concepts

Śrī Jīva Goswami was a Hindu

“So you want to be a Hindu again, is it?” – sneered one person when I announced that I was leaving a modern Caitanya sect. I looked the person steadily in the eye, and responded, “I was born a Hindu and never stopped being one”.

Most Hindus do not know that the word Hindu is used as a slur in modern sects of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism. The dictionary defines the word “slur” as “an insinuation or allegation about someone that is likely to insult them or damage their reputation”. The preachers of modern sects derisively refer to Hindus in code language as “confused”, “karmis”, or “smārtas”, and Hinduism as a “hodge-podge religion”. They uphold themselves as so-called Vaiṣṇavas, which, in their view makes them superior to the Hindus. And yet, Vaiṣṇavism is but one part of the broader Hinduism and Śrī Jīva Goswami, the founder of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, was but one type of Hindu. Indeed Hinduism subsumes Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas, Śaiva sampradāyas (who tend to be Advaita Vedāntis), Pūrva-miṁāmsakas and Naiyāyikas and so on – it is a very long list.

Since I became liberated from the sect I was part of, I have been happily visiting Hindu temples of various kinds while studiously avoiding the sect’s temples. Hinduism has historically been characterized by tolerance of other viewpoints, vigorous debate, respect for others, a total lack of proselytization/preaching, and a focus on scholarship. While Hinduism has declined due to the advent of foreign influences that undermined its traditions, its scriptures, its language (Sanskrit) and sowed disharmony in its society, many Hindus still retain many of the above virtues. For example, on a recent visit with my brother to a local temple, I pointed out a book on the Gītā from the Caitanya sect on a shelf (they frequently leave their books all over Hindu temples, presumably to liberate Hindus from their Hinduism). He replied, “at least they are part of Hinduism, and they accept a Hindu deity. I can appreciate that.” His response is typical of tolerant and broad-minded Hindus. I had to educate him about the views of Hindus contained in that book.

Hindus have a natural affinity for all things related to Kṛṣṇa. They appreciate beautiful temples and singing of kīrtanas and freely donate to any Kṛṣṇa temple. The same modern preachers who spew slurs against Hindus in temple lectures have no qualms relieving these Hindus of their cash. I know one so called ‘temple pujari’ whose main duty was to visit all the Hindus he could find, and ask for donations. He annually brought in 60-70,000 $ from them. He admitted to me on several occasions that he would lie to these people- all sorts of lies – to bring in the money. This was all ok, as it was for the deities. But was it? This person lived on the temple premises, and his livelihood and food came from the temple. And there were a hundred other devotee families who would come and eat for free in the temple. Who paid for all this? The unsuspecting Hindus, of course. But it was ok, since the food was first offered to the deity – you see, it was really for the deity.

It is one thing to have firm belief in one’s own path. It is another to insult others and look down upon others. Śrī Jīva Goswami is a great example of tolerant engagement with numerous viewpoints. He steadfastly opposed the Advaitins in the Sandarbhas. And yet, one can see the obvious respect he has for Śrī Śankarācārya. Śrī Śankarācārya established Vedāntic thought (strictly speaking, there were others before him who laid down many of the ideas, but we dont have a coherent record of them). All subsequent Vedāntins, like Śrī Jīva Goswami, Śrī Rāmānujācārya and so on, used Śrī Śankarācārya’s methods of analysis. Śrī Śankarācārya was an absolute genius and an innovator, whose innovative methods helped Śrī Jīva Goswami while resolving knotty theological issues. And yet, modern sects of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism preach venom for Advaitins. They pride themselves on having defeated the Advaitins, without realizing that even the best preacher amongst them is liable to be fully humbled if he had to ever debate a real Advaitin. The Advaitins base their worldview on the Upanisads, and their framework is superbly knit and extremely difficult to defeat. Further, it takes a lot of study and real brainpower to even begin to understand their theology, leave alone refute it. It takes a very strong grounding in Sanskrit and Nyāya and Pūrva-miṁāmsā and the Upaniṣads – none of which modern Caitanya scholars come close to. The so-called modern Caitanya scholar is obsessed with writing English books for preaching- not with understanding his or her own tradition thoroughly.

It is time for Hindus to recognize the proselytizing, intolerant and incompetent dollar-fueled sects in their midst.

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3 replies »

  1. I couldn’t agree more! As a proud Hindu myself I have often found myself confronting such supremacists masquerading in Vaishnava attire. Thankfully I’m seeing that kind of hypocrite somewhat less these days.

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  2. 🙏
    I am glad to hear that , I am not the only one to have experienced such hypocrisy and insult as well.
    As the saying goes, biting the hand (of the simple and tolerant Hindus)that feeds you’ ..

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  3. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a Hindu and so were the Panchatattvas, the shad Goswamis and all the Acharyas and saints of the glorious Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya. But the modern sects who use the name of Chaitanya Vaishnavism are obviously nor and and are actually barely even Vaishnava based on the teachings of the Acharyas. They are semi Abrahamics who are by far more inspired by the teachings and profits of Abrahamic faith ideologies than with Mahaprabhu and his followers.

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