Santosh Gupta's "The Conception
of Bhakti in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Philosophy" goes into the unique and
incomparable concept of Bhakti as
interpreted by the Gaudiya Vaishnavites. Among the multiple definitions of
Bhakti given by various acharyas, the Gaudiya Vaishnavites regard it as the
most important principle for the individual's union with the Divine. This topic
is masterfully explored by the author, who emphasises the importance of rasa
(divine taste) in allowing the spiritual adept to experience the ultimate joy
of divine communion. Gupta's work shows the extraordinary contribution of the
Gaudiya Vaishnava to India's spiritual history.
The author, Dr. Santosh Gupta, M.A. Ph.D (H.E.S.I) is a former principal of Govt. collage, Hodal. Bron and brought up at Babyal (Ambala), She belongs to a respectable and devout aggarwal family. She has a very brilliant career to her credit and has a teaching and administrative experience of 31 years. She graduated with honours in Sanskrit in 1959 from S.D. Collage, Ambala Cantt. She passed her M.A. (Sanskrit) with high first division from P.U., Chandigarh. She was awarded the Ph.D. degree by K.U., Kurukshetra in 1973. After retirement in 1996, she is devoting herself to scholarily pursuits and leading pious life at Vrindavan Dham, fully dedicating herself in the service of Lord Shri Krishna and his divine consort Shri Radha Ji.
According to ancient tradition there were two parallel currents of religio-philosophical thinking that emanated from the Supreme God-Head and they were known as the Nigama and Agama. The former includes the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanisads etc. and also the later orthodox schools of Indian philosophy that are based on them heads, (i) the Vaisnava agamas (ii) The Sanskrit agamas, and (iii) The Saiva agamas. Both these currents are said to be anadi, i.e without beginning.
Historically speaking however these currents have datable origin. The Vaisnava current, for instance, is said to have developed from the Bhagavata – current the latter being in existence in forth century B.C. Dr. R.G. Bhandarakar in his book, ‘Vaisnavism, Saivism and minor Religious system’, has referred to certain literary and archaeological evidences to show that the worshippers of Vasudeva, who were called Bhagavatas, existed about three or four century before Christ. The Narayaniya-section of Mahabharata gives detailed description of such religious worshippers of Narayana, krsna, Vasudeva etc. and Bhakti as their mode of worship, through certain stories. There is also an evidence of existence of vast literature all over the country belonging to their particular school of thinking viz. Bhagavata Sampradaya. Pancaratras and Satvatas were two parallel streams of thought which enriched the Bhagavata-religion
Vaisnava current is relatively modern in the sense that this term is not found in the ancient literature. It is generally believed that Vaisnava way of thinking developed out of Bhagavata stream which includes Pancaratras, Ekantins and Satvatas etc. It is true that nothing can be said finally about this, as there is a great deal of controversy among scholars.
For the purpose of our present study we take Ramanuja to b starting point of the Vaisnava faith since it was he alone, “who integrated the Vedanta philosophy with the Pancaratra doctrine and initiated the massive Vaisnava movement of devotion, faith and philosophy”. It was he who raised the Vaisnava movement to the level of philosophy by writing scholarly work on the subject, full of dialectical reasons. He was followed by Nimbarka, Madhva and Vallabha. These four school of Vaisnava religion came into existence. They propagated Visistadvaitavada or qualified monism, Dvaitadvaita-vada that is dualism Dvaitavada i.e dualism and Suddha –dvaita-vada, i.e pure-monism, respectively
The Gaudiya Vaisnavism though a later development has vast literature which to begin with was in Sanskrit and later in Bengali. The present work deals with the concept of Bhakti which was considered by the Gaudiya Vaisnavas as the sole means of attaining the supreme goal of life. The first chapter takes up the concept of Purusartha for examination.
In the chapter entitled, “The concept of Purusartha in Indian philosophy” the meaning of the element artha in the compound purusartha has been discussed. Incidentlly the concept of anartha as distinct form artha has also been examined in the Sabara –basya on Jaimi’s sutra has different connotations when compared to artha in a generic sense and one of the four purusarthas as distinct from Dharma, Kama and Moksa. Thus the definition of artha in the Subodhini-tika on Sabarabhasya implies that which is sukhadhika-duhkajanaktvam i.e whatever does not cause more pain than pleasure is Artha. This definition however applies to Nyaya and Samkhya view of moksa as absolute freedom from pleasure (sukha) and pain (duhkha)
The nature of four purusarthas viz. Dharma Artha, Krma and Moksa has been critically examined. The subject matter of all the purusarthas has been dealt with their relative importance as being primary and secondary ends of life. Lastly the concept of Moksa in different schools of Indian philosophy has been discussed in the next chapter.
In the chapter entitles, “Moksa (salvation) in Indian Philosophy, a critical examination of the different can broadly be classified under two heads, viz ., one accepting soul postulate theories of Moksa different from those who deny the existence of a permanent soul. Again, the group acceoting the permanent soul have conceived Moksa either as positive state or as negative state in keeping with their philosophical views.
The Buddhists deny the existence of a permanent soul hence their theory of Nirvana has been examined first.
As regards the group accepting the existence of a permanent soul, it has been shown tat the negativistic views of those, e.g. Nyaya-Vaisesikas Samkhya and yoga, are not satisfactory. As such a negative conception of the state of Moksa cannot be regarded as a desirable end to be pursued. Further the conception of Moksa in the Advaita Vedanta of Sankara which is a positive conception has been discussed next. It has been shown that the Advaita view is also inconsistent in as much as, it leads to the complete identification of the self with the Absolute. It also goes against the authority of the Scriptures, according to which the self, in the state of moksa is not at all, identified or lost in Brahman, the conception of Mukti according to the Vaisnavites such as Ramanujists, Madhvites, Vallabhites and Nimbarkist, which is a higher and wider conception when compared to that of other systems.
The conception of Mukti in the theistic schools of vedanta (i.e. Vaisnavites) has been takes up for discussion in the next chapter. As the conception of mukti in different theistic schools cannot be fully understood without their metaphysical ground hence the metaphysics of the different theistic schools has been briefly mentioned, specially the concept of soul, its continuance even in the sate of Moksa its being of limited nature and its dependence on the personality of the God-head.
Coming to our analysis of the different kinds of Mukti admitted by these theistic schools, it has been found that all the five varieties of mukti has been accepted by all of them. Coming to the Gaudiya school, we have found that they also, speak of five kinds of mukti of which, sayujya mukti has been badly deprecated by them as there being no occasion of serving the lord in any possible way. It has been shown that the Gaudiyas in fact, do not attach much importance to all these varieties of Mukti. This is because, they propagate much higher value of life, viz., Bhakti or the love of the Lord as the supreme end of life. It has been fully discussed in the next chapter.
In the chapter entitled, “Prema Bhakti as Pancama Purusartha”, it has been shown how the joy of mukti pale asunder as compared to the joy of Bhakti or love of God. It has been illustrated by citing examples from the Bhakti Sandarbha. The Supremacy of Bhakti over Moska, the fourth end of human life has been shown fully and this however, leads to know about the nature of Bhakti as it is and this has been taken up in the next chapter.
An attempt has been made to trace the origin and development of the cult of Bhakti in the chapter entitled, “The concept of Bhakti according to the Theistic schools of Vedanta.” The origin has been traced right from the Vedas to sutra –literature and the Bhagavata Purana. This enabled us to make a clear distinction of the cult of Bhakti as has been conceived and developed by the four major schools of Vaisnava thought. Bhakti has been regarded according to these systems, as only a handmaid of Mukti. Further, it has been pointed out that Bhakti, is always mixed with Jnana-Karma and yoga etc., in all these systems. Though they also hold Bhakti as superior to Jnana and Karma etc. but it has been conceived as an instrument for the achievement of Mukti only. This view has been severely criticized by the Gaudiyas on the ground that they could not raise Bhakti to such and extent that it could be pure and undefiled.
From above we have found that the Ramanujists and Madhvites seem to follow the Vaidhi type of Bhakti while Nimbarkists and Vallabhites lay a greater emphasis on Raganuaga –way of Bhakti. The doctrine of Pustimarge according to Vallabhites has been examined in detail. Though all these systems consider Mukti to be the highest end of life, where Bhakti stands only as means to that end, Vallabhites however, appear to have broken th orthodox Vaisnava tradition to some extent. This is probably due to indirect influence of Sri Caitanya –(his contemporary). It is significant to note that the views of vallabha on Bhakti as developed in Pusti Marga bear a close resemblance to those of the Gaudiyas. The phalarupa Bhakti of the Nimbarka-school has been mentioned in this chapter which bears similarity with the Prema-Bhakti of the Gaudiyas.
The Gaudiya conception of Bhakti which forms the subject matter of the present work has been taken up separately in the chapter entitled “concept of Bhakti in Gaudiya Vaisnavism”. The discussion opens with the concept of Uttama Bhakti as given by Sri Rupa Goswami. Sri Jiva Goswami has elaborated this concept by describing its different varieties, which have been mentioned in detail. Sadhana Bhakti and Sadhya Bhakti has been discussed in detail with their sub-division of (1) Vaidhi and Raganuga and (2) Bhava and Prema –Bhakti is the highest one. It is the culminating point of one’s Sadhana. The Sadhaka attaining the stage of Premabhakti assumes an eternal form of serving the lord according to his mode of worship.
The chapter entitled, “The Concept of Bhakti as Rasa, According to the Gaudiyas” deals with the contribution of the Gaudiyas on the theory if rasa as a religion. Prior to the Gaudiyas, we find that the conception of Bhakti as to the Gaudiyas, we find that the conception of Bhakti as a means or Sadhana has been highly developed by the other Vaisnava schools, similarly, the conception of rasa has been equally developed by the school of Alankarikas. But the two lines have remained separate, i.e neither the Bhakti has anything of rasa in it. The Gaudiyas however may be said to have opened altogether fresh grounds by amalgamating the two separate trends by formulating the conception of Bhakti as rasa. Different theories regarding the locus of rasa have also been critically examined from the point of view of the Gaudiyas. The, the question of enumeration of Rasa has bee dealt with. The five primary Bhakti rasas has been explained in detail with their attendant feelings, while seven secondary rasas find passing reference only. Further, Madhura Bhakti Rasa being the most important among all the rest has been explained with various characteristics and stages of development of madhurarati into Sneha, mana, pranaya etc.
In the concluding chapter, the Sadhaka’s upward journey after transcending the mundane plane has been described on the basis of Brhad-Bhagvatamrtam. The different Lokas that lie beyond Viraja the Karana-samudra upto the Krsna-loka or Goloka has been described in brief.
Further the conception of Manjari which is the special contribution of Gaudiyas has also been mentioned in brief.
Vaisnavism is a powerful religious movement that has influenced both directly the entire range or religious literature from ancient to modern times. Its impact is clearly discernible in the medieval literature when the Vaisnava Saints started moving about and spreading the message of Bhakti among the masses. Consequently, a number of Vaisnava thoughts grew up at different places in the country. In course of time, Mathura Vrndavana, the Vrajabhumi become a center Bhakti.
Born in the family of devout Vaisnavas, I developed keen interest in the study of Vaisnava literature. After doing my post graduation in Sanskrit, I decided to study Gaudiya Vaisnava systems under the feet of Gaudiya Vaisnava Acaryas at Vrndabana. I also got an opportunity to take up my research work at the Institute of oriental Philosophy, Vrndabana under the guidance of Late Dr. S.K Maitra, the research Professor at the Institute. However, due to sudden demise of my guide I hand to discontinue my research work there. Later on, myself registered at the university of Kurukushetra ad completed this work under the able guidance of Dr. D. B. Sen Sharma of Sanskrit Department.
Although a great deal of work on Gaudiya Vaisnavism in general and life of Sri Caitanya, in particular has been done but most of it is in Bengali script which is out of the reach of people not conversant with the language. Among the work, published in this school in English mention may be made, of Sisira Kumar Ghosh’s ‘Lord Gauranga’ Dr. Dinesh Cander Sen’s Vaisnsva literature of medieval Bengal’, Caitanya and his companions, and Caitanya and His Age’, Sir Jadunath Sircar’s Caitanya’s life and Teaching’, Kennedy’s The Caitanya Movement, B.C. Pal’s ‘Bengal Vaisnavism. Prof. G.N. Mallik’s ‘Philosophy of Vaisnava Religion’, Dr.R.G Bhandarkar’s Vaismavism Saivism and Minor Religious system, Sh. Bahaktivinod Thakur’s ‘Caitanya Siksamarta and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His life and Precepts’, Swami Durga Caitanya Bharati’s Sri Gauranga- the man, Prof. N.K Sanyal’s The Erotic principle and Unalloyed devotion, Dr.S.K De’s ‘Early History of Vaisnavism faith and Movement in Bengal’, Dr. S.C. Cakravarti’s ‘Philosophical Foundation of Bengal Vaisnavism and Dr.A.K. Majumdar’s Caitanya, his life and Doctrine a study in Vaisnavism’, Dr.S.N Das Gupta has contributed a chapter on Gaudiya Vaisnavism in his ‘ A History of Indian philosophy which gives a brief but valuable Vaisnavism. Dr. Radha Krishna and Dr. J.N. Sinha too, have dealt with Gaudiya philosophy briefly in their volumes on history of philosophy. A large number of articles on different aspects of Gaudiya Vaisnavism have appeared in different journals as well as in studies in Philosophy from time. Special mention may be made of Dr.S.K. Maitra’s learned article on ‘Mukti’ and ‘Bhakti’ as highest values in Indian philosophy and culture Vrndavana III (1964) pp. 14-28 and a chapter on ‘Acintya-bheda-bheda vada published in the history of philosophy, Eastern and Western’, The most learned and voluminous work on Gaudiya system in Dr. Radha Govind Nath’s Gaudiya Vaisnava Darsana’, in 5 Vols in Bengali.
In all these works published earlier study has been made of different aspects of Gaudiya Philosophy including the concept of Mukti and Bhakti but more of them, these concepts have been considered critically in the background of the concept of liberation and Bhakti as has been expounded in other system of Indian philosophy (Orthodox, unorthodox, Vaisnava and non-Vaisnnava). I have therefore taken up for a through and critical examination of the concept of Bhakti as means to God –realisation as well as supreme end in all schools of philosophy. I have thus, made a comparative study of the mode of Sadhana laid down by different system of Indian philosophy while considering the supreme goal and the means to achieve this goal. It is true that a Sadhaka chooses the mode of Sadhana in accordance with his chooses the mode of Sadhana in accordance with his that the different ways do not necessarily lead a Sadhaka to the same goal, and that the realisation leading the Ultimate Destination is not always the same.
Being a student of Sanskrit, I relied wholly on the original Sanskrit Texts for my study, but I have been greatly benefited by the work of Dr. De’s Early History of Vaisnava Faith and Movement’, Dr. Chakravarti’s Philosophical Foundation of Bengal Vaisnavism and Dr. Majumdar’s Caitanya, his life and Doctrine, a study in Vaisnavism to whom I acknowledge my indebtedness. I have not consulted Bengali texts on the subject for obvious reasons. I am also indebtedness. I have not consulted Bengali texts on the subject for obvious reasons. I am also indebted to other authors mentioned above whose works I consulted freely.
An apology is due for my using Sanskrit terms freely in this work. I deliberately, of course, did not translate the technical terms have deeper significance which can not be adequately conveyed by English equivalents. It is more true of the religious terminology used by the Gaudiya writers.
It is my sacred duty to remember late Dr. S.K Maitra, a great scholar and philosopher, former professor on George-V chair Department of Philosophy Calcutta university from whom I received great inspiration and valuable guidance at the early stages of this research work.
It is my proud privilege to acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. Dev Brata Sen Sharma, M.A., Ph.D, professor, Department of Sanskrit, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra. He is a profound and unassuming scholar from constant inspiration without which the present work could not have seen the light of this day.
I do not find adequate words to express my deep sense of gratitude towards Late Bhaktimati Usha Ji Bhatnagar M.A, who had been the perennial source of inspiration, guidance and encouragement throughout the sphere of my life and in the field of my education, spiritual and mundane both from the very beginning.
My acknowledgements are due to Prof. R.N. Sharma, former chariman deptt. of Linguistics, Kurukshetra university, Kurukshetra my favourite and affectionate teacher, for his inspiration, encouragement and active help in my research endeavours and specially in preparing the press copy of this book.
I am also very thankful to you Dr. A.L. Bhatt, Bhagavata Bhusana, a prominent scholar of Gudiya philosophy presently living at Vrindavan for throwing light on aspect of Gudiya metaphysics.
I can never forget to acknowledge my sincere thanks to dear Vipan Aggarwal, chartered accountant of Delhi, who took keen interest in getting this book published.
Many others have made comments, raised questions and offered suggestions which helped me to shape the present work. I therefore feel it my pleasant duty to express my sincere thanks to all those who directly or indirectly helped me in completion of this investigation.
I am aware of my limitations and defects that might have crept in this work for which I can only crave the indulgence of my readers.
The concept of Bhakti can be seen in seminal from in the Visnusukta (I, 154) of the Rgveda wherein it has been said that the god Visnu resides in heavenly abode which is the source for the flow of he nectar of bliss (Madhva utsah) on the earth. Fortunate beings who succeed un elevating themselves to that level enjoy the nector of heavenly bliss in the gods company. The Chandogyopanisad refers to Ekayana Vidya which probably respresent a distinct school of spiritual thought advocating Bhakti as a means for the achievement of salvation together with the enjoyment of bliss. The mention of Sandilya Vidya in the Upanisads also Upanisadic period. There are direct references in some texts indicating that the Bhagavata tradition existed as a religious current in as early as 4th century B.C, though no literature belonging to that period is available now. The Narayani –Upakhyana occurring in the Santiparvan of Mahabharata (chapters 335 onwards) refers to Pancaratra tradition in the Svetadvipa which was brought down to this land by the saga, Narada. The Pancaratra school in fact represents that particular which Bhakti holds prominent position in the religio-spiritual discipline laid down in that school. It exerted good deal of influence on later schools of Saivism and Vedanta e.g. Visistadaita Vedanta, Madhava’s school of dualistic Vedanta, Vallabha’s school of Sudhadavait Vedanta etc. The Pancaratra Agamas served as a source of inspiration to the development of Vaisnava Tantric tradition in which Bhakti occupies central position. The four schools of Vaisnava thoughts emanated enshrined in Pancaratra Agama and Vaisnava Tantras. These are Sri Vaisnava tradition, Brahma tradition, Rudra tradition and Sanaka tradition advocated by Ramanuja Anadatirtha or Madhva, Visnswami and Vallabha and Nimbarka respectively. Many Vaisnava acaryas who flourished later and propagate the religio-philosophical thought of these school revolving round the central doctrine of Bhakti, contributed in a large scale to the development of Vaisnava thought that resulted in the production of huge corpus of valuable literature in later times.
The concept of Bhakti as a philosophical tener however, reached the zenith of its development in the Srimad-Bhagavata Purana which is looked upon by the Vaisnava acaryas and saints as the main source for the Vaisnava thought. The Bhagavata has influenced the philosophical thoughts of Vallabha and Gaudiya Vaisnavas most who have drawn their inspiration mainly from this important Vaisnava work. Almost all Vaisnava schools have attempted to explain the true purport of Srimad Bhagavata in the light of their wisdom, the most popular being the Bhagavata tatparya Nirnaya by Ananda Tirtha or Madhava, the Subodhini by Vallabhacarya the Brhad Vaisnava tosani by Sri Sanatana Gosvami the Krma sandarbha by Srijiva Gosvami both belonging to the Gaudiya school & Sridhari by Sridhara Svami etc.
Historically speaking Gaudiya Vaisnavism is held to be an offshoot of Madhva’s school of Vaisnavism but the Gaudiya Vaisnavites led by Sri Caitanya do not subscribe vaisnavites led by Sri Caitanya do not Madhva. They propagate instead the philosophy of acintya bhedabheda (monism of a special kind) and in this way differ substantially from their predecessors in their approach to philosophy thought and the formulation of their metaphysical thought of distinct kind.
Dr. Santosh Gupta in her valuable book. The conception of Bhakti in Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy has throw light on the contribution made by Sri Caitanya and his followers particularly Sri Sanatana, Sri Rupa and Srijiva Goswami in their learned treatises exposing Sri Caitanya’s thoughts. She has started the discussion with the examination of the concept of Purusartha in ancient Indian thought in historical perspective as it is a cardinal concept formulated by Indian philosophers in socio-ethical backdrop. She has traced the development of this concept from the earliest times upto the rise of Gaudiya Vaisnava school as this has relevance in the spiritual discipline to be followed by individual beings.
She has then taken up a comparative study of supreme goal in man’s life according to the different schools of Indian philosophy thought both orthodox and heterodox. This discussion is very appropriate because, according to Gaudiya Vaisnavites, the achievement of salvation does not result in the merger or the extinction of the individual being in to the Supreme being or god. It leaves room for the enjoyment of the divine blisss in the company of God. The cultivation of Bhakti is essential for the enjoyment and for the attainment of salvation which is only a bye-product.
Her main thrust in this book is on Gaudiya Vaisnava concept of Bhakti which is unique in the religio-philosophical literature of this country. Different acaryas have defined Bhakti in different ways, for the Gaudiya Vaisnavites Bhakti is most important principle for the union of the individual being with the Divine which has been exposed elaborately by the Gaudiya as rasa alone enables the spiritual adept to taste the nectar of the divine bliss which is the ultimate destiny of man. The author deserves all praise for the manner Gaudiya Vaisnava concept of Bhakti which is their unique contribution to the spiritual heritage of India.
I am sure the discerning readers interested in knowing more about the spiritual philosophy of the Gaudiya Vaisnava school, particularly Bhakti that overwhelmed common people hankering for peace and happiness in their wordly life, and which inspired the production of devotional literature in North India in mediaval period and the people in the west in the modern period, would profit form reading this small but valuable book by Dr. Gupta.
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