Q/A: do minor differences with Śrī Jīva Goswami’s teachings matter?

Q: What is wrong if there are minor differences in teachings of my ācārya? We see such differences commonly between different sampradāyas also?

A: How do you define the word ‘minor’ ? How can you assess if a difference is minor?

Q: We ultimately chant the same mahāmantra as other Gaudiyas. We worship the same Lord. We follow the same books – Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatam, etc. So if there are some minor differences due to an ācārya’s adjustment of Śrī Jīva Goswami’s teachings, what’s wrong with that?

A: If you see nothing wrong with it, then no problem. Why are you asking me?

Q: Because on your site, you say that there is something wrong with that.

A: Do you know whether you are qualified for bhakti? Do you have the adhikāra?

Q: Anyone can do bhakti. It is for everyone.

A: Not exactly. The adhikāra or qualification for bhakti is śraddhā.

Q: Ok, so?

A: What is the definition of śraddhā?

Q: Faith?

A: Faith is in something, it does not hang in the air. śraddhā means trust or faith in the meaning of śāstra. Only if you have this śraddhā, are you qualified for bhakti. Śrī Jīva Goswami does not define śraddhā as ‘faith in so-and-so person’. He could have said- śraddhā means faith in Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He did not.

Q: I am not following the connection with my question.

A: Anyone who has śraddhā will not be able to tolerate deviations from śāstra. Because that is the very meaning of śraddhā.

Q: Are you saying that if I tolerate differences from Śrī Jīva Goswami’s teachings, I am not qualified for bhakti?

A: Possibly.

Q: But there are differences even between Śrī Jīva Goswami and Śrī Visvanatha Cakravarti. Do you mean to say that Visvanatha Cakravarti does not have śraddhā?

A: I don’t see major differences between the two.

Q: The same can be said of our ācārya.

A: How do you know? Have you studied the Sandarbhas to know? I have studied them, and I have studied the minor differences between Śrī Visvanatha and Śrī Jīva Goswami. Just asserting something with confidence does not make it true! Anyway if you want to believe this, good – follow your ācārya!

Q: Do not get me wrong- I am trying to understand your point of view.

A: Like I said, faith in śāstra is the qualification for bhakti. If someone is qualified for bhakti, he or she will not stop till they achieve authentic knowledge. Their drive and thirst for authentic knowledge will relentlessly and mercilessly drive them. When they find authentic knowledge, only then they will become satisfied. Some have this faith, others don’t. Those who don’t should not bother with what I am saying. Those who do, should continue their search till they find a guru who can teach them that knowledge.

Q: What is ‘authentic’ knowledge according to you?

A: The knowledge contained in Śrī Jīva Goswami’s books.

Q: Why are only those books authentic? What about books by others?

A: Well it is a question of defining what constitutes the Gaudiya sampradaya. The Gaudiya sampradaya refers to those persons who follow Sri Jiva Goswami’s books. I want to be part of the Gaudiya sampradaya.

Q: Maybe, but that does not make Śrī Jīva Goswami’s followers in modern times inauthentic!

A: My personal experience is that the currently popular books are confusing and inconsistent. They are ‘all over the place’. Contradictions abound. As a result, people fight over their meaning. They argue relentlessly over internet forums, at temples, and for decades, and still one would be hard pressed to find one person who has properly understood and can reconcile the contradictions, or one person who can properly explain even the definition of bhakti.

In stark contrast and to my endless relief and joy, I have found that Śrī Jīva Goswami is unerringly consistent. I found his books of an intellectual depth and quality that no modern book comes close to. And I know he is authentic, being the founder of the Gaudiya sampradaya. So it is fool-proof.

Q: Ok but that is your experience. May not be of others.

A: Yes reality is subjective, and my experience is also subjective. I know that the sect you follow loudly proclaims its authenticity. I have no problem with others following whatever they want to follow – it is none of my business. But my loyalties lie with Śrī Jīva Goswami. People loyal to him have the right to directly learn his teachings from his books without the burden of reading other books from anyone else.

Q: Ultimately we are both chanting the same mahamantra!

A: Yes, the question is: are we chanting it without offense? Only then will the chanting give its fruit. I am sure you know the ten offenses. Śrī Jīva cannot be pleased if we distort his teachings. For me, avoiding offenses to Śrī Jīva Goswami and the śāstra is all important, and that is what I intend to do. Bas!

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3 replies »

  1. Excellent post! “Minor” is in the eye of the beholder, so we need to find some broader and more objective measure. Let me suggest that if one “minor” difference tends to harmonize Śrī Jīva Goswami with one of the other Vaishnava sampradayas and recognized commentators, while another “minor” difference tends to harmonize Śrī Jīva Goswami with Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas and distances him from the other Vaishnava sampradayas, the differences are not equally “minor.”

    One prominent neo-Gaudiya institution, as it spreads across the world and its hermeneutics and theology are increasingly in the hands of converts whose worldview has been formed (often more than they realize) by classical Western philosophy and Abrahamic religion, is understandably reinterpreting Caitanya Vaishnavism in an unprecedented way.

    That’s fine. Syncretic movements have sprung up throughout the history of world religions. From the Sikhs to the Krishna Pranamis, from the Brahmo Samaj to the Theosophists, believers who exist at the convergence of differing cultures will naturally synthesize new faiths that claim to draw new insights from old texts, reconceiving those texts’ teachings for their new purposes.

    The danger isn’t that these new movements claim to have a better understanding than their forebears. The danger comes when the new movements try to have it both ways and claim legitimacy on the basis of forebears whose teachings they actually reject. Far better to be honest and admit that your parampara begins in 1838 or 1896 with the appearance of your new authority, than to try to claim Śrī Jīva as a purveyor of your recent innovations.


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