings had disturbed much more people later.

    In the historical sense, Kṛṣṇa belongs to dvāpara-yuga. And in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we don’t know any personalitiy of Godhead on that time to make some kind of parallel. Christ and Caitanya belong to kali-yuga. I agree and admire the primary and secondary objectives of Mahāprabhu, but the goal of Christ was not merely the cessation of suffering. In his Son, the Father assumes his simplest condition and makes his own the weakness of human nature in order to directly experience and redeem it. This is the mystery of Christ’s self-emptying (κένωσις – kenōsis) and redemption. It is a mystery. Although contradictory, perhaps this is a helpful question: What pūrṇāvatāra has dared to self-emptying to such an extreme as to feel the human pain and be sacrificed for those whom he loves? Christ’s redemption involves not only the cessation of suffering but obtaining the Kingdom of God and a special relationship with him.

    I haven’t done a comparison. I have tried to note a possible point of reference within the Vaiṣṇava framework in order to understand the passion of Jesus Christ.

    It seems you’re circumscribing too much the suffering experience into a rational view and even tending to a reductionist outlook: if Christ suffers it may be because māya, avidya and ahāṁkara; if Caitanya suffers it’s decidedly pure ananda. Christian theology has its own disagreements and debates as does Vaiṣṇavism.

    Turning your sharp questions: What can we get from a cheerful God on the summit of transcendence while we are living in a distant and painful reality, full of kleśas, anarthas and aparādhas? Let us just look around us. How real can be our present relationship with that special God whom probably we cannot reach but hundreds of incarnations later?

    Yes, you’re right Svāmī, Christ was not without his devotees. And what you say is harmonious. I think you have captured a deep Vaiṣṇava sense in the experience of Christ. Perhaps that is the way we should begin to perceive it.

    • Gauravani dasa

      What can we get from a cheerful God on the summit of transcendence while we are living in a distant and painful reality, full of kleśas, anarthas and aparādhas? Let us just look around us. How real can be our present relationship with that special God whom probably we cannot reach but hundreds of incarnations later?

      Our relationship with him can be as real as our relationship with the sadhus around us. Their love for him is non-different from him.

      My apologies if my tone is sharp. My opinion is that a conception of God who suffers materially in a effort to understand humanity is not as compelling as a conception of God who is blissful and bestows that bliss on his devotees. Both orientations are present in Christianity and Hinduism, depending upon the lineage and practitioner, so I do not intent to frame this as a competition between the two traditions, but rather an exploration of the conceptions present in both.

      The conception of God as a sufferer seems be a effort to humanize God but in a way that gives strong deference to our material weaknesses. While the conception of God as an enjoyer appeals to our highest potential as his intimate friend, parent, or lover. One conception appeals to a false, temporary identity, and the other appeals to our true identity and potential.

  • Vayu.

    Yes. Svāmī previously suggested this principle: the identities of Kṛṣṇa and his uttama-bhakta participate in the acintya-bhedābheda-tattva. The idea is throughout the devotional literature: sākṣād-dharitvena samasta-śāstrair.

    In Christianity is also found the same principle: Qui vidit me, vidit Patrem (Jn. 14:9) | Chriſto confixus sum cruci; vivo autem iam non ego, vivit vero in me Chriſtus (Gl. 2:19-20). We relate to the Father through Christ, and to Christ through his faithful disciple. In her Francoprovençal dialect from the Middle Ages, says St. Marguerite d’Oyngt: “’Mirabilis Deus in Sanctis ſuis’, Deus eſt miravillous en ſos Sains. Oy non eſt cors d’ome qui poit penſar com Deus eſt miravillous en ſos Sains”. | ’Mirabilis Deus in sanctis ſuis’. God is wonderful in his saints. There is no human heart capable of conceiving how wonderful is God in his saints |.

    The “suffering God” is not a static reality but involves a lot of dynamism and vitality. Jesus displays a range of emotions throughout his life, but highlights his suffering for sinners, dispossessed, sicks, adulterers, prostitutes and thieves. Finally, he is crucified but resurrected in a body full of glory. Risen Christ is full of bliss and grants such bliss to his devotees.

    Again, says St. Marguerite d’Oyngt: “Deus eſt tres granz delyez, quar oy non eſt doucors ne deliez qui bons ſeit que de luy ne viegnet, quar il eſt li douz leytuares en cui sont totes les bones ſavors. Il eſt ſi bons, que cil qui en agoſtarent com plus largiment en recevrent & il plus grant fayn en arent, ne autre choſa deſirra il oſerent fors la doucour que il de lui ſentirent”.| God is sublimely joyful because there is no sweetness and joy that doesn’t come from him. He is the sweet essence in which are all pleasant flavours. He is so good that those who taste him look for receive him even more and more grandly. They don’t want to achieve anything out of the sweetness that they feel in him |.

    Iṣṭa-devatā. Your heart will run to your beloved. Over two thousand years, millions and millions of souls have run to Christ. And still they do it.

    • As far as Roman Catholicism is concerned, God is impassible. And this impassibility tends to make the Catholic God God emotionless. Thus the emotions of God portrayed in the Bible are taken as examples of anthropomorphism. On the other hand, modern Protestant theology to a large extent has moved away from this impassibility and portrayed God as more human. Here I would agree with Gauravani, that these forms of Christianity tend to humanize God.

  • Vayu.

    Catholic contemporary theology is returning to its sources. And in doing so, it is gradually understanding and developing more accurately the thought of the Church Fathers. It is usual to consider the Christian concept of impassibility as intrinsically tied to Greek philosophy: God cannot feel or suffer. However, the Fathers actually tried to establish a clear difference between real divine emotions and emotions of inferior beings.

    Harir hi nirguṇaḥ sākṣāt. Is Śukadeva saying that Hari is without any divine qualities or that he doesn’t have material qualities at all? Impaſſibilitas Dei means God’s emotions are not those of pagan gods and idolaters.

    If Christ had not humanly gone through his passion, the martyrdom and redemptive suffering of his devotees have no meaning at all.

    • Fortunately “harir hi nirgunah saksat” is not the only thing Sukadeva says about Bhagavan’s transcendental qualities, and that is one of the reasons that one is justified in understanding the word “nirguna” here to mean that Hari has “no material qualities, but rather transcendental qualities.” Furthermore the Bhagavatam is centered on Bhagavan’s transcendental emotions. So maybe the Catholic Church’s founding fathers knew that God has a transcendental emotional life, but if they did, they did not explain how so (by the influence of his svarupa-sakti) or describe that life. In contrast to the Bhagavatam, as far as I know, they merely said that he is nirguna.

    • Catholicism seems more Paramatma focused in santa-rasa—the beatific vision. In this rasa the devotee is not concerned with God’s qualities and lilas, but rather with his form.

  • Vayu.

    The Bhāgavata-purāṇa is the mature fruit of Vedic knowledge. There is given an unparalleled description of Kṛṣṇa’s intimate setting in dvāpara-yuga. After being lost for a long time, the real access to that scenery was timidly opened by Mādhavendra Purī. Then Śrī Caitanya opened wide the doors of devotion for all humanity: mahā-vadānyāya. Why Kṛṣṇa waited until 1407 śakābda to begin expressing the full magnificence of audārya? Why did he not do it before?

    Christianity doesn’t have a detailed description of the Kingdom of God or personal beauty of the Father, it is true. Access to that intimate reality is mediated by Christ. Why did the Father not disclose his personality and personal life directly through his Son? Why did he not do it through his devotees by the influence of his Holy Spirit? Judeo-Christian tradition has not yet reached its maturity or Parousia; it is waiting for the climax of its spiritual evolution.

    We cannot penetrate or force the God’s designs.

    On the other hand, if a devotee faithfully serves his guru without knowing the intimate descriptions about Hari, he would be stagnant in śānta-rasa and deprived of access to Vraja-dhāma?

    • Why try to force Christianity into the Vraja-lila? We don’t try to do so with the vaidhi marga Vaisnava sampradayas. Vraja-rasa of Gaudiya sampradaya is a particular dispensation among others that also constitute spiritual perfection.

  • Vayu.

    Christianity and Vaiṣṇavism are two different traditions; they have their own theological frameworks and their own processes of spiritual evolution. At present, the vraja-rasa is the most complete and highest spiritual expression. And it’s possible that in their respective course of evolution towards its climax, certain traditions resemble it. We must respect them.

    The theme of suffering traverses the entire Vedic literature. And when it comes to a suffering avatāra or bhakta (although allegedly they don’t suffer), I think that the śāstra point us towards a mystery of devotion worthy of exploring in a deeply experiential way. I know what it means anādi-karma, I don’t know what it is to feel apāra paraduḥkha-duḥkhī.

  • Vayu.

    The Pope is a Christian, not Vaiṣṇava. Why a Vaiṣṇava would need the approval of the Pope?

    Vraja-rasa is really sublime: madhurādhipaterakhilaṁ madhuram. But what will be its destiny into the land of Yavanas?…

    • A Vaisnava does not need the Pope’s approval in terms of his or her sense that Vraja-rasa is the most complete and highest spiritual expression. But when you add to that the idea that Catholicism is involved in an evolution towards a “climax that resembles Vraja-rasa,” I do not think the Pope would agree.To me you appear sympathetic to Catholicism but in your appreciation for Gaudiya Vaisnavism’s ideal you are projecting ideas things from Gaudiya Vaisnavism on to Catholicism that Catholics would feel uncomfortable with. My position on the subject is that there are different manifestation of Divinity, all of which are worthy of respect. The Catholic ideal is different from that of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and Catholics would prefer to keep it that way.

      As for the destiny of Gaudiya Vaisnavism in the hands of Yavanans, it did pretty well in the hands of Haridasa Thakura. But this a forum for insults.

  • Vayu.

    The Pope doesn’t deal attentively with Vaiṣṇavism in the same way as the great exponents of Vaiṣṇavism not dealt attentively with Christianity. It seems there is still no real dialogue between the two traditions.

    If we really want to understand another tradition, we have to look for reference points within our own conceptual framework. I’ve tried to do that. Syncretism is not for serious devotees.

    Haridāsa Ṭhākura is a nitya-parikara. And my expression only means: “What will be the destiny of vraja-rasa into the land of Westerners [from now ownwards]?”

    It seems you no longer feel comfortable with my participation. So I apologize for the possible misunderstanding and thank you for your generous attention.

    Kṛtāñjali.

    • Haridasa Thakura is not considered to have been one of Krsna’s eternal associates in his Vraja-lila. For the most part he has been identified with Brahma and Brahma’s offense. Hence his yavana birth. But regardless, the yavana birth of Haridasa is meant to instruct us that, rather then the teaching being subject to degradation by material circumstances, materials circumstances are purified by the teaching.

  • Vayu.

    To be precise, Haridāsa Ṭhākura is brahmā mahātapāh prahlādena samaṁ jāto. And Vāsudeva Datta, an encarnation of Prahlāda Mahārāja according to Mahāprabhu, is Madhuvrata-gāyakī in Vrajabhūmi. Therefore, a part of Haridāsa Ṭhākura is a nitya-parikara.

    Yes, you’re right, Haridāsa Ṭhākura is apāpa viddha.He is like the sun on impure water. And the teaching about his life is also like the sun.

    • I was not “precise” because there is more than one opinion on the subject. You cite Kavi Karnapura, but Advaita-prakasa, Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmaya, and other texts identify him with Brahma and his offense of attempting to steal Krsna’s calves and friends.

      The teaching about his life, among other things, is that bhakti can remove even one’s prarabdha karma.

  • Vayu.

    I think the most authoritative work is by Kavi-karṇapūra, who was favored by Mahāprabhu even before he was born.

    I haven’t found the original by Īśāna Nāgara, but a translation says: “Some people say that Prahlāda Mahārāja descended as Haridāsa, but Advaita Prabhu said that they both combined together”. Therefore, he comes close to Kavi-karṇapūra.

    And the work by the seventh Gosvāmī is not aimed at revealing in detail the identities of Navadvīpa-dhāma’s devotees.

    • As I said, there are different opinions about the past of Haridasa. Bhaktivinode has expressed his and have cited it. Advaita-prakasa tells the whole story of Brahma’s involvement in stealing Krsna’s calves, etc. and identifies Haridasa with Brahma and his Muslim birth with Brahma’s offense. Advaita-mangala also identifies Haridasa with Brahma.

      But you continue to bring up Prahlada. The story of his previous life is told in the Puranas and he is depicted therein as a sadhana siddha, as he is in the Bhagavatam. Visvantha Cakravarti has also described him as a sadhana siddha and “partly a nitya siddha.”

    • Prabhupada offers and explanation as to what VCT means when he says that Prahlada is “partially a nitya siddha:” “He is also a nitya-siddha because he never forgets the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Furthermore, in his Bhakti-sandarbha Jiva Goswami describes Prahlada as a raganuga bhakta and not a ragatmika bhakta, the former being a sadhana siddha. Note that he is not referring to the ragatmika/raganuga bhakti of Vraja.

  • Vayu.

    It seems that the only one who identifies Prahlāda Mahārāja with Madhuvrata-gāyaka in Vraja-bhūmi is Kavi-karṇapūra.

    However, it’s very significant everything Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī tells us about Vāsudeva Datta (an incarnation of Prahlāda Mahārāja) and his intimate relationship with Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. For example, before Mahāprabhu takes great pleasure in seeing Vāsudeva, Advaita Ācārya said: bhakta-saṇge kare nitya vividha vilāsa. That’s a subtle way to recognize a real rāgātmikā.

    Therefore, the nitya-parikara identity of Prahlāda Mahārāja is more hidden.

    • Kavi Karnapura does not identify Vasudeva Datta with Prahlada. Krsnadasa refers to him as an incarnation of Prahlada in terms of his compassion. Jiva Goswami describes him as a raganuga not ragatmika. The Bhagavatam and Puranas describe Prahlada as a sadhana siddha. These facts are far more compelling than your speculations. But you are free to think whatever you want. I have no interest in continuing to discuss with you.

      • For the sake of readers in general, Prahlada is also described as a sadhana siddha in Brhat-bhagavatamrta. However, he is a siddha so the difference here between nitya-siddha and sadhana siddha is of little consequence. Haridasa has been partially identified with him because both Haridasa and Prahlada were subject to torture and in both instances were protected by Bhagavan. Otherwise Haridasa has been identified with Brahma and Brahma Mahatapa, neither of which are nitya siddhas. But even if we consider him a nitya siddha, the fact is that his Muslim birth, among other things, is intended to teach us that Mahaprabhu’s dispensation is meant for all persons regardless of their birth, race, gender, etc., and that anyone from any background who applies themselves sincerely in his service can become qualified to represent his teaching accurately.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

Subscribe without commenting