Question: Should Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas observe Śivarātri?
Answer: In the Gadādhara parivāra, we fast on Śivarātri.
Q: Some say that there is no need to observe Śivarātri. They cite the following from Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Goswami:
śivarātrivratamidaṁ yadyapyāvaśyakaṁ na hi |
vaiṣṇavānāṁ tathāpyatra sadācārādvilikhyate ||186||
Could you help me understand this?
A: I will first translate what you wrote:
“Although this Śivarātri is not essential for Vaiṣṇavas, it is explained here from the point of view of sadācāra (good behavior).”
It is true that he writes this, but we also have to examine what comes later. I will do so in another article where I will present my translation of Śrī Sanatana Goswami’s commentaries on the subject.
Q: But why does he say that Śivarātri is not essential?
A: That is not his opinion. He is expressing the opinion of the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas. Basically he is saying that not all Vaiṣṇavas observe it, and therefore it is not essential for Vaiṣṇavas in general. But it is essential for Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas- this becomes clear from what comes after this sentence. What comes after is his recommendation. The word sadācāra is specifically for Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas.
Q: How do you know that this sentence is not his opinion?
A: I learned this from my guru, who learned it from his guru. The Hari Bhakti Vilāsa is to be learned from a guru. It is not a self-study manual. Its meaning is not to be ascertained by arguing about it with others. It has to be learned in the paramparā. And if someone has not learned it from the guru who learned it from his guru, that person reads what he or she wants in it, and misleads themselves and others.
Q: I mean are there any other pramāṇas that can at least support your assertion?
A: Sure. I will write articles on this also. Many Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas disrespect Śrī Śiva and also other devatās like Śrī Gaṇapati. But Śrī Jīva explains that this is an offense. I will write about this also in a separate article.