A Transcendental Dialectic

caitanya3By Dr. O. B. L. Kapoor (Adi Kesava dasa)

The advent of Sri Caitanya is not simply a historical event in the phenomenal world. It is the culmination of a transcendental dialectic. The dialectic is inherent in the very nature of parabrahma or the Supreme Being. The Taittiriya Upanishad describes parabrahma as rasa: raso vai sah (Taittiriya, Ananda Valli, 7). Rasa is concentrated ananda or bliss; ananda in its concentrated form assumes a figure. The figure is the figure of Sri Krishna. Ananda-brahman is the formless expansive glow of parabrahma, just as moonlight is the formless expansive glow of the moon. In Ananda-brahman rasa is dormant—still and motionless. It is not rasa in the real sense. In rasa-brahman or rasa as Sri Krishna, it is dynamic, restless, effulgent, ever-flowing, and ever-growing. It is astonishingly new and relishable—passing every moment beyond itself to new levels of rasa-consciousness.

Krishna is rasa itself. He is both rasa and rasika. As rasa he is the highest thing to be relished and as rasika he is the greatest enjoyer of rasa. Rasa is dynamic because it is the essence of love. Love is never satisfied with itself. The more the love, the more the longing for it. The dynamism of rasa makes Krishna desire to revel ever and ever more in beatific pastimes of love. But this is not possible if Krishna remains the Supreme Being who is one without a second, or the lone rasika who enjoys his own rasa. Therefore the unity of rasa and rasika in him bursts and blooms into the duality of Krishna and Radha. Krishna is personalized rasa and Radha is personalized bhava, or pure and selfless love (prema) at its highest. Loving communion between the two generates higher and higher dimensions of rasa.

The development of unity into duality, however, is not a process in time. It is a logical development, a development that is indicative of a necessary and integral relationship between rasa and love. There is no rasa without love. Krishna as rasa is always qualified by love. Love is the essence of the bliss potency of Krishna. This potency resides in Krishna in an abstract form and is responsible for the bliss that flows from his self. It resides outside Krishna in a definitive form in the shape of Radha. Krishna enjoys the bliss caused by her love a thousand times more than the bliss natural to his self.

Radha is the ideal devotee or the ideal subject of love. Krishna is the ideal and the sweetest object of love. The sweetness of Krishna cannot be realized except through the eyes of love. Since Radha’s love is the highest, Krishna in the sweetest form is realized by Radha. But both the love of Radha and the sweetness of Krishna are ever-growing. The intensity of the love of Radha sublimates the sweetness of Krishna, and the sweetness of Krishna sublimates the love of Radha. There is, as it were, a race between the two. The race continues until both love and sweetness reach the highest stage. At this stage the highest type of bliss is experienced. The bliss is so sweet and intense that it obliterates the subject-object relationship. The subject loses all consciousness of himself as well as the consciousness of the sweetness that causes the experience. Only the bliss consciousness remains. That bliss experiences itself.

Rupa Goswami says that in this state, love melts the minds of Radha and Krishna to such an extent that they virtually become one, and perception of difference is not possible (Ujjvala-nilamani, Sthayi 78). This state of the love relationship between Radha and Krishna is called prema-vilasa-vivarta. It is from the standpoint of this ecstatic state of Radha and Krishna that the ultimate reality, parabrahma, is called rasa, or an act of enjoyment.

This union of love between Radha and Krishna, however, does not imply a monistic union, as does the advaitic conception of formless Brahman or the Neo-Platonic concept of God as an experience, in which the loss of individuality of the devotee or the sadhaka is complete and irrevocable. It is, as Jiva Goswami explains, like the union between fire and a piece of iron. A piece of iron, when put for a long time in fire, becomes red-hot like the fire. Every part of it is animated by fire and acquires the characteristics of fire. Still, iron remains iron and fire remains fire. Similarly, both Krishna and Radha retain their identity. They are so absorbed in each other’s love and lost in each other’s thoughts that there is hardly any room in their hearts for the thought of anything else. Sri Caitanya is the substantial or personalized form of this union.

The dialectic that leads to the emergence of Sri Caitanya is obvious. In Hegelian terminology, the rasa-brahma or Krishna as the unity of rasa and rasika is the thesis. The unity veers around to its opposite, the duality of Krishna and Radha as a necessary and inseparable part of itself. Thus unity is negated by duality. But duality or difference is repugnant to the essential unity of the two. Therefore, both unity and difference are necessarily transcended and reconciled in a higher synthesis, which is neither unity nor difference, but unity in difference.

Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami describes the incarnation of Sri Krishna as Sri Caitanya as the result of his desire to relish this highest dimension of rasa in union with Radha, which he did particularly during his 18 years of ecstatic life in monastic seclusion at Puri. While this, according to Kaviraja Goswami, is the esoteric reason for the advent of Sri Caitanya, the exoteric reason is the propagation of bhakti, or loving devotion to Krishna, by example more than by precept, so that the souls lost in the labyrinth of cults and isms may easily find their way to the realization of the supreme goal of life. It is therefore that he appears in the form of an ideal devotee. But since he combines in his personality Krishna, the highest object of worship, and Radha, the highest devotee, both the aspects of his personality find expression. Though the devotee in him predominates, he cannot help appearing before his devotees at times as Krishna or other incarnations, according to the devotee’s mode of worship. This makes his personality complex and difficult to understand. Even Advaita Acharya, the wisest of the devotees of Sri Caitanya, could not help doubting Sri Caitanya’s divinity when he prostrated himself at the feet of the Vaishnavas and begged for their blessings (though in so doing, he was merely setting the example for the true devotee, who is humble and considers himself as the lowest of the low).

Krishna desires to relish the highest rasa because he is the supreme rasika. He desires to propagate bhakti of the highest type because he is the most merciful. Krishnadas says that the two qualities go together. Krishna is supremely merciful because he is the supreme rasika. In the state of union with Radha his rasikhood reaches the highest limit. Therefore in this state he is also the most merciful. When the bowl of rasa is overfilled, it overflows. The overfilling is Krishna’s fullest enjoyment of rasa. The overflowing is his fullest manifestation of mercy, which consists of his gift of the highest type of bhakti (called raganuga-bhakti) to the finite souls so that they may be enabled to share his bliss (Vidagdha-madhava 1.2).

Raganuga-bhakti means the natural, spontaneous, and continuous flow of pure devotion, free from scriptural forms and sanctions regarding what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. It means a life fulfilled in love. It also means the preparation for a transcendental body that enables the devotee to establish some kind of personal relationship with Krishna and enjoy the divine bliss by participating in the divine sports of Krishna and his companions in the transcendental realm. This kind of bhakti was never preached before by any incarnation or spiritual master before Sri Caitanya.

Also never before was bhakti described as both the means and the end. Sri Caitanya’s characterization of love as the supreme goal is the most important landmark in the history of philosophy and religion. According to Sri Caitanya, the center of reality is love, not Godhead. Love is the center not only for the devotee, but also for God. Love governs both. Though Godhead is the embodiment of love itself, he has an ever-growing desire for love. Love is a gravitational force that works at two ends: it draws the devotee to Godhead and Godhead to the devotee. God needs the devotee as much as the devotee needs God.

This arouses a new hope for the fallen souls of this world seeking deliverance from bondage and for the world at large. The peace and happiness of the world is assured if only we can reorient our view of life and turn towards Godhead as love, as he who is ever responsive to us, and as the one who, though perfect in all respects, realizes himself ever and ever more in our realization of him.

Dr. O. B. L. Kapoor has authored more than 20 scholarly books on Indian philosophy including The Philosophy and Religion of Sri Chaitanya. An initiated disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Gobrother and friend of A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, he left this world in the year 2001 in Vrindavan, India

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18 Responses to A Transcendental Dialectic

  1. Absolutely beautiful and deep. We are very fortunate to have had senior realized devotees like Adi Keshava Prabhu who have shared their wonderful scholarly realizations before they left the planet. Thank you Prabhu.

    • I think this is accurate except for the fact that Prabhupada was more subtle than devotees sometimes think. He was well aware of the arguments about BSST’s initiation and knew that, just as he did, many of his Godbrothers had to deal with them, to think about them and weigh their pros and cons, etc. He knew Dr. Kapoor well and no doubt knew of his doubts about BSST’s initiation but also of his continued respect and love for BSST. I know they argued about GDB’s chanting of nitai gaura radhe syama japa hare krsna hare rama and his guru’s (Radha Ramana Carana dasa Babaji) idea that the hare krsna maha mantra should not be chanted in kirtana. But despite this disagreement, one in which all other Gaudiya sects agree that the hare krsna mahamantra is to be chanted in kirtana and none of whom chant nitai gaura radhe syama . . . ., Prabhupada and Dr. Kapoor remained friends.

  2. At the end of the article you mention that Dr. Kapoor is an initiated disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. In all fairness and to be accurate you should also mention that Dr. Kapoor renounced his “diksha” from Bhaktisiddhanta and accepted diksha from Siddha Gauranga Das Babaji of Raman Reti.

    • That is it what Dr. Kapoor told me personally, and I had many conversations with him. Gauranga dasa babaji never initiated him but rather honored his diska and told him to publish books. He also published books in the name Adi Kesava dasa, which is the name he received from Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. So we have chosen to follow the example he himself personally set.

      • Dr. Kapoor lead sort of a double life. One as a follower of Gaudiya Math in public and to those who he confided in, as a disciple of Gauranga Das Babaji and follower of Radharaman Charan Das Babaji Maharaj. He didn’t want to create any unnecessary disturbance, so much of the time he hid his inner life. I first learned about the controversy of diksha and other issues in the Gaudiya Math from a friend who became close to him and was advised by him to get legitimate diksha. He told him the Gaudiya Math had no guru pranali and explained other problems as well.

        Just by reading the books of Dr. Kapoor you can tell where his heart was. You can even see he embraced philosophy that was not accepted by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. And just look at The Saints of Bengal. He devoted only 10 pages to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and 30 pages to Lalita Sakhi Dasi!

        It is not hard to verify. You can go to Gauranga Baba’s ashram, which is just a short walk from ISKCON, and inquire for yourself. There are several people there that know the whole story.

        • I knew Dr. Kapoor very well and I discussed all these things with him in detail on numerous occasions. Personally I think he respected and loved both Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and Gauranga dasa babaji. I listened to him speak with great affection about both of them on several occasions, attributing their differences to different angles of vision. Earlier in his life he had doubts about the disciplic succession of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta, but later in his life he seemed to have resolved his doubts, and he never received siddha pranali or any formal initiation from Gauranga dasa babaji. At any rate, I think it best to follow his own policy in dealing with the public. I see no need to turn the Harmonist’s appreciation for Dr. Kapoor’s writing into a sectarian dispute, nor the need to represent him in print in a manner other than how he personally chose to be represented. The article published here was originally written by Dr. Kapoor for an Iskcon publication.

        • Since you spoke to him in detail many times what did he tell you of his doubts about the disciplic succession of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and what makes you say he “seemed” to resolve those doubts later?

        • Basically, like most devotees that have researched the topic in detail, he concluded that the argument that BSST was not initiated was speculative and that there was plenty of evidence to support the idea that he was. And since GDB did not want to initiate him but rather honored his diksa from BSST and also BSST’s instructions to DR to write books, it was a non issue for him. He never encouraged anyone that I know of to renounce their diksa from BSST’s line and take initiation elsewhere. Only Nitai makes this claim (kind of) out of many disciples of my Guru Maharaja who had much more association with DK than Nitai did at a much later date. The devotees who published his books are a good example, all of whom were disciples of my gurus. They served, honored, and had some love for him. And if you love someone, they will tell you all of their secrets.

        • Gaura-Vijaya das

          “He told him the Gaudiya Math had no guru pranali and explained other problems as well.”

          If that was the case, why did he write about Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur at all in his book, even if it was just 10 pages. Would he write about someone who has no guru pranali as a saint?

        • As I have already explained, Dr. Kapoor kept some aspects of his inner life out of public awareness. Naturally he would have to include Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in his book even if he didn’t want to. And I am not suggesting that he didn’t want to or that he had any ill-will towards him at all.

          More than half of the entire Saints of Bengal book was devoted to followers of Radharaman Charana Das Babaji Maharaja. Less than 20 pages were devoted to Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati together. I have nearly all of Dr. Kapoor’s books in English and he never mentions Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati even once in the preface, dedication or introduction of any of his books. It is generally the custom of any Vaisnava author to seek the blessings of their guru before commencing the work of writing a book. Does this not indicate anything to you?

          You don’t necessarily need to have diksha and a guru pranali to be a saint. You do need to have diksha in order to give diksha though.

  3. I always enjoyed reading his books. They struck me as very sweet and gentle – a marked contrast with the often very combative writing of other GV authors.

    If we apply the Saraswata criteria to the question of whose disciple OBL Kapoor really was, it seems rather clear that he was a disciple of Gauranga dasa babaji at least as much as a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.

  4. One more interesting point is that though Srila Prabhupada was sometimes critical of his godbrothers, he maintained good relationship with Dr Kapoor. In fact, he published his articles in his magazine. Given the strict person SP was with regards to guru-nistha, I don’t see any reason why he would associate with a person who abandoned BSST and even questioned his lineage.

  5. Dr. Kapoor was a close friend and mentor to me when I lived in Vrindaban in the early 1970s. He was the first to inform me of ekadash bhav initiation, told me he left BSS to follow Gauranga das Babaji, and sent me to him for further instruction. Dr. Kapoor even advocated on my behalf to my diksha guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami for ekadash bhav initiation. Failing in that, he and Gauranga das directed me to Lalita Prasad Thakur as my only hope. No one wanted to go against Swamiji.

    Kapoor never discussed BSS not being properly initiated. That I learned from Lalita Prasad Thakur, who gave me ekadash bhav siddha-pranali initiation and told me to preach in the West as his disciple rather than stay in India. However, he never re-initiated me with diksha. He told me to go back to ISKCON and practice in secret. Perhaps something similar took place with Kapoor. We did not discuss such technical matters.

    It’s only “traditionalists” like Nitai who make an issue of my not being properly initiated. It did not matter to Lalita Prasad and it does not matter to me. Initiation is like baptism. Some churches only accept their own baptism as valid. Others say, “If you’re baptized, you’re baptized, and there is no need for re-baptism.” It’s a sectarian boundary issue. Since I am a non-sectarian universalist, I don’t put much importance on such things.

    I am publishing my book, Universalist Radha-Krishnaism: A Spirituality of Liberty, Truth, and Love early next year. Copies will be available on my websites sooner. This book discusses these topics in more detail.

    • Gaura-Vijaya das

      Overemphasis on formal initiation was the case for a lot of hereditary caste goswamis and it is more of a transaction of the heart, rather than just a mathematical analysis of lineages. It is like Baptists want their baptism and catholic want theirs and nobody know which one is genuine.

  6. I think the lesson from the lives of great Vaishnavas is: “Do not be afraid to follow your heart”. Dr. Kapoor followed his heart and accepted shelter of Gauranga Das Babaji, Lalita Prasada followed his heart and rejected the path his brother took, Srila Prabhupada followed his heart and organized his own preaching mission which in many ways was different than his guru’s mission, and so on, and so forth.

    Ultimately we can judge a particular approach by the results it generates. Diksa received from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta is valid because so many of his diksa disciples became great devotees.

  7. Why instead of commiting so much offenses to the vaisnavas aspiring to be devotees don’t spend more time in bhajan and sankirtan? Leave others practice their devotion and take care of your own lives. What a shame. What kind of vaishnavs you are. Before offending the memory of other devotees of the Lord concentrate in you own practice and dont waste your precious time arvuing for details that do not do any good. Our guardians in this path has warned us of this type of wasteful conversation and has encouraged us not to commit offenses to any vaisnava.

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