Why are there so many apasiddhāntas in the Caitanya tradition?

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.

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15 replies »

  1. 🙏Jai Sri Radhe
    … how coincidental, I heard the same reasoning/explanation etc as Sri Babaji ,by an acharya goswami coming from Sri Gadadhar parivar in Sri Vrindavan recently…

      • 🙏
        … the original/ head of His lineage /family was a direct disciple of Sri Raghunath Bhat Goswami and Sri Raghunath Bhat was a disciple of Sri Gadadhar Pandit…

  2. Honestly if the Parivars would be the mainstream source for newcomers or for those who want to learn about gaudiya vaishnavism properly, none of the confusions would be on a big scale. It is because of ISKCON/GM that the real gaudiya Siddhant has been distorted.

    • The parivaars are not preaching institutions. They are small in numbers. My suggestion is that there should be more and more blogs/websites/ YouTube videos from members of traditional parivaras. People simply don’t know about traditional parivaras. Or if they know, the parivaras have been maliciously maligned as sahajiyas to them.

    • Radhe Radhe
      Apologies for my statements. But other than a few, some parivara people (especially in Bengal) have practices that go against the basic principles of ananya bhakti described by the Goswamis. Such people actively engage in Anya devata upasana like Durga Puja(which has nowhere been accepted as a practice of Bhakti) and which is even inferior to the practice of nitya-naimittika karma. Such people have never studies the sandarbhas and siddhantas of the revered Goswamis and literally have videos explaining the “spiritual significance of panchamakara” and “Secret of Kali Tattva” etc. Vaishnavism for them has been relegated to eating vegetarian and not engaging in animal sacrifices. Hence one has to be careful even while searching for gurus in apparently traditional parivaras.

      • Yeah these days its tough to know where to find genuine gurus and genuine knowledge. Maybe it was like that in the past also – I am not sure.

  3. It’s really exhausting sometimes. I am trying to learn as much as I can from blogs like this and from my Gurudev and I am realizing how prevalent the apasiddhantas are. I was looking at a forum where an earnest seeker was asking some basic questions and the answers they got were horrendous. They were told they don’t need a guru, that we can go “back to godhead” if we are 70% Krishna conscious and that Prabhupada left the keys to the back door of Krishna’s realm for us and we just need to hold onto his dhoti. The person answering was very polite, encouraging and earnest and also almost 100% wrong about everything. Of course the questioner was so relieved by the answers and was thankful for the help.

    • Exhausting it is- I agree. I should have added- another reason for the mess is that people can’t think for themselves. For example the questioner should have asked how one would measure whether one is 65% conscious or 69.9%? Is there a meter available for purchase that keeps a daily count? They should have asked- is Krsna open to further discounts say of 10% more over the 70% – I really prefer that instead of 70%. Oh also, could we just ring the front door bell instead of struggling for a key through the back door. Surely there must be a butler type dasa who will answer- we could bribe the butler with some ghee or yogurt.

      • Actually the original claim was 90% but then when the speaker saw how crestfallen the audience was he finally came down to 70% when the audience cheered. I am not even joking.

      • The audience made a mistake. They should not have cheered the 70%. The art of bargaining is important for success clearly. Which makes me wonder – the speaker must be really empowered to negotiate on Krsna’s behalf.

  4. A famous bhakta of the XlX century wrote on a book about Sri Navadvipa Dham that Sriman Mahaprabhu took two elements of each of the four vaishnava sampradayas. Is it an authentic analysis?

  5. In my opinion, it is that famous bhakta’s personal opinion. All the fundamental ‘elements’ have been derived from shastras by our eminent acharyas like the Goswamis as is evident from their works.

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