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Part IV -Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-Sampradaya
A Doctrine Of Acintya-Bhedabheda
I. Some Characteristic Features
a) The relation infinite-finite, God-man, Absolute - this world is a fundamental philosophical problem. Some emphasize the transcendent aspect of the infinite, while others its immanent aspect. Some emphasize difference, whereas others emphasize its identity.
b) Shankara tries to solve the problem of the relation between the infinite and the finite, or the Absolute and this world, by cancelling one of the terms in the relation.
To him, the finite is a result of upadhis. Since the upadhis are of the nature of illusion and don’t exist at all, there can be no problem of relation between that which exists and which does not exist.
But, even considering the finite as non-existent, it persists in the form of its appearance, which cannot be denied. Then the problem of the relation finite-infinite reappears in the form of the relation appearance-Reality.
c) Exclusive emphasis on the concept of identity and immanence cannot solve the problem of relation between God and the world because leads to a virtual denial of the world as illusion. Similarly the problem is not solved by applying the concept of exclusive difference and transcendence because this bifurcates the reality in two and creates un nubridgeable gulf between God and the world.
d) An ideal synthesis of identity and difference must be the cherished goal of philosophy. But such synthesis is not possible or conceivable through human logic.
e) The clue to the solution of the problem, according to the school of Shri Chaitanya, therefore, lies in the inconceivable power (acintya-shakti) of God, by which the concepts of identity and difference are transcended and reconciled ina higher synthesis.
f) As Paramatma He is the immanent regulator and observer of the actions of the finite souls, and the unifier of all existing things; as Bhagavan He is the blissful Supreme Personality of Godhead, beyond and above this material world.
(Bg 9.4-5 support this view).
g) Not is impossible for Brahman on account of His acintya-shakti. It is possible to Him to be both different from the world and identical with it, to create the world out of Himself and remain out of it.
h) acintya bhedabheda is implied also to the concept of shakti which is a basic concept in Shri Chaitanya’s philosophy. shakti is different from the object in which it inheres, because it cannot be conceived as identical with it; but simultaneously, it is identical with the object, because it cannot be conceived as different from it. Therefore the relationship between Brahman and Its shaktis is acintya bhedabheda, ‘inconceivable simultaneous identity and difference’.
i) If there was absolute identity between Brahman and the jivas, and Brahman and the world, the faults and imperfections of the jivas and the world would be the faults and imperfections of Brahman.
(To keep Brahman free from these faults, it would be necessary to regard the jivas and the world as illusory, as Shankara did. But, in the absence of any other real thing, Brahman will have to be regarded as the seat of illusion. Thus, Brahman would still not be fautless. Besides, the belief in absolute identity will falsify the shruti texts which clearly distinguish the jivas and the world from Brahman.)
j) If Brahman and Its shaktis are regarded absolutely different, as Madhva did, that would give rise to dualism and would contradict the principle of oness stressed in the shastras (tattvam yad jnanam advayam).
k) The relation between God and His shaktis is said to be inconceivable because cannot be adequately described in terms of the relation between ‘the part and the whole’, or ‘substance and attribute’, or even in terms of the relation between an ordinary object and its shakti. For, in the case of God, the part is not merely a part and the shakti is not merely a shakti.The part and the whole, the shakti and the shaktiman (the possessor of shakti), interpenetrate and form an undivided whole.
l) God is essentially advaya jnana-tattva, though not a ‘pure identity’. He appears in many forms and yet He is One; His lila, name and form are at once different and non-diferent. Even the different parts of His body are different and non-different, for each part can perform the functions of the other parts and of the whole. The part is, thus, actually identical with the whole, though still a part, and as such different from the whole.
m) The concept of ‘acintya’ (inconceivable) in the Shri Chaitanya school is distinct from the concept of ‘anirvacaniya’ (indescribable) in the Advaita-vedanta of Shankara.
‘Anirvacaniya’ is applicable to maya and its products, which can neither be described as real nor as unreal; it does not apply to Brahman , Who is described as real. But the category of ‘acintya’ applies to the relation between shakti and shaktiman either in the transcendental realm or even in this world. It applies to Brahman, His associates (parikaras), and abodes (dhamas), as well as to jiva-shakti and maya-shakti.
n) ‘Anirvacaniya’ is a negative concept, while ‘acintya’ is a positive concept. ‘Anirvacaniya’ signifies the coming together of the opposite concepts of ‘reality’ and ‘unreality’ which cancel each other to produce illusion. ‘Acintya’ signifies the marriage of the opposite concepts of ‘difference’ and ‘non-difference’ leading to a higher and a fuller unity.
II. Distinguishing Factors of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism.1
* There are basically two distinguishing factors that separate the Gaudiya school from other Vaishnava schools. Firstly, you have the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda - the inconceivable difference and non-difference between God and His energies. This was, according the Gaudiyas, the original Vedic doctrine.
* After being distorted by Buddha and then Adi Shankaracarya, it was reinstated, at least partially, by Ramanuja, who taught Vishishtadvaita. Shankara had claimed oneness, that the living energy - God’s energy - was one with God. But Ramanuja detected that there was a difference as well. He agreed with the oneness aspect, but he added a special clause - ‘the living being is obviously different as well.’
* Then came Madhvacarya, who preached pure Dvaita, or ‘dualism.’ This school teaches that there is absolute difference between God and his energies. But this teaching did not account for the similarities. God and His energies both exist, for exemple, so in their quality of existence they are indeed similar. It cannot, therefore, be said that they are absolutely different.
* Shankara preached one extreme. Madhva preached the other. Shri Chaitanya appeared with the perfect balance.
* But the most distinctive feature of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy, especially as opposed to other Vaishnava schools, is the very developed conception of madhura-rati, or relationship with God in the conjugal mood. This includes laying stress on bhakti, or ‘devotion’, more so than one can detect it in other Vaishnava schools. And bhakti is most developed when understood in terms of bhakti-rasa, or relationship with God in a personal and loving way. There are five basic relationships shanta, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya, and also there are seven secondary relationships.
* In all of the world’s religious literature, one will not find such an elaborate explanation of God and His relationship with the living beings. Therefore, to go further, the special contribution of the Gaudiyas is this very developed conception of madhurya-rasa - how one can emulate the highest devotee in the spiritual world, the maidservant, the gopi, and attain the most intimate position in the kingdom of God. It is a developed theological science.
* In the beginning there is vaidhi-bhakti - following the rules and regulations. Then, while continuing to follow the rules and regulations, one learns from the guru how to model one’s life after an inhabitant of Vraja. The inner meditation. This is called raganuga-bhakti, or ‘spontaneous devotion’, or, rather, it is ‘following an eternal associate who has spontaneous devotion’.
* In any case, it is quite an advanced theological system. One can read all of the Gaudiya literature on the subject: Govinda-lilamrita, Chaitanya-Caritamrita, Ujjvala-nilamani, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. There are so many. After a thorough study of these books, one can conclude: In order to best undestand madhurya-rasa, the ideal of Rada and her love for Krishna must be introduced.
* The culmination of the Gaudiya Vaishnava experience is the service of Shri Radha. Exactly how this is done is revealed in the esoterica of the tradition. Shri Chaitanya has stated that as a young man yearns for his sweetheart, in the same manner, the human soul must yearn for Krishna. Radharani’s position is the highest and the devotee seeks to follow in her madhurya-bhava.
* First, one must approach an acomplished master, rendering service and learning the science of spirituality. Then, very gradually, one can advance to these other levels. On the highest level one must love God in intimate union, which is called sambhoga, and, on an even higher level, one must learn to love God in separation, which is called vipralambha - this allows one to truly appreciate union.
* Shrimati Radharani experiences both. She is the example - the very emblem - of these two ultimate experiences in God realization. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, too, in the mood of Radharani, was experiencing these exalted states of spiritual attainment. The scientific procedure with which to accomplish this ultimate goal of life is the great secret of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
III. Some Particular Points of the Gaudiya Philosophy and Religion
not Found in Other Vaishnava Sects:
1) Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the natural commentary on Vedanta-sutra, and it is the Supreme pramana. Because the principal Upanishads and Vedanta-sutra do not deal explicitly with the Bhagavan aspect of the Absolute truth, and particularly with Lord Krishna, they are not given so much importance.
2) ‘Krishnas tu Bhagavan svayam’ is the definite axiom for the Gaudiyas.
3) The Supreme Brahman is the supreme shaktiman and possesses three shaktis: antaranga, bahiranga and tatastha. The antaranga-shakti has three divisions in it: sandhini, samvit and hladini shaktis.
4) The inter-relationship between Para-Brahman, individual souls and this world is explained solely in terms of the acintya-shakti of the Lord. Para-Brahman is inconceivably and simultaneously one and different from His shakti. This concept is extended and applied to many different aspects of this system. Therefore, the Gaudiya philosophy is known as acintya-bhedabheda-vada.
5) For the Gaudiyas, bhakti is the bhajana or seva - loving service to the Lord, not merely upasana or meditation. In fact no sadhana can achieve its perfection (moksha) without bhakti to the Supreme Lord.
6) Complete self surrender is not a sepatate process from bhakti; rather it is its basic principle.
7) Prema and not moksha is the supreme purushartha.
8) A Vaishnava has a status superior to any varna or ashrama.
9) Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is directly the combined forms of Shri Shri Radha and Krishna. He is the Kali-yuga avatara and the bestower of Krishna-prema in the form of gopi-bhava or madhurya-rasa.
10) Worship of the Lord in His aishvarya aspect according to the principles of vaidhi-bhakti, leads the devotee to liberation in Vaikuntha, Dvarka or Mathura. But the Lord in His madhurya aspect in Goloka is attained only by those following raga-marga.
11) Ekatmya or sayuja-mukti cannot be acchived by only jnana, or meditation, or else. Moksha is attainable only through bhakti, by surrendering to the Supreme Lord, not otherwise.
12) There exists twelve rasas or mellows in relationship with the Lord, seven are secondary and five principal. Out of these five, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya-rasa are found, in their pure and complete manifestation, only in Goloka Vrindavana. In Mathura, Dvaraka and Ayodhya-dhama these three rasas are also found but in a mixed state, not pure.
13) No incarnation other than Shri Krishna gives liberation to the demons when He kills them.
14) Only the Gaudiyas affirm the superexcellence of the loving sentiment in the mood of seperation (viraha or vipralamba).
15) Parakiya-rasa is the special feature in the dealings between Krishna and the gopis.