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soc.religion.vaishnava -- Gaudiya FAQ


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Archive-Name: religions/vaishnava/gaudiya-faq
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
                 for
    Gaudiya or Chaitanya Vaishnavism
    --------------------------------

Last Update: January 23, 1997

Gaudiya FAQ maintainer    Henry@HGSoft.com 
Gaudiya FAQ (web version) http://www.hgsoft.com/srv/gaudiya.html

SRV moderation address srv@pobox.com
SRV administrative address srv-admin@pobox.com

-------------------------------

Contents:


* General information

* Frequently Asked Questions about Gaudiya Vaishnavism 

* Appendix: Some terms commonly used in Gaudiya Vaishnavism 

-------------------------------


General information


This document assumes that you have already read the general FAQ for
soc.religion.vaishnava (http://www-ece.rice.edu/~vijaypai/srv/srv_faq.html);
if not, then please do so before proceeding to read this one. It is not
expected that this FAQ will be subject to frequent revisions and updates,
but whenever there is one, the current version will be posted to
soc.religion.vaishnava. Even if there is no update, the FAQ will be
posted to the newsgroup about once every two weeks. To obtain a copy
of this document, send a message to srv@pobox.com, with
any subject, and only 'faq gaudiya' (no quotes) in the body. You can
also obtain other similar FAQs, by sending one of the following lines
to the same address:

   faq
   faq advaita 
   faq dvaita
   faq sri-vaishnava (*)

(*) At this time, this FAQ does not yet exist, but is planned.


The latter three choices explain themselves; sending the one word
'faq' results in the bot sending you the general FAQ for newsgroup
soc.religion.vaishnava. 

You can also look up this document on the World-Wide Web, at the
address http://www.hgsoft.com/srv/gaudiya.html. Because of the
possibility of using hypertext links, quotes, etc., on the web
version, that location is probably better for you to refer to if
you have any choice.


-------------------------------


Frequently Asked Questions:


* What is (a) Gaudiya?

The term 'GauDiiya' means 'of GauDa-deSa', GauDa-deSa being an old name
for West Bengal. Gaudiya Vaishnavism originated in what is now West Bengal,
and is still very widely practiced there and in what is now Bangladesh.


* Who is the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism?

Gaudiya Vaishnavism as a widespread movement of bhakti or devotion was
begun by Sri Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu
(see http://www.goloka.com/gallery/html/cait01.html), who appeared in
West Bengal in the late 15th century. He is accepted by all Gaudiya
Vaishnavas as an incarnation of Krishna but in the "hidden" role of
a devotee of Krishna, and this is supported by references from
Srimad-Bhaagavatam, the Chaitanya Upanishad of the Atharva Veda, the
Mahaabhaarata, and other scriptures.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism was certainly influenced by many earlier
personalities, such as Maadhavendra Puri (who also represents the
connection of Gaudiya Vaishnavism to the Maadhva sampradaaya coming
from Srimad Ananda Tiirtha or Madhvaachaarya)
(see http://www.rit.edu/~mrreee/madhva/index.html) and Jayadeva Goswami,
Chandiidaasa and Vidyaapati.

Though Sri Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu was a great scholar, He left only
8 verses, called the shikshaashhTakam. His followers, most notably
the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan
(see http://www.goloka.com/gallery/html/rupsan.html), wrote numerous
books setting down the tenets and rituals of Gaudiya Vaishnavism with
support from scripture.


* Who are some other prominent figures in Gaudiya Vaishnavism?

The Six Goswamis of Vrindavan were mostly contemporaries of Sri
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami, along
with the younger Jiva Goswami, wrote many works on bhakti and
Gaudiya philosophy, supporting their work extensively with
quotations from smriti and shruti.

Narottama dasa Thakura came a bit later. Narottam dasa Thakura
studied under Jiva Goswami, and was responsible for spreading
bhakti throughout Orissa and Bengal. Fifty years after the
disappearance of Shri Chaitanya, Narottam also organized annual
festivals in Bengal, which served to keep the Gaudiya philosophy
unified.

Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami is best known for his biography of
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Chaitanya Charitaamrita.

In the 17th century, Srila Baladeva VidyaabhuushaNa was known for
his Govinda-bhaashya commentary on BaadaraayaNa's Brahma-Suutra
a.k.a Vedaanta-suutra. He also wrote commentaries on 10 major
Upanishads, which have been lost with the exception of his
commentary on Iishopanishad.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura appeared in the 19th century and was
responsible for a large revival of the Gaudiya movement, which
had fallen into disrepute at this time.

The Thakura's son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, was a lifelong
brahmachaarin (celibate bachelor) and continued spreading the Gaudiya
movement throughout India. He founded the Gaudiya Matha society,
and also sent disciples to preach in England.

Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a disciple of Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta, came to New York in 1965 and founded the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known
popularly as the Hare Krishna movement. He departed this world
in 1977.


* What is the Gaudiya understanding of Vedanta?

Although Gaudiya Vaishnavism as a widespread movement really began
in the late 15th century, a commentary on Vedaanta-suutra was not
written until the 18th century. Srila Baladeva VidyaabhuushaNa
wrote the Govinda-bhaashya commentary at that time.

In the opinion of Sri Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu, and as cited in various
scriptures such as the GaruDa PuraaNa, the Sriimad-Bhaagavatam is
considered to be the natural commentary on Vedanta. Vedanta describes
the Absolute Truth as well as the living entities, and the
Bhaagavatam elaborates on Sri Krishna, the speaker of Bhagavad-giitaa,
as the Supreme Brahman and Absolute Truth. Thus the followers of
Sri Chaitanya have always held the Bhaagavatam in highest esteem as
a scriptural authority. For more information, see "What is the Gaudiya
concept of scripture?"

The Gaudiya understanding of Vedanta, as first explained by Sri
Chaitanya in His teachings and later set down by Sri Baladeva
VidyabhuushaNa in his Govinda-bhaashya commentary, is called
achintya-bhedaabheda-tattva, or inconceivable simultaneous oneness
and difference. This doctrine teaches that the living entity or
jiivaatmaa and the Supreme Person Sri Krishna or Vishnu are one
in quality but different in quantity. Krishna is the infinite
Supreme Spirit (Brahman) and the minute jiiva is also spirit or
brahman, but the two are eternally distinct. One analogy is of
sparks within a fire which are hot like the fire but also have a
separate identity. Furthermore, when the tiny spark leaves the
fire and lands on damp ground, its blazing nature may be extinguished.
This is similar to the spiritual jiiva coming into contact with
matter; the effulgent spiritual nature of the jiiva is covered
to one degree or another by the material energy or maayaa.

This relationship of simultaneous oneness and difference is called
achintya or inconceivable not because it is undescribable (which
would be anirvachaniiya) but because it is not possible to fully
understand the nature of the infinite Absolute Truth. The concept
will simply not fit into one's head, but one can nonetheless
approach the concept. For example, we can understand that the ocean
contains approximately so many quadrillion tons of water. We can
approach the understanding of the ocean's volume in this way but
we cannot really fit it into our head as easily as we can with a
smaller quantity of water, say a small pond or even a lake. But by
analyzing a single drop of ocean water, we can understand the
qualities that are present in the ocean.


* What are the tenets of Gaudiya Vaishnavism?

It would be difficult to describe Gaudiya Vaishnavism without
describing the basics of Brahman realization. These tenets are
common to all Vedaanta-based philosophies:

  + I am not this body.

  + I am an eternal, spiritual being

  + I do not belong in the cycle of repeated birth and death in
    this temporary world.  It is part of my nature to seek aananda
    or bliss.

Specific to mainstream Vaishnava philosophies:

  + My identity as an individual spiritual being is different from
    the Supreme Being.

  + That Supreme Being is known as Vishnu or Krishna.

  + The forms of Vishnu or Krishna are eternal, spiritual forms full
    of unlimited opulence.

  + There is no truth superior to the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna, the
    speaker of Bhagavad-gita.

Some of the essential points particular to Gaudiya Vaishnavism:

  + Sri Krishna, the son of Nanda Maharaaja, is the worshipable
    Supreme Personality of Godhead. 

  + Krishna's eternal abode is Vrindaavana. 

  + The best worship of Sri Krishna is that which is performed by the
    cowherd damsels of Vrindaavana (the gopiis). 

  + Srimad-Bhaagavatam is a spotless authority for these and other truths. 

  + Ecstatic love for Krishna (premaa) is the ultimate goal of life. 

  + The best means of attaining the perfection of Krishna-premaa is
    by chanting the mahaa-mantra:

      Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare 
      Hare Raama Hare Raama Raama Raama Hare Hare 

Special emphasis is given to congregational chanting, or sankiirtana.
Sankiirtana is often sung to accompaniment of instruments such as the
mridangam (a two-headed drum) and karatalas (hand cymbals). Individual
chanting is usually done on a japa-maalaa (rosary of beads) under a vow
to chant the mantra a certain number of times daily. 


* Why do Gaudiyas emphasize devotion over learning?

This is not strictly true. Renunciation, devotion, and scholarship
have always been emphasized in the Gaudiya line, as evidenced by
titles like Bhaktivedanta. However, neither renunciation, scholarship,
nor even salvation (mukti) are considered ends in themselves.
Devotional activities are not merely the means of achieving liberation
but in their pure state (i.e. not contaminated by selfish desires)
are eternal liberated activities. Thus the emphasis is not only on
shaastra (scripture) to understand the Absolute Truth, the individual
soul, and the soul's relationship with the Absolute Truth, but on
saadhana-bhakti or practice of devotional service. By practicing pure
devotional service the heart becomes cleansed of impurities and one
comes progressively to the ultimate goal of prema-bhakti, or ecstatic
devotion.


* How does worship by Gaudiyas differ from other Vaishnava worship?

In a few ways; briefly:

  + Gaudiyas emphasize naama-sankiirtana (congregational chanting of
    Krishna's names), hearing the Srimad-Bhaagavatam, living in holy
    places such as Vrindavan, associating with saintly persons, and
    worship of Tulasii.

  + Gaudiya temple worship is generally of Raadhaa-Krishna rather than
    of Lakshmii-NaaraayaNa.  Sometimes Gaudiya Vaishnavas worship
    Raadhaa-Krishna in the reverential mood of Lakshmii-NaaraayaNa.

  + Gaudiyas worship Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as an incarnation of
    Krishna and Raadhaa combined. While Gaudiyas have never insisted that
    others accept the divinity of Sri Chaitanya, they have in the
    past staunchly defended the scriptural basis of this worship.

  + Gaudiyas de-emphasize the paths of speculative knowledge (GYaana)
    and fruitive activities (karma). These are considered extraneous
    impediments to cultivation of unalloyed bhakti.

  + For Gaudiyas, cultivation of premaa (ecstatic love for Krishna)
    is the ultimate goal of all worship. Thus the elaborate rules and
    regulations of smriti are often passed over in favor of the simpler
    pancharaatrikii-vidhi. Srila Gopala BhaTTa Goswami (one of the
    Six Goswamis) wrote  a book called Sat-kriyaa-saara-diipikaa,
    containing essential rituals for Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Srila
    Sanaatana Goswami wrote Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which outlines Deity
    worship and other devotional activities for Gaudiyas.

  + The Deity of the Lord is considered an incarnation of the Lord,
    or archaa-avataara. It is by His achintya-shakti or inconceivable
    potency that He can choose to assume any form He wishes to accept
    the loving service of His devotees.


* What is the Gaudiya concept of moksha?

Of the five types of liberation (saaruupya, or attaining similar form
to the Lord; saalokya, or attaining the same planet as the Lord;
saamiipya, or attaining nearness of vicinity to the Lord; saarshTi, or
attaining similar opulence to the Lord; and saayujya, or attaining
oneness with the Lord) only the first four are considered acceptable.

However, salvation or moksha is considered quite subsidiary to the goal
of attaining unalloyed devotional service on the platform of premaa,
or ecstatic love for Krishna. There is a statement to this end by Lord
Kapila in the Bhagavatam, Canto 3: ... 

As far as saayujya is concerned, Srila Jiva Goswami explains that there
are two types of saayujya: entering into the body of the Lord (as observed
by those who saw Sishupala slain by the Lord's chakra), or annihilating
one's existence in the Lord's effulgence (check ref. Bhag. Sand.) Needless
to say, both are shunned by Gaudiyas as in either case there would be no
opportunity to serve the Lord.


* What is the Gaudiya concept of Brahman?

According to the Bhagavatam, the same non-dual substance is called
variously Brahman, Paramaatmaa, and Bhagavaan. The Gaudiya understanding
of this, and references to golden effulgence as in the Iishopanishad,
refer to the Lord's bodily effulgence. This is one aspect or view.

Another aspect of the Lord is His localized expansion as Paramaatmaa 
or the Supersoul within all beings.

The Lord as Bhagavaan, or the Supreme Person full in six opulences,
is the aspect Gaudiyas focus on. Having achieved Bhagavaan realization,
one automatically realizes Brahman and Paramaatmaa.


* What is the significance of jiivan-mukti according to Gaudiya doctrine?

By the Lord's inconceivable potency, one who is engaged completely in the
service of the Lord becomes fully spiritualized in mind, body, and words,
even in this lifetime. Such a person is called jiivan-mukta, or liberated
in the living state. The example of an iron bar placed in a fire is
sometimes given: when the iron bar becomes sufficiently heated by
association with the fire, it turns red hot and acts like fire. Similarly,
when one associates with Krishna without deviating from the path of pure
devotion, even one's material body becomes completely spiritualized.


* What is the Gaudiya concept of scripture?

Scripture or shaastra is revered as authoritative. The Srimad-Bhagavatam
(Bhaagavata PuraaNa) is given special reverence because it dispenses
with speculative knowledge and fruitive activities, and cuts to the
quick of pure devotional service to Krishna. 

Another scripture of great importance to Gaudiya Vaishnavas is
Brahma-samhitaa. Originally purported to contain 100 chapters and
considered lost, a copy of chapter 5 of this book, spoken by Lord Brahmaa,
was found by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu during His tour of South India
at the Adi-Kesava temple.


* Why have Gaudiya Vaishnavas reversed the Sruti-mantra?

Actually, there are references to this mahaa-mantra in various places.
It appears in the Kali-santaraNopanishad as well as in various PuraaNas.
Some represent it as Hare Krishna, Hare Rama, others as Hare Rama,
Hare Krishna. One story has it that chanting of this mantra, as it
appears in the Kali-santaraNa Upanishad:

    Hare Raama Hare Raama Raama Raama Hare Hare 
    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

caused some consternation amongst caste-conscious braahmaNas as
Gaudiyas were encouraging shuudras (laborers) and even Muslims to
chant this mantra. Teaching shruti to such persons is proscribed,
so the mantra was reversed to overcome such objections: 

    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare 
    Hare Raama Hare Raama Raama Raama Hare Hare

As the names Krishna and Raama are considered non-different from
the Lord Himself, there is no loss of the benefit of chanting these
names in this slightly altered form.


* What are the Gaudiya institutions of the present day?

ISKCON, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has
centers in many cities throughout the world, as well as maintaining some
rural farm communities. It publishes a monthly magazine called
_Back to Godhead_.  See:
http://www.algonet.se/~krishna

The Gaudiya Vaishnava Society is based in Eugene, Oregon and publishes
a quarterly magazine called Gaudiya Vedanta. You can send enquiries on
this beautiful publication to Swami Vishnu (swamiv@clarioncallpub.com)
or see the Clarion Call Publishing home page:
http://www.efn.org/~gvs
http://www.clarioncallpub.com

The World Vaishnava Association is based in Mathura, UP, INDIA:
http://www.owplaza.com/wva


* Where can I get more information?

See the following URLs: 

  + Hare Krishna Index 
    http://www-ece.rice.edu/~vijaypai/hkindex.html

  + ISKCON Home Page
    http://www.algonet.se/~krishna

  + World Vaishnava Association
    http://www.owplaza.com/wva 

  + Bhakti Yoga Lifestyle
    http://mindlink.net/vswami

  + Gaudiya Vaishnava Society 
    http://www.efn.org/~gvs

  + Black Peacock Home Page
    http://www.goloka.com


-------------------------------


III. Appendix: terms commonly used in Gaudiya discourse


[In no particular order.]


rasa 

Taste, specifically of the varieties of favorable relationships with
the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. 


rasika 

One who is cognizant of rasa. 


sahajiyaa 

The praakrita-sahajiyaas are one of 14 offshoots of Gaudiya Vaishnavism
(some others are the Bauls, caste goswamis, etc.) This name is given
because they are considered to take the exchange of rasa cheaply. 


raagaanuga 

Spontaneous attachment. In the early stages of bhakti or devotion,
one follows various rules and regulations vaidhi-bhakti). As attachment
for Krishna and devotional service develops, the rules and regulations
become subsidiary to one's relationship with Krishna and may be neglected. 


ruupaanuga 

A follower of Ruupa Goswami, one of the principal followers of Sri
Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu. 


ritvik 

Literally, an officiating priest. Some followers and disciples of
Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada hold that no one is
currently qualified to act as guru. According to this controversial
view, initiation may only be granted by one who acts on behalf of
Srila Prabhupada, with the disciple becoming a disciple of Srila
Prabhupada. Here are some proponents:
http://www.islandnet.com/krsna/vada
and one refutation:
http://swami.simplenet.com/hkexperience/linkritvik.html


-------------------------------

Contributors to this FAQ

Many Vaishnavas and friends contributed invaluable ideas, suggestions,
and critical feedback. Here is a partial list: 

Eswar Josyula 
Randall Leighton 
Shrisha Rao 
Vijay Pai 
Vivek Pai 
Swami Vishnu


Send feedback to Henry Groover, aka Agrahya daasa, at Henry@HGSoft.com

              ******* + end + ******* 

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