I recently talked with Śrī Babaji, and asked him about the reason for the widespread theological deviations in the Caitanya tradition. Below I present what I took away from the conversation, and also present my own views on the current state of affairs.
Unlike other Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas, the originator of Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavism, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu did not write books Himself. It was up to His followers to write them. Śrī Caitanya had a huge following, much different from the founders of other sampradāyas. Many of these followers were erudite and scholarly and wrote many books. There has been so much written in the sampradāya, that it would take a lifetime to read and assimilate everything; many many books have become lost over time as well.
Interestingly, although many of His followers were His associates, not all of them understood His heart to the extent that Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Sanātana Goswami did. Being with Śrī Caitanya was a full-time job. In addition to His dancing and singing in processions and His regular total absorption in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s līlās, a huge number of bhaktas would flock to meet Him. This hectic activity was one of the reasons why Śrī Caitanya sent Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Sanātana from Bengal to Vṛndāvana, away from the dancing and the feasts and the processions. In Vṛndāvana they would sit and actually get to think, and systematically formulate the theology. For this, he personally taught them the theology concisely, which they later expanded into their books and which Śrī Jīva compiled into his life work- the Sandarbhas.
It is not for nothing that Śrī Rūpa is said to have truly understood the heart of Śrī Caitanya. His contemporaries like Kavi Karṇapura who wrote Alankāra Kaustubha, did not, as apparent from the disagreement between what he writes and Śrī Rūpa’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu on the topic of bhāva. Thus, the seeds for confusion were sown from the very early days of the tradition.
Fast forward to today, and I think that the tradition is pretty much a train wreck. Anything goes. People quote words from the scriptures to support whatever point they want. Young preachers with little knowledge or experience post slick youtube videos pontificating on Caitanya theology that amass millions of hits. Yet few of these celebrities, if any, have studied the Sandarbhas, the foundation of the Caitanya tradition, from a teacher in the paramparā. Those few among them who actually try to study the Sandarbhas do so on their own – reading them like one would read a novel. In effect, they act as their own guru. And so apasiddhāntas abound. Every other day, I came to know of new distortions of even the most straightforward concepts.
The only way to stop the profusion of apasiddhāntas, and for people to become empowered to actually realize the fruit of bhakti, is for the preachers and youtubers to dial down their hit-inflated massive egos, and humbly learn from the Sandarbhas from a teacher who has similarly learned them from his or her teacher.