Definitions

FAQ on Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism

Inspired by an FAQ on a Sri Vaiṣṇavism site, I have prepared a similar FAQ on Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism. Happy Reading!

What is Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism? Who is the founder of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism?

Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism was founded by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Its theological foundations were established primarily by Śrī Rūpa Goswami, Śrī Sanātana Goswami and Śrī Jīva Goswami. Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism propounds that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Bhagavān, the one absolute non-dual reality.

Who is Kṛṣṇa?

Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the one and only independent reality, the original source of everyone and everything in existence.

What is the purpose of existence?

The purpose of existence is to acquire prema or love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa (beyond mokṣa).

What is the philosophy of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism?

The philosophy is acintya-bheda-abheda, which means that everything in existence is Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa because it is His energy and is dependent on Him for its existence, but at the same time it is different from His svarūpa or intrinsic nature; and this simultaneous difference and non-difference with Bhagavan is inconceivable.

Who is a Caitanya Vaiṣṇava?

A Caitanya Vaiṣṇava is one who follows the bhakti tradition propounded by the Goswamis and performs rāgānugā bhakti following the mood of the Vrajavāsīs. A Caitanya Vaiṣṇava accepts Śrī Caitanya as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself in the mood of a devotee.

What are the most important texts which explain Caitanya theology?

Foundational books of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism are the Bhakti Rasamṛta Sindhu by Śrī Rūpa Goswami and the Six Sandarbhas written by Śrī Jīva Goswami. These books explain the essential truths of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, which is the primary pramāṇa for the Caitanya school.

Are there any distinguishing features of a Caitanya Vaiṣṇava?

  1. Taking dikṣā from a guru in the paramparā.
  2. Reciting confidential dikṣā mantras and the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.
  3. Wearing kanthi-mālā and twelve-fold tilak
  4. Staying in or aspiring to stay in Vṛndāvana, India.
  5. Performing daily worship of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

Do Caitanya Vaiṣṇava worship all devatās?

No. Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas don’t even worship Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself in other moods like in Dwaraka. They worship Śrī Kṛṣṇa as He is in Vṛndāvana. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-Gītā, He is the source of all other devatās, and the source of their power. However, Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas accept other devatas as devotees of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and as such have great respect for them. Disrespecting other devatās is considered an offense to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

Does Bhagavān have a form?

Yes, Śrī Kṛṣṇa has unlimited forms, which He reveals according to the mood of the worshipper.

What is the significance of a Guru in Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism?

The guru is of singular importance in Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism. A central precept is that without surrender to a genuine guru, one cannot perform bhakti, nor will any attempts to practice bhakti bear fruit. The guru is considered to be a manifestation of Kṛṣṇa who gives the disciple the seed of bhakti in the form of sraddhā or faith in bhakti’s scriptures. The guru is vital to clear misconceptions, give proper understanding of one’s relation with Kṛṣṇa (sambandha), the means to actualize that relationship (abhidheya) and the goal to be achieved (prayojana or the completion stage of abhidheya). When a disciple surrenders to the guru and serves without any duplicity, then the disciple will ultimately achieve the prayojana, prema.

How does one recognize a guru?

The guru must

  1. Be in an unbroken lineage of teacher and student going back to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s associates.
  2. Be an expert in the foundational scriptures of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism (see important texts of Caitanya theology above).

To be continued..

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