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catafatic versus apofatic theological type

Post Author: Swami Gaurangapada    Date: 2006-01-14 06:54:29
Title: catafatic versus apofatic theological type
User: Damodara Svarupa dasa    Date: 2007-04-22 11:58:06

Nityananda, Gauranga, Hare Krishna!
Jaya Guru Parampara! Jaya Swamiji Gaurangapada!
Dandavats to all the Vaishnavas.

My dearest Swamiji Gaurangapada,

I have a question concerning the two theological types called the catafatic and apofatic type.

The catafatic theological system is the one that assumes man has the the ability of expressing the highest religious principles in words, like God is our Father who is non different from pure love, goodness, etc.

The apofatic theological system is that system which states that it is impossible to express this highest knowledge. Which ever way we take to approach God, we will never be able to understand Him.

In our sampradaya, our Guru Parampara, what is this theological type we adhere to? It is catafatic to some extend, as from BG Ch9 we know that God has a (several) form(s). On the other hand, in Caitanya Bhagavata, we often read that we can not understand why Their Lordships acted in one or another way.  

In a way, I can understand the apofatic system. Who am I to talk about the Supreme Being of Godhead? How could I ever describe the splendor of God when being placed in front of Him? I guess I would tremble like a leaf of grass, leaving me totally speechless. Therefore, I consider myself a very lucky soul, being connected to a sampradaya which begins with the Lord Himself. The Sampradaya brings us the knowledge from our Gurus; knowledge which, to me at least, seems to be of the catafatic type.

Could You please elaborate on this topic and correct my mistakes?

Yours in service,
Damodara Svarupa dasa

Title: Re: catafatic versus apofatic theological type
User: Swami Gaurangapada    Date: 2007-04-24 22:45:50

Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Jaya Guru Parampara! Pranams! Our understanding is that even though the Supreme Lord Gauranga Krishna is transcendental and adhokshaja and cannot be understood by our material senses and words, the Lord has the supreme power of His causeless descending mercy by which He can empower His dear devotees to understand and glorify with transcendental words and scriptures.

The apofatic paths says that since we are finite and God in infinite, how can we understand or glorify or know Him at all? But they forget that if God is really infinite, He also has the power to make Himself known to His infinitesimal part and parcels by His causeless mercy and give the souls the power to glorify Him with divine words. And the catafatic system assumes that we have the ability to understand the infinite God on our own. But that is also not true. Only the Lord has the ability to reveal Himself to us.

So we are neither apofactic nor catafatic, we are mercyfatic.

Title: Re: catafatic versus apofatic theological type
User: Damodara Svarupa dasa    Date: 2007-04-26 17:49:08

Nityananda, Gauranga, Hare Krishna!
Jaya Guru Parampara! Jaya Swamiji Gaurangapada! Dandavats to all the Vaishnavas.

My dearest Swamiji Gaurangapada,

For clarity, is it correct to say that the Guru Parampara has made it possible for us to understand the Lord as He revealed Himself to these pure souls and that thanks to this lineage and their mercy upon us, we can try to understand the "poetry" (the catafatic approach) the acaryas have used to describe the wonder/splendor of the Lord? So, catafatic to some extend, but surely 100% mercyfatic!

Humbly aspiring to be a sincere and true devotee,
Damodara Svarupa dasa

Title: Re: catafatic versus apofatic theological type
User: Swami Gaurangapada    Date: 2007-04-27 12:08:02

Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Jaya Guru Parampara! Pranams Damodara Svarupa dasa, The Acharyas' writings are the result of divine enlightenment and inspiration from the Lord Himself, so yes, the Lord can surely be known, understood and realized by reading or hearing their teachings and writings because the writings are themselves on the transcendental platform as that of the Lord. I don't know though if the catafactic approach understands the confidential fact that the words which describe the Lord can themselves be transcendental if the author has received the causeless mercy of the Lord. Material words and writings by speculator non-devotees obviously cannot describe or even touch the tiniest truth about the Lord's infinite glories. Thanks.



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