The Whys and Hows of a Nitya Navadvipa (Part 2)

By Bhakti Pranaya Padmanabha Swami. Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

The very first book of the Gaudiya sampradaya is Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta. Therein, Sanatana Goswami states that each avatara has a corresponding representation in Vaikuntha.1 Since Gaura appears as an avatara (although himself being avatari Sri Krishna), he must have a permanent abode in transcendence. The word avatara is etymologically translated as “from up to down,” implying the idea of divine descent into a temporary realm, which is possible only if the avatara is already present in the spiritual world.2 Because Mahaprabhu is considered an avatara by the Goswamis, he must have his own abode in eternity.3 In this connection, Srila Jiva Goswami speaks about the eternality of Krishna, his associates, and his abode by describing Krishna as being worthy of worship—that is, an object of achievement4 —and by explaining that anything that is not eternal cannot be the goal of one’s worship, since one attains whom one worships.5 Again, our Goswamis accept Mahaprabhu as an object of worship, so he must have a permanent realm in eternity that corresponds with such worship.6

Still, some may persevere in their objection, asking why our Six Goswamis (having had the chance to do so) never spoke directly about Gaura in Vaikuntha, making luscious descriptions of an eternal Bengal in the spiritual sky. In reply, we should first of all consider that the Goswamis did not actually speak much about Mahaprabhu in general. They concentrated mainly on Radha-Krishna lila in such a way that the reader would feel an obvious necessity for a Gaura lila. We may then also ask why the Goswamis never spoke about other details, such as Gadadhara being Radha, or many other truths that were revealed in time by later (or even contemporary) authors.7 Actually, the Goswamis composed only a few verses in praise of Mahaprabhu, but almost none of them wrote about his lila (neither prakata nor aprakata).8 So if we follow the logic of abhava-pramana, then we should not believe in Mahaprabhu’s Earthly lila at all, because it was described in texts such as Caitanya-bhagavata or Caitanya-caritamrta, which were not written by any of the Six Goswamis.9 I think it is clear that such a proposal makes no sense at all.

In the face of these replies, some may still prefer to “make a choice” between someone such as Rupa Goswami and someone such as Visvanatha Cakravartipada and remain chaste to the former, who never wrote overtly about an aprakata nitya Navadvipa. But instead of forcing ourselves to choose between two equally divine personalities, we should learn how to accept both of them, understanding that there is ultimately no contradiction in the statements of the mahajanas. Although we may like to say “the Goswamis said it all” and take only whatever they said, the nature of revelation in the context of the parampara is something dynamic. Thus, a natural development of a sampradaya’s core foundational truths could (and should) take place in the form of its future members. That being said, the overall principle here is that since Krishna appears to different devotees in a suitable form that corresponds with their love for him, the same holds true for the qualities and lilas attached to that particular form—they correspond with a particular influence of bhakti, as the Bhagavata itself declares:

O Lord! You, who are approached by being heard about, seen and directly served, enter and remain in the lotus of your devotee’s hearts infused with bhakti. Much praised Lord! You are so merciful to your devotees that you manifest yourself in the particular eternal form of transcendence in which they always think of you, bestowing to them spiritual bodies appropriate to the mood they cultivate during sadhana. —Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.9.11

Even if we do not find any explicit verse about a nitya Navadvipa coming from the Goswamis,10 that does not mean there is no such realm. Again, Gaura is Krishna and there is an aprakata Krishna lila. Therefore, there is an aprakata Gaura lila. If someone would oppose this statement by considering it mere tarka (mundane logic), we could then say that tarka is one thing. But another very different thing is the enlightened logic that naturally comes from love (su-medhasah/sastra-nipuna),11 such as what the Goswamis exhibited, which caused them to see certain Bhagavata verses in light of Gaura lila. But if the objection still continues to the point of accepting the Goswamis’ between-the-lines reading but rejecting later mahajanas’ reading under the argument “the buck should stop somewhere,” we are then invited to re-think the very nature of the guru-parampara, which implies that later members will be as bona fide as the Goswamis precisely because they are able to read between the Goswamis’ lines, just as the Goswamis read between the Bhagavata’s lines to find Gaura there. To remain dynamic, ancient spiritual traditions are to be constantly updated by their members in the form of fresh revelations coming from the original siddhanta of their particular school of thought.12

Here, the same objection may take a new form, trying to distinguish between fresh revelations coming from the original siddhanta and the introduction of an entirely new sadhana not mentioned by the Goswamis. But the point here is that by speaking about an aprakata nitya Navadvipa, we are not promoting an entirely new sadhana. Rather, we are referring to the reality that is revealed as a byproduct of certain specific insights and that corresponds entirely with Vraja, so there is no need for a separate sadhana—as one goes deeper into Gaura lila, one will emerge in Krishna lila.13 And the opposite will be equally true as well, all of this supported by the Goswamis’ own words.14

On a similar note, we may find some objectors who say that Sri Jiva Goswami, the tattva-acarya of the Gaudiya sampradaya, never mentioned the possibility of an aprakata nitya Navadvipa in his profuse writings. In response to this claim, we can share the following verse from Sri Jiva’s Gopala-campu, wherein he speaks of Goloka as Svetadvipa:

The planet being described is called Goloka because it is the abode of cows and cowherds. It is called Svetadvipa because it manifests in a pure form which cannot be equaled by anything else. Its supreme position is accepted by persons with knowledge. That supreme Goloka is the supreme Svetadvipa. —Gopala-campu 1.1.22

Besides Thakura Bhaktivinoda (who directly interprets this verse in connection to an aprakata Navadvipa), we also find figures such as Vrndavana dasa Thakura supporting this statement by saying that Navadvipa is Svetadvipa,15 Svetadvipa being another name for Goloka and Vrndavana dasa’s text equating Navadvipa with Svetadvipa. Furthermore, the authoritative Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika says, “All glories to the most wonderful abode of Navadvipa, which those in full knowledge of rasa call Vrndavana, which people of knowledge call Goloka, which others call Svetadvipa, and still others call paravyoma, the spiritual sky.”16 Finally, Gopala-campu 1.1.19 speaks about aprakata Vrndavana as “having a variety of natures.” Since there are a variety of natures to Goloka (and since Vrndavana itself has innumerable natures), this realm is not necessarily limited in form to that of the description previously given by Sri Jiva.17

Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. To be continued.

  1. Here is a brief summary of this section of the Brhad-bhagavatamrta (2.4.147–152) intertwined with some of Sanatana Goswami’s commentary: 

    “In Vaikuntha each devotee sees the Supreme Lord Sri Narayana in the form of the particular Lord he worships, with suitable complexion and other qualities. They see the Lord of Vaikuntha to be the same as the form of their worshipable Deity endowed with particular color, limbs, and sub-limbs, and so on. 

    “As before, these devotees still see their own worshipable Lord, with all his unique features they found charming—endowed with extraordinary associates (such as Laksmana and Sita for Rama) as well as pastimes and paraphernalia attractive to the devotees. Thus, they worship their favorite forms of the Lord in the places where he resides—his opulent cities and other abodes—and expand the ocean of happiness. They serve their Lord in special secret places in Vaikuntha, similar to the cities of their Deity, such as Ayodhya, and experience happiness. 

    “Though the Lord of Vaikuntha, full of all powers, exists in Vaikuntha surrounded by all his associates and sits on his great throne in his huge palace, he has the ability to show himself to the particular devotee with particular faith, attractively endowed with the desired associates and paraphernalia. One should not think that this is not real and just some appearance, since the Lord has all abilities and maya is impossible in Vaikuntha. By worshipping one among the many avatara forms of the Lord, one attains that form. The person just described, who may serve two forms or more forms of the Lord—seeing them as one—also attains Vaikuntha.” []

  2. In this context, see Laghu-bhagavatamrta 397, wherein Rupa Goswami quotes the Brhad-visnu Purana, stating, “the forms of Bhagavan and his avataras are eternal—eternal form, eternal fragrance, eternal power, and eternal bliss.” []
  3. Apart from Caitanya-caritamrta’s famous asirvada-sloka (1.1.4), which was actually composed by Sri Rupa Goswami as the namaskara-sloka for his Vidagdha-madhava (1.2) and which refers to Gaura as avatirnah kalau (he who has descended in the age of Kali), see also Tattva-sandarbha’s mangalacarana and Laghu-bhagavatamrita 1.2, wherein both Sri Jiva and Sri Rupa quote the famous Bhagavata verse about the yuga-avatara for Kali (11.5.32) in the context of offering their pranama to Sri Caitanya. []
  4. See Jiva Gosvami, Sri Bhagavat Sandarbha, trans. Satyanarayana Dasa, comment on anuccheda 60 (Vrindavan: Jiva Institute, 2014, p. 584. []
  5. In this connection, Srila Narahari Cakravarti’s Bhakti-ratnakara (12.54) speaks of “something said by great sages in the past” (pracinair uktam): “(The sages say that) Sri Navadvipa is to be meditated upon. This (form of) eternal Vrndavana shines on the bank of the Jahnavi.” By considering Navadvipa as worthy of meditation and identical to eternal Vrndavana, Narahari implies here that Navadvipa is a worshipable and permanent goal to attain in transcendence. []
  6. While one may object that devas such as Indra are also described in some parts of sastra as worthy of worship, they are prescribed as objects of worship only for material gain. Nowhere is their worship prescribed for attaining mukti or any final destination in Vaikuntha. []
  7. While Gadadhara’s identity in Krishna lila was first revealed by Svarupa Damodara (a contemporary of the Goswamis) in his Gadadharastakam (verses 1, 3, 6, and 9) and later by Kavi-karnapura in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (153), the Goswamis did not say a word about it in their own works. []
  8. Apart from some pranama-mantras dedicated to Mahaprabhu (as referred to in note 3), the few main references where the Goswamis briefly spoke about Mahaprabhu’s lila are to be found in Rupa and Raghunatha dasa Goswamis’ Caitanyastakams as well as Raghunatha dasa Goswami’s Sri Gauranga-stava-kalpataru, all of which quite cryptically mention some of the lilas of Sri Caitanya. []
  9. If Caitanya-bhagavata and Caitanya-caritamrta were included to object against the existence of a nitya Navadvipa (since if there is a nitya Navadvipa, it would have been natural to describe it in the two main hagiographies of Sri Caitanya), we could also make the same case regarding the possibility of an aprakata Vrndavana in connection to Krishna’s main “hagiography” (the Bhagavata), where, at least overtly, we do not hear about a Goloka Vrndavana in the spiritual realm, but we do indeed hear about a Vaikuntha realm when, for example, Krishna and his associates leave this planet. []
  10. Although there may be no overt statements by the Goswamis about the eternality of Gaura lila, they indeed spoke about it indirectly and thus allowed for such a possibility. One well-known example is Srila Rupa Goswami’s statement in his Laghu-bhagavatamrta (Purva 391): “Even today if one of his (Krishna’s) dear devotees intensely desires to see one of his particular pastimes, the merciful Lord immediately exhibits that pastime for him.” []
  11. Although Mahabharata (Vana-parva 313.117) does indeed speak about the futility of dry mundane logic, it speaks in this same verse about the way to access the heart of ultimate dharma: diving deep into the heart of a sadhu. []
  12. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes this spirit in one of his letters (June 14, 1970): “If my previous acarya has written something, so he (the present acarya) will not touch those points, but he will write something which can develop further. That is acarya, not that chewing the chewed: somebody has written something and he is also writing the same thing. No. If he at all writes, he will write something which will beautify, or glorify, or magnify the former idea.” []
  13. Caitanya-candramrta 88 []
  14. In his purport to Bhagavata 10.32.22, Srila Sanatana Goswami has implied that the zenith of Krishna lila takes Krishna to the point of desiring the experience of Radha’s bhava—Gaura lila. []
  15. Caitanya-bhagavata 2.23.290 []
  16. Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika 18. An interesting connection between Vaikuntha and Navadvipa (and the eternality of the latter by its being considered superior to the former) in this connection also is made by Prabhodananda Saraswati in his Caitanya-candramrta (verse 62): “His complexion as fair as molten gold, and his form filled with the splendid and blissful nectar of pure transcendental love, the Supreme Godhead has mercifully appeared in the town of Navadvipa. In Navadvipa every home celebrates great festivals in honor of Bhakti-devi, the goddess of devotion. Navadvipa is sweeter than Vaikuntha. My heart finds its happiness in the transcendental abode of Navadvipa.” []
  17. In Srila Narahari Cakravarti’s Bhakti-ratnakara (12.329–332), the personified Puskara Tirtha speaks about nitya Navadvipa’s nature and connection to Vraja: “Eternal Navadvipa Dhama is filled with prema-bhakti. By the grace of Nadiya, one knows the nature of Navadvipa. The residence of Gauracandra, who performed the rasa-lila and other pastimes in Vrndavana, is eternally in Navadvipa. Syama of Vrndavana has a golden complexion in Navadvipa. Prabhu’s play continues in a hidden form in Navadvipa. His play is sometimes unmanifest and sometimes manifest. In this Kali yuga, there will be an ocean of joy [when he manifests his lila].” []


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