Diagnosing apasiddhāntas

What does the word apasiddhānta mean? How is a seeker to diagnose whether he or she is being taught apasiddhāntas? I have been thinking of this question specifically in the context of the Caitanya sampradāya.

In science, there is the notion of ‘error’ between a ground truth value and an experimentally measured data point. The error is calculated as a deviation from the ‘ground truth’. If we extend this concept to ‘quantifying’ an apasiddhānta in some way, then we can define it as:

apasiddhānta = (ground truth in the Sandarbhas – presented truth)

To diagnose an apasiddhānta, then, one must seek the corresponding truth from the Sandarbhas. One must learn and study the Sandarbhas to be able to diagnose apasiddhāntas. Otherwise, one cannot.

I present a deviation versus ground truth plot (similar to those in science) for some apasiddhāntas I have diagnosed (with help of course!) in the Caitanya sampradāya. The plot presented is on a hypothetical log scale, which suggests that as we move away from the ground truth, the apasiddhānta is much more egregious (in my opinion).

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9 replies »

  1. Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the only sampradaya in which books by main founders are disregarded and modern books are considered authentic. In every sampradaya be it sri,madhva,pushti main emphasis is on the founder’s books and then other people books.


  2. I apologize that I’m not fully understanding this. The Y-axis is clear; items higher on the Y-axis represent greater deviations than those closer to the X-axis. But what is the significance of items’ position on the X-axis, on either side of the “Deviation” line? I don’t see noticeable difference between the items on the left and those on the right; some are clearly wrong in any circumstance, while others could possibly be classed as “not necessarily wrong if other particular circumstances apply” — but there are instances of those on each side of the line. So is it that the Y-axis should be at the far left and there is no significance to left/right placement? Or is there significance to the items’ placement in relation to the centered Y-axis line?


  3. I appreciate your laser-like focus on the Sandarbhas as the touchstone of Gaudiya theology. Do you think I am too much oversimplifying the problem of deviation when in my own studies I notice two broad categories — deviations born from considering the Sandarbhas in light of Abrahamic religion, vs. deviations born from simply failing to consider the Sandarbhas at all? It’s one mistake to twist the meaning of the Sandarbhas; it’s quite another to ignore them entirely.

    For instance, it’s easy enough to see that while many neo-Gaudiyas today say that they accept acintya-bhedabheda-tattva as foundational, in practice they hold to a dvaita perspective somewhat like that of Madhvacharya, but even more like that of his European contemporary Thomas Aquinas. One major segment of the neo-Gaudiya world was profoundly shaped by its foundational opposition to the advaitavada of the Ramakrishna Mission, and by the desire of its first founders (one of whom was a collaborator who jailed political opponents of British rule) to gain favor from the British who were then ruling India. Indeed, several of the deviations mentioned on your nice chart would be impossible for anyone taking seriously the abheda side of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. Too much of Western neo-Gaudiya philosophy ultimately boils down to something like, “The guru is your personal Jesus who loves each jivatma and wishes to transfer each jivatma into His personal Heaven.” Meanwhile, acintya becomes a crutch for the teacher and a palliative for the student: “It’s OK that this teaching doesn’t make sense, because it’s inconceivable.”


    • I dont know the history well enough so I cannot say for sure how much of the deviation in the Caitanya sampradaya is due to a mixture with Christian teachings. In any case, the need of the hour now is to set the siddhanta straight, so that authenticity and sanity can return to the sampradaya.


      • Before Sandarbhas did Vaishnavas have any infallible written source of truth, on the basis of which they could differentiate between siddhanta and apasiddhanta?


      • Depends on which Vaishnavas you are talking about. For Caitanya Vaishnavas, the Sandarbhas are the infallible source. For other Vaishnavas, there are other sources.


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