I have read through the manuscript of ‘Love is God’ by Shri Lalita Charan Goswami. Shri Goswami is an authority on the philosophy of Divine Love propounded by the founder of the Devotional Cult-Radha Vallabh and has a number of important works in Hindi to his credit. The present monograph in English is another feather to his cap. It is written in a fine literary style and will certainly appeal to readers with a devotional bent of mind who are not quite conversant with Hindi language.
From Vedic times onwards the natural urge in man blur spiritual progress has expressed itself through the medium of three paths namely - the path of knowledge, path of action and path of emotion (Gyan Marg, Karm Marg and Bhakti Marg). In the long religious history of India we have seen that the founders of various religions have been very skeptical about or even averse to emotions and have discouraged paths of spiritual progress in which emotions play a prominent role. On the other hand, it is also known to us that in spite of all their efforts, with the passage of time, emotions and the paths of spiritual progress based on them, have crept in the systems founded by them. Kenyan - the oldest form of Buddhism is, for all purposes, a path of knowledge. But a few Centuries later, we find Mahayana - an offshoot of Buddhism coming up with emotions playing significant role in its development. Mahayana accepted the theory of Divine Descent (Antiradar) and with it came the emotional relation with the deity. Kenyan was not popular among the common people but the new form of Buddhism (Mahayana) caught hold of the imagination of the masses and seemed to fulfill most of their aspirations.
Parallel to the advent of Mahayana a renaissance was taking place in Hinduism also and naturally, both of them were influencing each other. In the field of philosophy, Mahayana had developed several new systems which seemed to demolish the philosophy based Of Upanishads. In the 8th century one of the greatest’ philosophers of the world - Shankaracharya - was born in South India. He defeated the upholders of Mahayana philosophy by holding direct discussions with them and made way for general decline of Buddhism in India.
On the other hand, the philosophical system of Shankaracharya was too abstruse and lacked the warmth of intimate relation with one’s object of worship. According to most of the historians, Alwars in the South, even before the advent of Shankaracharya had been propagating devotion (Bhakti) as the best method of attaining the summum bonum of human life. These great devotees were attached emotionally with different incarnations of Vishnu. So they were called Vaishnavas. Ramanuja, who was horn in the lineage of Alwars, gave Bhakti movement initiated by Alwars the required philosophical base to make it attractive for Sanskritknowing savants through out India. The philosophical system developed by him was the first Vaishnav effort in this direction. Madhava, Nimbarka and Vallabha followed him. Though all of them were great devotees and subscribed to Vishnu worship in general, yet in their commentaries on Brahm-sutras they developed philosophical systems different from each other - Ramanuja’ s system is known as Vishishtadvet’, Madhavas Dvet’, Nimbarka’s ‘Dvetadvet’ and Vallabha’s Sudhadvet’. They all, however opposed ‘Kewaladvet’ (Mayavad) of Shankaracharya as it was placed against the very fundamentals of Bhaktivad.
Vallabha was the last of these Vaishnavacharyas. He was first to substitute Krishna for the word ‘Brahm’ in his commentary on Brahmsutras. With it he accepted Shrimad Bhagvat as an authority alongwith Brahmsutras, Bhagvadgeeta and Vedas and ii proved to be very helpful in spreading the cult of Krishna through out India. Though Vallabh too hailed from South India - horn in the year 1535 (Vikram) or 1478 (A.D), he lived near Allahabad in UP. on the hank of the Ganges and his activities were centred in Braj.
Chaitanya was born in the year 1542 (Vikram) or 1485 (A.D) in Navadeep, (West Bengal). He was a consummate devotee. He gave birth to a great Bhakti movement in Bengal. Though he personally came to Vrindavana only once, he advised his followers to make it their centre for propagation of the new movement. Chaitanya, like the Alwars of South India, emphasized the practice of devotion in its purest form without worrying or caring much for its philosophical base. Shrimad Bhagvata is considered by him sole authority on which the whole gamut of his worship (Upasana) is based. His followers have written commentaries on Shrimad Bhagvata as well as some original works on ‘Bhakti Rasa’. Sanatan Goswami, Roop Goswami and Jeev Goswami are prominent among those. Gopal Bhatt compiled the first smriti or the memory- borne codes of law for Vaishnavas. The credit of discovery of several places of Krishna-leela in Braj goes also to Chaitanya and his followers.
In a well-known Sanskrit verse nearly all the salient features ol Chaitanya Sampradaya are outlined beautifully. The verse says that, in the doctrine expounded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the main object of worship is Bhagwan Nandnandan (Shri Krishna), Vrindavana is his abode (Dham), the beautiful mode of worship (Upasana) is the one that was assumed by Gopees of Braj, the only authority is Shrimad Bhagvata, and the great object of human pursuits in love.
Followers of Chaitanya came from the east in Vrindavana which was at that time a decoit-infested area. So they had to live in other places of Braj. The founder of a distinct sect of Prema Bhakti - Hit-harivansh came down to Vrindavana during the same period from the west. it was he who made Vrindavana inhabitable by bringing about a total change of mind in Narwahan - the leader of decoits then active in the area. Both these doctrines of Prema-Bhakti which converged in Vrindavana at that time had some similarities. But the difkrences between the doctrine of chaitanya as outlined in the atre metioned Sanskrit verse and that of Hit-harivansh are:
(i) In haitanya Sampradaya love is declared to be the most innate of the three powers - Aalhadini, Sandhini and Samvit of the Supreme Being or Bhagwan. Naturally, therefore, the whole structure of their doctrine is based on these three attributes of Bhagwan i.e. Krishna or Nandnandan and He is their main object of worship. On (he other hand, in the opinion of Shri Hit-harivansh’s Radha Vallahh Sampradaya Love is God and these energies of Bhagwan are quite foreign to the psychological composition of love which is essentially composed of three components namely (a) lover (b) beloved and (c) relation between the lover and the beloved commonly known as love. The doctrinal sturcture of Radha Vallabh Sapradaya is built on this distinctive psychological approach to love and accordingly their object of worship is not only Nandnandan hut it is the divine couple comprising Nandnandan (Krishna) and Vrishbhanunandnj (Radha) as Bhogta and Bhogya.
(ii) Another distinctive feature of Radha Vallabh Sampradaya is its view-point about ‘Leela’. For Speedy spiritual progress, followers of this Sampradaya believe that concentration of mind on a well-defined point is very necessary. According to them, Krishna’s leelas, as they are many in number and varied involving innumerable characters and places, do not help humam mind concentrate on an exclusive point. Moreover, in some leela we find Krishna displaying his super human powers to his parents, friends and Gopees. They all are amazed, confused and frustrated too at the sight of it and begin to doubt whether it was proper for them to claim intimacy with such an omnipotent person. To achieve its objective of providing a single point concentration, Radha Vallabh Sampradaya presents only one leela i.e. Prem Leela of Radha and Krishna. This Prem Leela has its own distinctive feature, namely (a) in these leelas the object of love is Radha instead of Krishna who is the centre of attraction in all the leelas as depicted in Shrimad Bhagvata and other puranas (b) Leelas of Radha and Krishna as narrated in various Puranas were enacted within a limited frame of time and space. As a result of this, both of them had to experience separation as well as reunion at different times. But leelas of Radha and Krishna are introduced by Hit-harivansh and his followers as being performed in present time and that present is pointed out to be eternal one. To underline this idea, most of Hitacharya’s Braj Bhasha Verses begin with the word ‘AAJ’ (today). These transcendental leelas of the divine couple with the supremacy of Radha are called ‘Nitya Vihara’.
(iii) The most charming form of worship of the divine couple Radha-Krishna, is initiated by Sakhees who are personification, pure and simple, of the selfless love i.e. relation existing between the said couple.
(Vi)Hitacharya is unique in declaring that Love is God (not that God is love) and Radha and Krishna are its embodiments or personified forms. This shows that the concept of love and love sports as presented by Hitacharya in his writings is different from that of Shrimad Bhagvata. Followers of Radha Vallabh Sampradaya, therefor, have to depenJ completely on Hitacharya’s Braj Bhasha and sanskrit works and these writings are invariably considered as final authority for them. For traditional shape of Bhakti i.e. Navdha Bhakti, however, Shrimad Bhagvata is considered in this Sampradaya to be the preparatory authority and it can be categorically stated that the concept of Hitacharya does not come into conflict with that of Shrimad Bhagvata.
(V) Love is not only the object of human pursuits but it is ‘God’ Himself.
In this small book we have tried to give a short exposition of the religious system established by Radha Vallabh Sampradaya on the concept ‘Love is God’. We hope the readers will find it not only thought provoking but also of great spiritual value.
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