Sanga: Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa

Sanga Q & A with Swami Tripurari. Full archive, here.

Q. The book Hari-bhakti-vilasa is said to present the standard for worship in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, but no one seems to be following the procedures it contains very strictly. How important is it for Gaudiya Vaishnavas to try to follow Hari-bhakti-vilasa?

A. Gopala Bhatta Goswami and Sanatana Goswami, the authors of Hari-bhakti-vilasa, were both personal associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Still, I am not aware of any modern Gaudiya Vaishnava sect that follows Hari-bhakti-vilasa to the letter. Indeed, in this day and age trying to do so would be next to impossible. A devotee in the lineage of Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Srivatsa Goswami of the Radha-Ramana temple in Vrindavana, once told me, “No one follows Hari-bhakti-vilasa more strictly than our lineage.” Hearing this I laughed and replied, “So you do not follow it completely either.” His subsequent silence spoke volumes.

The history of Hari-bhakti-vilasa involved the need to establish standards of behavior and worship for the Gaudiya lineage in a religious culture in which the rule-based and love-less smriti of the smarta-brahmanas was prominent. The book was an effort to provide a structure for our sampradaya to support its members and lend credence to the lineage in the climate of the times. It is an important and empowered book, yet acaryas in our lineage have found room to forego some of its recommended procedural details while establishing the principle they are intended to support.

Q. Hari-bhakti-vilasa says something to the effect that without receiving mantra-diksa, chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra (harinama) on its own will not take one back to Godhead. How are we to understand this?

A. Harinama surely has the power to deliver one from the cycle of birth and death (samsara) as well as to bestow ecstatic love of God (prema). However, diksa, or initiation into the chanting of the 18-syllable Krishna mantra, is essential in terms of helping materially conditioned souls take full advantage of the liberated name of God—harinama. The idea is that we can use all the help we can get.

The 18-syllable Krishna mantra consists primarily of names of Hari, particularly Krishna, Govinda, and Gopi-jana-vallabha. Within the mantra, these names appear in the dative case, indicating an indirect object or recipient (“to Govinda I offer myself,” for example). In contrast, the vocative case is used in directly addressing or invoking a person or thing, which is how the names appear in the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. In the Krishna mantra, the names are preceded by the kama-bija (seed) and followed by svaha, or the giving of oneself. Thus the Krishna mantra fosters self-surrender (saranagati), which is the platform on which bhajana and lila-seva are successfully performed. It also reveals one’s svarupa, or relationship with Krishna, who is non-different from his name.

The Krishna mantra facilitates a particular relationship with the divine name. When this is revealed, the efficacy of the mantra is realized and one can then continue to chant harinama such that one’s nama bhajana is fully informed with realized knowledge—sambandha jnana. Such nama bhajana nourishes lila smaranam and together the two, harinama and the meditation on one’s relationship with the divine name, give one Krishna prema.

Thus it is important not to avoid mantra diksa, as even Krishna and Sri Krishna Caitanya accepted mantra diksa to set an example for others to follow.

Q. Some devotees say that chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is sufficient to install the Deity (arca vigraha) in a home or temple. Others refer to Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which indicates that a certain ritual (prana pratistha) needs to be performed in order to make any Deity installation complete. What is your understanding of this?

A. The arca vigraha, or arca avatara, should be properly installed under the auspices of one who has fixed the deity within his or her heart. First sri murti appears in a realized soul’s heart, and from there it is established externally as a sharing of that Vaishnava’s divine love. In other words, the Deity appears to accept seva from us through the will of the Vaishnava acarya. If his will is in place, the deity will fully manifest. The will of the Vaishnava is the heart of the descent of the arca avatara. All other procedures are secondary and serve simply to assist the will of the acarya.

Thus we find that while important, the procedures cited in Hari-bhakti-vilasa regarding deity installation are details that are expendable at the discretion of the acarya. By his divine will, my Guru Maharaja established many deities throughout the world and in doing so he modified the procedures given in Hari-bhakti-vilasa as he saw fit. In short, if the will of the Vaishnava is behind the installation and nothing else, it is complete, but if all the other procedures are in place and the Vaishnava’s will is absent, the installation is not complete. The appearance of Krishna in any form is tied to the love that his devotees have for him. Indeed, love of Krishna and Krishna are one. You cannot have one without the other.

Q. During Chaturmasya, a four-month period during India’s rainy season, a vow of austerity involving fasting from certain foods is encouraged. Skanda Purana and other scriptures state that this vow is compulsory for everyone, and in his Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 4.169) Srila Prabhupada concurs saying that observance of Chaturmasya is obligatory for all asramas. Srila Prabhupada also states that the main purpose of the Chaturmasya vow, which ends in Kartika, a very holy month for Vaishnavas, is to reduce sense gratification.

However, although this is stated in his Caitanya-caritamrta, and we know that his guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta followed this vow, our Srila Prabhupada didn’t establish Chaturmasya as a regular observance in his society as he did with Ekadasi. Why is this? Is it because Chaturmasya is only applicable in India where people are forced to curb their activity during the rainy season?

A. Srila Rupa Goswami does not mention the observance of Chaturmasya as being a limb (anga) of bhakti. However, Rupa Goswami cites evidence from Padma Purana supporting the observance of Urja-vrata during the month of Damodara/Karttika. This is the last of the four months of Chaturmasya and such observance is an anga of bhakti.

Aside from Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, observance of the Chaturmasya vrata is advocated in Hari-bhakti-vilasa in relation to Vishnu bhakti, and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura strictly followed this. However, in the larger picture we find that the strict observance of Chaturmasya on the part of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was not followed in the same measure by his most prominent disciples who had direct contact with the Western world. Thus its relativity is brought to light. Indeed, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura himself only observed Chaturmasya strictly for four or five years before starting his mission, and he was advised by Thakura Bhaktivinoda to forgo such strict observance, which Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam states does not have the power to attract him in the way that sadhu sanga does (11.12.1-2). Although some of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s disciples continued to follow strict Chaturmasya vows within the mission, he instructed his disciples that produce grown at any of the mission’s monasteries could be offered to the deity and honored by the devotees during Chaturmasya despite the fact that such foods were supposed to be prohibited for Chaturmasya.

The real purpose behind such observance is to promote the spirit of self-giving. Pujyapada Sridhara Deva Goswami comments on the observance of Chaturmasya and similar vows thus:

Only to effect self-giving all these advices have been devised in different ways suited to different environments. But the very substance for all such observances is samarpanam (wholesale dedication of the self). Just as the ghee is poured into the fire, put yourself into the fire and gradually give yourself into the hands of the sadhu.

Thus we should try to embrace the essence of the observance of Chaturmasya and similar vows. Penance and austerity have little value in and of themselves. Giving one’s heart is real giving. It should also be noted that observing festivals for Hari (another anga of bhakti) should be in consideration of one’s resources. Thus it may be reasonable to consider that observing Chaturmasya vows with regard to details should be done in accordance with one’s resources, and one’s resources are largely determined by one’s environment.

As mentioned above, observance of the Urja-vrata related to the Kartika month has been differentiated from the Chaturmasya vows as an anga of bhakti. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura places it on the same level as observing Ekadasi, identifying it as something that both directly and indirectly promotes raga-bhakti. About its observance, Sri Jiva Goswami writes as follows, commenting on a verse from Padma Purana:

The month is affectionate just as Damodara is affectionate. Thus a little service to Damodara becomes multiplied if performed during that month. Uru-karaka means a person (in this case the month) who accepts something very small and makes it big, like a person who feels extremely indebted and performs great actions for another person. Similarly, his month, called Kartika month, gives great benefit. It takes what is meager and makes it significant. Svalpam uru-karakah means “The month of Damodara is a future giver of huge results for a little service.”

Thus I would advise observance of the Kartika vrata and I would not stress strict observance of Chaturmasya outside of India. Again, even within India such observance, although recommended, is not an anga of bhakti, whereas the observance of Kartika is.

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25 Responses to Sanga: Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa

  1. Gaura Keshava das

    The Importance of Hari Bhakti Vilāsa

    According to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the regulative principles of devotional service compiled by Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī do not strictly follow our Vaiṣṇava principles. Actually, Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī collected only a summary of the elaborate descriptions of Vaiṣṇava regulative principles from the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. It is Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī’s opinion, however, that to follow the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa strictly is to actually follow the Vaiṣṇava rituals in perfect order. He claims that the smārta-samāja, which is strictly followed by caste brāhmaṇas, has influenced portions that Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī collected from the original Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. It is therefore very difficult to find out Vaiṣṇava directions from the book of Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī. It is better to consult the commentary made by Sanātana Gosvāmī himself for the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa under the name of Dig-darśinī-ṭīkā. CC M 1.35 Purport

    From the above we can see that although some persons may reject the Hari Bhakti Vilāsa, in fact “It is Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī’s opinion, however, that to follow the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa strictly is to actually follow the Vaiṣṇava rituals in perfect order.” The main problem exposed above is that reading Hari Bhakti Vilāsa without the commentary of Sanātana Govāmī leads to some confusion. That is why Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī printed it with that dig darśini tika (or commentary giving a different point of view than the Smarta point of view).

    In fact we know from CC Mad 24.324 that Mahāprabhu orderd Sanātana Gosvāmī to write Hari Bhakti Vilāsa. Therefore Gauḍiyas should not make excuses to accept parts of it and reject other parts (cherry picking). Sanātana then prayed to Mahāprabhu for the intelligence to write the book correctly. The Lord then blessed him that whatever he wrote would be correct and that Lord Kṛṣṇa himself would manifest the real purport (see CC Mad 24.328). Mahāprabhu then goes on to give His own synopsis of the topics that He wants Sanātana to write on (see CC Mad 24.329-344). Then the Lord says in CC Mad 24.345 “I have thus given a synopsis of the Vaiṣṇava regulative principles. I have given this in brief just to give you a little direction. When you write on this subject, Kṛṣṇa will help you by spiritually awakening you.”

    So actually there is no excuse for Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavas to neglect the book Hari Bhakti Vilāsa and it’s instructions. They have the commentary of Sanātana Gosvāmī which explains everything in a correct way and rectifies the confusion of some things by the Smartas. They have the order of Mahāprabhu to Sanātana to write the book and they also have the synopsis of topics given directly by the Lord. Finally they have the Lord’s direct blessings that whatever is written by Sanātana will be correct by the mercy of Lord Kṛṣṇa.

    Case Closed.

    • prahlada bhakta dasa

      Gaura Keshava Das,
      I think you are quite quick to close the case.
      You emphasize: “So actually there is no excuse for Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavas to neglect the book Hari Bhakti Vilāsa and it’s instructions.”
      None of the acharyas in our line, following after the six Goswamis, will agree with this assessment of yours. Throughout the centuries there have been adjustments made to how much to follow and what to follow from the Hari-bhakti-vilasa. You quote Srila Prabhupada quoting BSST’s opinion about the Hari-bhakti-vilasa. But Prabhupada himself didn’t encourage his disciples to follow HBV accurately. Even BSST made many adjustments for his disciples. To my knowledge, there is no Gaudiya sect anywhere that claims to follow HBV cent percent.
      The fact is that HBV was written by Srila Sanatana Goswami and Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami considering the religious climate of those times.

      The case is open.

  2. Gaura Keshava das

    Is that the only thing that can be quoted?

    “The principles of religion are extremely confidential”

    Do you suggest that this quote explains why Gaudiyas apparently dismiss the order of Mahaprabhu to follow Hari Bhakti Vilasa?

    Or to neglect it even though He Himself said in CC that it would be perfectly written by Sanatana Goswami who He blessed to write it?

    Even Bhaktisiddhanta according to Prabhupada’s purport accepts “that to follow the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa strictly is to actually follow the Vaiṣṇava rituals in perfect order.”

    What can be more confidential than the direct order of Mahaprabhu for Gaudiya Vaisnavas?

    What can be more confidential than following Vaiṣṇava rituals perfectly?

    Gaudiyas are fond of quoting many things from Hari Bhakti Vilasa and accepting those things as the gold standard of sastra pramana when they agree with them, but they do not accept this sastra as a whole. This is at the very least inconsistency.

    If I were on the other side of this discussion I might argue that Hari Bhakti Vilasa doesn’t explain about the practice of Raganuga bhakti, but since the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON aren’t primarily preaching the process of Raganuga bhakti it would seem that Hari Bhakti Vilasa should be quite useful in those organizations.

    To me the neglect of the Gaudiyas in general of Hari Bhakti Vilasa shows how the sampradaya changed from what Mahaprabhu and the early Goswamis originally wanted it to be.

    It is not just Hari Bhakti Vilasa but also Krsna Janma Tithi Vidhi by Rupa Goswami which is neglected by all but Radha Ramana Goswamis who use it for abhisekam. It is full of Vedic mantras and more complex ritual practices including Ganesha puja as is Hari Bhakti Vilasa.

    But while other books by Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis are highly revered and followed such as Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu and Brhat Bhagavatamrta, somehow Hari Bhakti Vilasa and Krsna Janma Tithi Vidhi are neglected.

    It is inconsistent to neglect some of the writings of Rupa and Sanatana and follow impeccably others. The only argument that I see is that these two neglected sastras are just too much a part of Vaidhi bhakti and not Raganuga Bhakti.

    It is obvious to me however that Mahaprabhu and the original two Goswamis saw the need for both aspects of bhakti to be simultaneously followed in Gaudiya sampradaya. Unfortunately later Gaudiyas have neglected these aspects of Vaidhi Bhakti given in these two sastras.

    Of course individual Gaudiya Vaisnavas are welcome to emphasize or not the different writings of their purva acharyas. But there can be no doubt that the original intent of Mahaprabhu, Rupa and Sanatana included following the aspects of Vaidhi Bhakti enunciated in Hari Bhakti Vilasa and Krsna Janma Tithi Vidhi.

    Thank you for your opinions.


    • prahlada bhakta dasa

      You did not know the full verse from which Sripada B.V. Tripurari Maharaja quoted the line: “dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam”
      The full verse is:
      tarko’pratiṣṭhaḥ śrutayo vibhinnā
      nāsāv ṛṣir yasya mataṁ na bhinnam
      dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitaṁ guhāyāṁ
      mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ
      ‘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 śāstras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahājanas advocate.’
      This is a verse spoken by Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja in the Mahābhārata, Vana-parva (313.117).

      The God-realized saints know the truth, and they can ascertain what the people who have come to them for spiritual guidance should follow and what they should not and may not follow.

      Please know that whatever i am speaking here is not to tell only to you. It is equally, if not more, meant for myself as well.

      There is no question of neglecting Hari-bhakti-vilasa as you put it. It is just a question of following the standards from the Hari-bhakti-vilasa that the mahajanas after the six Goswamis have set for their followers.

      You said:

      Gaudiyas are fond of quoting many things from Hari Bhakti Vilasa and accepting those things as the gold standard of sastra pramana when they agree with them, but they do not accept this sastra as a whole. This is at the very least inconsistency.

      You must be knowing that our six Goswamis, in their books, quote many verses from many Puranas, Itihasas, etc. to support the philosophical points they make. Does it mean that they accept all the statements of these different scriptures from which they quote? The answer is ‘NO’. Then does it mean that they are not accepting those sastras as a whole? According to your logic they would be guilty of doing so.

      You also stated:

      since the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON aren’t primarily preaching the process of Raganuga bhakti

      This is a misunderstanding. The Gaudiya Math and ISKCON were founded with the vision to guide their members to love of Krishna in Vrindavan which is possible only through raganuga bhakti. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur had written: pujala raga-patha gaurava-bhange matala sadhu-jana visaya-range
      It speaks of worshipping the path of raga, spontaneous love for Krishna.
      Also, Srila Prabhupada established a society aimed at Krishna consciousness and not God consciousness, etc. It was to show that the aim is to achieve Krishna-bhakti as seen in the Vrajavasis.

      You also said:

      To me the neglect of the Gaudiyas in general of Hari Bhakti Vilasa shows how the sampradaya changed from what Mahaprabhu and the early Goswamis originally wanted it to be.

      You profess to say that the acaryas that came after the early Goswamis deviated from the intention of Mahaprabhu and the early Goswamis. I hope you realize that this is nothing short of blasphemy of these great acaryas.
      And if you really believe your statement then you are left without any genuine guru to teach you the path bhakti as intended by Mahaprabhu and the early Goswamis. You can’t even begin to follow the path of uttama-bhakti because it begins with “adau guru-padasraya” as taught by Srila Rupa Goswami, because according to you all the Gaudiya acaryas that followed after the early Goswamis have deviated from the original teachings of the sampradaya and the intent of Mahaprabhu and the early Goswamis.

      You also said:

      It is not just Hari Bhakti Vilasa but also Krsna Janma Tithi Vidhi by Rupa Goswami which is neglected by all but Radha Ramana Goswamis who use it for abhisekam. It is full of Vedic mantras and more complex ritual practices including Ganesha puja as is Hari Bhakti Vilasa.

      This shows that you have not understood the substance of bhakti itself. Bhakti is not about following rituals and procedures, it is about surrendering to Krishna and offering our hearts to him in love.
      What i can see is that you are doing niyama-āgraha or stubbornly sticking to the rituals and procedures without knowing the purpose behind them. Rupa Goswami warns us against it in his Upadesamrta text 2.

      You said:

      But while other books by Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis are highly revered and followed such as Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu and Brhat Bhagavatamrta, somehow Hari Bhakti Vilasa and Krsna Janma Tithi Vidhi are neglected.

      It is inconsistent to neglect some of the writings of Rupa and Sanatana and follow impeccably others.

      You have to understand that the philosophical or theological teaching of the sampradaya is one and does not change. That is, the sambandha-jnana does not change. But the way to apply this teaching in practical life, or abhidheya, changes according to the time, place and circumstance. Sambandha is static whereas abhidheya is dynamic. It is subject to change and will change from time to time no matter what you think. This is because the social, political, and religious environment of the world is always changing. But also in this, the principles don’t change. The only thing that changes is the details. But, you are wrongly considering the details as principles and are thus talking in the way you have.
      Thus, you should know that those great acaryas (mahajanas) coming after the early Goswamis (their greatness is attested by their spiritual contribution) know the essence of the teachings of Mahaprabhu (dharmasya tattvam), which we do not know. It is best for us to follow in their footsteps.

      Again, i repeat that whatever i have written is not directed only to you. It is equally, if not more, meant for myself as well.

      Thank you.

      • Jay Srila Tripurari Maharaj and Prahlad Bhakta das! total victory! with so much humility and kindness.

        • prahlada bhakta dasa

          Brahma Samhita Prabhu,
          I appreciate your kind words, but i deserve no credit. I was not trying to defeat anyone and be victorious. I was just trying to present the points as i have understood from my Guru-Maharaja, Sripada B.V. Tripurari Maharaja. The credit and glorification belongs to him.

          Thanks for your kindness.

  3. prahlada bhakta dasa

    Gaura Keshava Das,
    Let me ask you something. Have you read/studied the full Hari-bhakti-vilasa yourself?
    If yes then are you able to follow each and everything that is mentioned in the book?

  4. Bhrigupada Dasa

    Very interesting conversation! As I see it, having worked with this text for years and now recently returned to it, the HBV is indeed how the Goswamis wished to see ideal Vaishnava conduct. But more ideal than real — the text itself very often presents easier versions to expensive or very time-consuming rituals, and indeed says at the end that all of what has been written pertains to rich householders, not to ekantin devotees, who chant the names constantly and may or may not follow other rituals. So there is plenty of scope for following the text in essence.

    • prahlada bhakta dasa

      Thank you so much Bhrigupada Prabhu.
      So, is the HBV much like the Sat-kriya-sara-dipika of Srila Gopala-Bhatta Goswami in terms of its being directed to vaishnava householders in the socio-religious climate of those times?

  5. Thanks for the tirade Prahlada Bhakta das. I realize that you are simply trying to support your guru. I have no problem with him or you personally. Neither do I have a problem with Gaudiya Acharyas simplifying activities for their disciples. Still neither of you can seriously object to following Hari Bhakti Vilasa as I have pointed out. You neglect it. OK, why not just admit it and move on?

    Many things in it are not only possible but easy and even these things are neglected by many modern Gaudiyas. And Yes, I have read it, have you?

    As for: “You must be knowing that our six Goswamis, in their books, quote many verses from many Puranas, Itihasas, etc. to support the philosophical points they make. Does it mean that they accept all the statements of these different scriptures from which they quote? The answer is ‘NO’.”

    I agree with this. I did not say that Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis cannot quote selectively from texts which they do not agree with in full. However Hari Bhakti Vilasa and Krsna Janma Tithi Vidhi are texts completely written by them. Not by other non-Gaudiya authors. Thus as you say later all Gaudiyas should accept all the Goswamis books. All their books and not just the ones they like to accept. So instead of accusing me of something first look in the mirror.

    You then go on to say: “Then does it mean that they are not accepting those sastras as a whole? According to your logic they would be guilty of doing so.”

    Why don’t you answer your own question? Does it mean that Rupa and Sanatana accept everything in every sastra they quote from. No, I never said that. I do not think they have to. And does that mean if they do not accept everything in every sastra they selectively quote from are they guilty of not accepting those sastras as a whole. MOST CERTAINLY, YES, IT DOES MEAN THAT. What else can it mean?

    You cannot have it both ways. If you quote only selectively from a sastra then either you accept the whole sastra or you don’t. Make up your mind as to what you think they are doing but it has to be one or the other.

    Since they quote from Manu does it mean that they accept the whole of Manu? If so then does it mean you also have to follow them and accept the whole of Manu? At least you have to accept what they have quoted and that’s all I am saying. Mahaprabhu blessed Sanatana to write perfectly but you make so many excuses why this is not good enough for you. Then accuse me of not wanting to follow people who neglect following their own previous acharyas and Mahaprabhu. Really?

    I do not care if you follow it or not. You do have to accept it as bonafide. And if it is not too difficult or expensive or if there is no other compelling reason not to follow it then you too should follow it. But I see your attitude is not even to consider following it. Or even read it.

    For example there are several simple systems for giving of Vaisnava diksha described in HBV. And yet surprisingly ISKCON and Gaudiya Math followers neglect all of them and do something just as elaborate if not sometimes more so from other sources. Why?

    I’ve heard all the lame arguments before. Too complex, too expensive, not for this age (really!, it was written only 500 years ago, I mean is it really impossible to do Bhuta Suddhi or Matrika Nyasa today??? My students do it.) Look everyone still does deity worship. Everyone still does most of the activities given in HBV. It really isn’t that difficult. Especially as Brighupada prabhu states when so many easy loopholes and alternative methods are given in HBV itself. If you really can’t fast on Ekadasi sure you can eat Havisya (a type of kitchuri), what is so hard about that? If you can’t do a fire yajna for a diksha then you can do it just with words/mantras. But the fact is that today we are fasting on Ekadasi and we are doing fire rituals for dikshas. So why not do these things in a way given in HBV?

    You may do as you like of course. And modern Gaudiya gurus also can do as they like. If you can’t or won’t follow everything the Goswamis have given you by the order of Mahaprabhu then just admit it and move on. Enough with the excuses.

      • Gaura Keshava das

        Sorry if you felt that tirade was inappropriate. I sincerely apologize for that. But it seems to have gotten your attention. 🙂

        Here’s the essence as I see it.

        Some people want to have things both ways.

        They want to swear allegiance to all the writings of the previous acharyas of their line but they also want to be free to selectively follow what those acharyas have given.

        In my initial posting I quoted profusely from CC on the importance of HBV.

        The response is either a one-liner or a single sloka suggesting that it’s completely OK for modern Gaudiya gurus to basically ignore HBV.

        I was actually expecting a more reasonable response explaining that many things in HBV are not appropriate today and giving some examples of that. However as you haven’t read the book I guess that was too much to expect. Remember that these are comments on an article you wrote on HBV. But it seems you yourself have not read the book.

        And that’s fine. Just say you haven’t really read it or know exactly what is in it but that following the recent acharyas you know that it’s not so important to follow.

        Don’t you think it is a little disingenuous to post an answer to the original question without either quoting CC about it’s importance or having actually read the book itself?

        • It is one thing to swear allegiance to the philosophy and another to details of how to observe and practice it. In fact unswerving allegiance to the latter can turn into a deviation from the former, if it distances one form the spirit of the law. This has been pointed out by Rupa Goswami.

          Yes you quoted from Cc about the importance of HBV and concluded, “case closed” it is not to be neglected. Now you say that may position is that it is perfectly fine to basically ignore it. For the record, I don’t neglect it and I don’t advocate ignoring it. I advocate following the spirit of the book in the sense of following how one’s acarya adjusts its details in consideration of time, place and circumstances. And also think that it is a very useful text. Therefore I blessed one of my students to publish a book on the section of the text on how to follow ekadasi. That book was published a decade ago. It is entitled “Dearest of Visnu.” I have also blessed him to translate the entire book and at present he has collected numerous manuscripts to work from. Incidentally, our scholarly conclusion is that the book was written by Gopal Bhatta Goswami and the there is a distinct possibility that the commentary may not have been written by Sanatan Goswami.

          As for a “more reasonable response” with examples, by now you have that with at least one example: Mahaprabhu ate eggplant. Thus there is some relativity to the text. No, I do not think my original article was disingenuous and I am more familiar with the book that you realize.

        • Thanks for this reply. I appreciate it.

    • HBV is a book largely about an “ideal” of behavior and procedure, all things considered. The very spirit of the book leaves room for further adjustment of details on the part of an acarya. That is my position. Anyone is free to think otherwise and look at it differently, but I believe that the way I look at it follows the lead of generations of Gaudiya acaryas. Thus my previous reference to the idea that the nature of dharma is hidden in the herts of mahajanas. In other words, the way in which generations of Gaudiya acaryas have followed the text tells us more about the spirit in which the book is to be taken that anything else. You cite “the words of Mahaprabhu” (Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami). Perhaps the first couple of generations followed HBV more strictly. However the text says that one should not eat eggplant, but Krsnadasa Kaviraja describes eggplant as part of Mahaprabhu’s diet.

  6. Gaura Keshava das

    Swami ji, You cite the example of one particular dietary restriction. But the general rule given in the beginning of that section in HBV is:

    yad yad iṣṭatamaṁ loke
    yac cāti priyam ātmanaḥ
    tan tan nivedayen mahyaṁ
    tad anantāya kalpate

    Whatever is most desired by one within this material world, and whatever is most dear to oneself. One should offer that very thing to Me. Such an offering qualified one for eternal life.” SB 11.11.41 Quoted in HBV 8.119

    One could say that this Bhagavatam sloka trumps all other opposing quotes from other sastras.

    Later several references to Eggplant are given in the section on forbidden foods.

    There are many ways to reconcile such details. And certainly commentators are free to do so. But my problem is not with reconciling details in the text. It is the general disregard for things in the text that really need not be contested. The things that clearly do not need reconciliation.

    I’m sure you aren’t suggesting that because there is a conflict over whether to offer or eat eggplant that the whole HBV is useless.

    What really needs to be written is a commentary on the whole text pointing out inconsistencies and how to reconcile them. The Dig Darshini tika by Sanatana attempts to do just this in many instances. Instead it seems most Gaudiyas aren’t interested to do this.

    Now you are exalting the personal behavior of Mahaprabhu over and above the actual orders of Mahaprabhu. Even though the personal behavior of Mahaprabhu may or may not be exactly what He wanted others to imitate. There is no proof whatsoever that He wanted others to offer or eat eggplant. And an argument can be made that he left this up to Sanatana Goswami to explain in HBV.

    Also do you not think the Goswamis were familiar with the diet of Mahaprabhu? When there is such a conflict commentators normally will try to harmonize the points of view. But I see no one has tried to do this in this case.

    If two diametrically opposing views are being held and when no commentator is reconciling these views is it not best to avoid the conflict all together?

    In other words in the case of eggplant if there is some doubt as to whether it should be offered and eaten why not just offer something else which is without doubt acceptable?

    What I am suggesting is some consistency to interpretation or reconciliation.

    Not that arbitrarily we accept some things and reject others.

    That’s all I am suggesting.

    I do not see a consistent approach to the instructions of HBV by modern Gaudiyas.

    • Correct, I am not suggesting that the entire HBV is useless. Nor should one arbitrarily accept some things from it and reject others. First the book needs to be brought out in English. To my knowledge that has not been done.

      As for the eggplants, I believe Mahaprabhu often ate it with others. Thus according to Cc, he and his associates ate eggplant. I think example speaks louder than precept. He ate eggplant in Puri where he was a sannyasai and teaching by example. His associates followed his lead. Why has it been forbidden in HBV? I do not know. You appear to be a better student of the book than I, so I will leave it to you to enlighten me. One question if I may: Do you eat eggplant?

      • VCT understands SB 11.11.41 thus “If one offers to me what is considered best by the scriptures, by the people, and by oneself as well, one becomes qualified for eternal life.”

        “One should offer to me what is considered the best in the scriptures and by the people. Scripture says that kuça buds are wonderful, but because they are not esteemed by the common people they are not to be offered to the Lord. As well, what is very dear to oneself should particularly be offered to the Lord.”

      • Gaura Keshava das

        Dear Swami ji, sorry for the late reply.

        1. FYI Hari Bhakti Vilāsa has been completely translated and published in English by Bhumipati das in 5 volumes and is available in Vrndavan from Rasabhihari Lal and Sons. (This edition is probably translated from the Hindi and does not include the Dig Darshini Tika. It also seems to sometimes lack complete understanding of many technical ritual terms. Even in the late 70s-early 80s when I was studying HBV with Visvambhara Goswami of Radha Raman temple he himself was unfamiliar with many of the technical jargon and referred me to South Indian pundits for more information on some rituals like ankurarpanam)

        2. Regarding eggplant:

        a. It was also forbidden in Madhva sampradaya until one particular small greenish version called gula was included for use in sambhar after Vadiraja Tirtha was informed in a dream from Lord Hayagriva that it was to be used as a medicine to cure His poisoning. If you want the full story let me know. The point is that eggplant was and still is forbidden to Madhvas except for this one variety. Seems like if Gaudiyas actually were linked to Madhva sampradaya they would similarly not offer or eat eggplant except for this excepted variety.

        b. It’s very interesting your quote from VCT commentary on Bhagavatam. However it is talking about something that is accepted in sastra but not offered because people in general don’t like it. In regard to eggplant however we are not speaking of something allowed in sastra and not liked by devotees. We are speaking of a vegetable which is lumped in with garlic and onions and is actually forbidden in sastras. Here’s the quotes from HBV. (Sanskrit available on request)

        Under the heading of (HBV 8.152) atha naivedya niṣiddhāni (Things prohibited for offering) we find the following regarding eggplant:

        There is a subheading (HBV 8.158-9) athābhakṣyāṇi (Food that is unfit for offering):

        From Kurma Purana:

        “Eggplant, jali sak, kusumbha sak, asmantaka sak, palandu, garlic, and kanjika should be avoided. If a brahmana eats grnjana, kimsuka, kumkundu, udumbara and ash gourd, he will become degraded.” HBV 8.158-9

        From Visnu Purana:

        “O King, you should not eat forbidden things such as asafoetida.” HBV 8.160 (OK this one doesn’t have to do with eggplant but I threw it in for your information)

        From Skanda Purana:

        “Lord Hari stays far away from a person who eats eggplant.” HBV 8.161

        Elsewhere it is stated:

        “Lord Hari keeps Himself far away from a person who eats eggplant, ash gourd, burnt rice, and masur dhal” HBV 8.162

        From (Visnu) Yamala:

        Unalloyed devotional service to Lord Hari does not manifest in a place where there is meat, eggplant, wine or radish.” HBV 8.164

        Also as part of Gaudiya Vaisnava diksha in HBV Vilasa 2 the initiate vows 108 vow of which some are NOT to:

        “eat meat or drink wine, take any intoxicant, eat red lentils or burnt rice, eat spinach (certain types), eat squash (certain types) or eggplant, eat food offered by non-devotees” HBV 2.169-70

        There are probably some other mentions of eggplant in HBV but I don’t have time to look through the whole thing. But I remembered it was in the section on diksha vows and also forbidden foods for offering.

        c. Lastly I want to explain something about the word in India (Hindi and Sanskrit) for eggplant. In Hindi eggplant is known as baigun. It comse from the Sanskrit VAI GUNA or without qualities. The vegetable is know to have no real taste but takes on the quality of the substances it is combined with. It is basically a sponge. It may taste nice if it is fried in ghee because it becomes just an excuse to eat ghee. Boiled it is unpalatable. Except when it might be used along with vegetables like tomato (a fruit from the west) or to thicken a sambar dhal which is what it is used to do in Madhva quisine. Anyway just as the Sanskrit for meat mamsa (meaning mama sah/me for you) have a meaning. Similarly vaiguna/without qualities also has a meaning describing this vegetable.

        We should note that particular food prohibitions are some of the most complex and sometimes contradictory rules in Hindu/Vaisnava sastras. Food habits (albeit purely vegetarian) amongst (almost) all Vaisnavas differ due to the different regions of India (different countries before 1947) which have in some cases vastly different customs of offering foods and eating.

        • There is a well documented, eye witness account of Gaura Kishore das babaji sitting under a tree and making an unorthodox offering of a whole,raw eggplant to Krsna and then eating it.

        • Gaura Keshava das

          That’s interesting. However the actions of avadhuta like devotees don’t really set precedent for others. Also there is a four hundred years between the writing of HBV and Gaura Kishora das babaji. The eating habits of Indians definitely changed in those years. For example Chilis were unknown at the time of Lord Caitanya as they were only introduced by the Portuguese in Goa at the end of the 15th century from South America. Vedanta Desika wrote a book in the 13th century called Ahara Niyama/rules of food and eating. Which is probably the last book written on the subject before so many things were introduced from the West.

  7. Swami B. A. Ashram

    Gaura Keshava dismisses an account of Gaura Kishora’s offering a whole, raw eggplant as the example of an avadhuta-like vaishnava, which shouldn’t be followed. However, I have another example, which I witnessed myself. When our own spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, visited Honolulu’s ISKCON center in January of 1974, he organized and cooked a Sunday feast, aided by some of his disciples. (I was privileged to help him with the kachauris, along with Bali Mardan das.) There was one preparation which he made entirely by himself, however: a baked preparation made with tomatoes, eggplant, and sour cream. Some vaishnavas also say that tomatoes are forbidden for different reasons, and we have read Srila Prabhupada’s admonitions against buying sour cream in stores. And we sometimes hear that baking isn’t “Vedic.” But here we see all sorts of so-called prohibitions coming together in one preparation, the likes of which I had never tasted before, and am likely never to taste again in this life. Just sayin’ . . .

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