Vaisnava History! Vaisnava Life!

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  • Srila Jiva Gosvami’s father, Anupama, was the brother of Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami. His exalted father and uncles were employed by the Muslim ruler, Srila Sanatana Gosvami as prime minister, Srila Rupa Gosvami as the private secretary, and Anupama as treasurer. All three of them met Caitanya Mahaprabhu when He came to Ramakeli where they lived.

    As the only son of the three brothers, Jiva received abundant affection. Srila Rupa Gosvami was always especially affectionate towards him and treated him as if he were his own son. When Jiva was still very young, Srila Rupa Gosvami took him to Mahaprabhu, who blessed him by placing His hand on his head.

    During childhood, Jiva studied and soon learned all logic, Sanskrit grammar, and theistic philosophy from the books in his father’s home. Before Srila Rupa Gosvami and Anupama left household life to retire in Vrndavana, they divided all the family’s wealth and property, allocating sufficient funds for Jiva to continue his studies. All three brothers realized that he was the only son in their dynasty, so they nurtured him with great affection and ensured he had whatever material facility he required.

    Jiva had a very soft nature, and as he grew, he gradually began worshipping Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. Making garlands for Them and offering puja to Them, he would become immersed in meditation, preferring these activities to playing with other children. When he was about fourteen years old, he went to Navadvipa. By then, Mahaprabhu had returned to the spiritual world and all the devotees of Navadvipa had left and gone elsewhere. Because Navadvipa now brought them all great sadness, Srivasa Pandita, Advaita Acarya, and everyone else had left, and Navadvipa was deserted.

    A few days before Jiva’s arrival, Nityananda Prabhu had arrived at Srivasangana from Khardaha. When Jiva Gosvami arrived, Nityananda Prabhu was very pleased to meet him. Nityananda prabhu placed His feet on Jiva’s head and said, “I came here just to meet with you; otherwise I would have stayed in Khardaha.” He showed Jiva all the places of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes in Navadvipa, and then showed him great mercy by ordering him to go stay with Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami in Vrndavana.

    On the way to Vrndavana, Jiva stopped in Varanasi, where he met a disciple of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya named Madhusudana Vacaspati who was teaching Vedanta, but not the commentary of Sankaracarya, which was famous at that time. Mahaprabhu had refuted that commentary when Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya tried to teach it to Him. Madhusudana Vacaspati was a great scholar and, having studied and understood everything which Mahaprabhu had taught to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya and Srila Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, was teaching it there. Jiva Gosvami went to his home and learned all bhakti-vedanta from him. He also learned Sankaracarya’s commentary, because without learning it, he would have been unable to refute it. After studying all of this and fully understanding it, he proceeded to Vrndavana. There in Vrndavana, Sanatana Gosvami placed him in the care of Rupa Gosvami, and he stayed near Rupa Gosvami’s hut at the Radha-Damodara temple.

    Rupa Gosvami would read everything he was writing to Jiva Gosvami. One day while they were in the midst of reading together, an effulgent, elderly brahmana arrived there. This was most likely, judging from his age and his scholarship, Sri Vallabhacarya, who knew Rupa Gosvami from the time Mahaprabhu was in Prayaga. He was approximately the same age as Advaita Acarya, so Rupa Gosvami would have been the appropriate age to have been his son. He asked, “Rupa, what are you writing these days?”

    Hesitating a little, Srila Rupa Gosvami replied, “I am writing a book entitled Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.” Vallabhacarya then picked up the book and, turning the pages, said, “Very good, I will look through it and correct any errors.”

    At that time Jiva Gosvami was fanning Rupa Gosvami with a leaf from
  • Mastering Gaudiya Philosophy

    Baladeva then decided to travel to Vrndavana, the spiritual centre of theGaudiya sect. But first he went to Navadvipa, where he met the Vaishnavas thereand discussed philosophy with them. They all told him to study underVisvanatha Cakravati Thakura in Vrndavana. Because Baladeva was so eager tomeet Visvanatha, he stayed only a short time in Navadvipa before setting outon foot to travel the eight hundred miles to Vrndavana.

    Arriving in Vrndavana, Baladeva soon met Visvanatha Cakravati, introducedhimself, and explained his background and the story of his meeting withRadha-Damodara in Puri. Visvanatha was gratified that Baladeva had come tostudy Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and he suggested a suitable day for them to begintheir studies. He also decided that Baladeva should study the rasa-sastras,texts of advanced devotion, with another scholar, Pitambara Dasa.

    Baladeva's appetite had been whetted by reading Jiva Gosvami'sBhagavata-sandarbha in Puri. From Pitambara, Baladeva learned the esotericmeaning of bhagavata philosophy, as found in the rasa-sastras. He then studiedthe Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's biography of LordChaitanya. The Chaitanya-charitamrita is an advanced text for those who have fullystudied other Vaishnava scriptures. By completing his study of this culminatingwork, Baladeva qualified himself for a brilliant future as a Gaudiya scholar.

    Meanwhile, in Amber the Ramanandis continued to wage ideological war againstthe Gaudiyas. The Ramanandis did not accept the answer that the Gaudiyamahantas had given to King Jai Singh -- that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was theSupreme Lord Himself and that His sampradaya was therefore beyond doubt. TheRamanandis insisted on the principle of sampradaya catvarah, "there are onlyfour sampradayas," implying, of course, that the Gaudiyas constituted anunauthorised fifth lineage.

    Jai Singh prepared himself for the religious confrontation he knew wasinevitable. He collected and studied the writings of the Gaudiya sect andcompared it with the writings of other Vaishnava sampradayas. He studied theBhagavata Purana and its commentaries by Shridhara Swami, Sanatana Gosvami, andJiva Gosvami. He pored over the Vedanta-sutra and its commentaries by Sankara,Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, and Nimbarka. He explored the works of SanatanaGosvami, Rupa Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, and KrishnadasaKaviraja Gosvami, the principal theologians of the Gaudiya school. And he readJayadeva's Gita-govinda, the poetry that had often evoked expressions ofecstatic love in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

    Jai Singh wanted to reconcile the differences between the principle sects ofVaishnavas. He felt that these differences had no philosophical basis, socontinual wrangling could serve no purpose. Having completed his research, hecomposed a thesis called Brahma-bodhini, advocating the unity of theVaishnavas.

    The king's attraction to Krishna had been sparked during his first visit toVrndavana, as a child of seven. He had been called there by his father, themilitary commander of the district, who had been deputed to protect thecaravans between Agra and Mathura. From that young age, Jai Singh hadconsidered himself a devotee of Krishna. Now his study of the writings of theVrndavana Gosvamis crystallised his sentiments. But his devotion to Radha andKrishna would be tested by the Ramanandis.

    "The Gaudiyas should not worship Radha and Krishna together," the Ramanandistold him. "Radha and Krishna are not married. There is no precedent for Theirbeing worshiped together! Sita and Rama are together, and Laksmi and Narayana,because they are married. But Radha and Krishna are not married."

    Now the Ramanandis were escalating the quarrel. They not only criticised theGaudiyas' lineage but also found fault with the Gaudiya method of worship. TheRamanandis demanded that Radha be removed f

  • Their voices rose with the sun. It was early morning in an Indian villageschool. The boys sat in neat rows behind palm-leaf manuscripts, committingtheir lessons to memory. As they chanted their grammar rules, their rhetoriclessons, and their logic aphorisms, each boy chanted loud enough to hearhimself over his neighbour, resulting in a blend of high-pitched voices.

    This school, attended by Baladeva early in the eighteenth century, closelyresembled village schools that existed in India for thousands of years. Thesystem had endured because it was effective, producing brilliant anddisciplined scholars, and Baladeva was among the best of them.

    Before coming to school, Baladeva, the son of a merchant, had lived forseveral years near the Orissan town of Remuna. From there he had gone to studywith the group of panditas at this school, situated idyllically on the bank ofthe Cilkahrada River. The lush Orissan forests and fertile fields providedample fruits, vegetables, and grains for a wholesome, varied diet. The boysstudied hard, played hard, and grew lean, healthy, and discerning.

    When Baladeva graduated from school, he did not want to return home to work inhis father's shop. He wanted to be a scholar -- not an ordinary scholar but atrue acarya, one who could teach divine wisdom. A pandita had to master logic,philosophy, medicine, or cosmology, but an acarya had to know the scripturesthat impart the deepest wisdom. Baladeva decided to study philosophy andtheology. He would become a Vedantist, an authority on the ancient Vedic booksof knowledge. He could not think of any greater way to benefit himself orothers.

    In search of a preceptor, Baladeva went on pilgrimage to the tirthas (holyplaces), where he would meet monks and scholars. In Mysore (now Karnataka), insouthwestern India, he came upon a hermitage of holy men who were also calledTirthas, followers of the saint and scholar Ananda Tirtha (A.D. 1197-1273),who was known formally as Madhva Acarya. In the monastery, or matha, Baladevastudied Vedanta and mastered the arts of debate and rhetoric. These talentswould serve him well in a challenge he would later face while still a youngman.

    The challenge Baladeva would meet is of critical importance to the history ofGaudiya Vaisnavism, the spiritual school to which the modern day Krishnaconsciousness movement belongs.

    The Gaudiyas in Vrndavana

    By the time Baladeva was born, the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, or followers of LordChaitanya Mahaprabhu, were well established in Vrndavana, the town in northernIndia where Lord Krishna had enacted His childhood pastimes some five thousandyears earlier. But life in that area was often insecure. For thousands ofyears the Vrndavana-Mathura district had been periodically invaded andpillaged. Yet despite these calamities, Mathura had thrived as a centre oftrade and culture. Every ancient religion of northern India considered Mathuraan important city.

    In 1512 Lord Chaitanya arrived in Mathura. He found that the places where Krishnahad enjoyed pastimes were now obscured, so He spent two months locating andidentifying them. Wanting to reconstruct Vrndavana and rededicate it to Krishna,He sent Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, two of His chief disciples, to theholy city.

    Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami accomplished Lord Chaitanya's mission inVrndavana. Not only did they rebuild the sacred places of Krishna's life, butthey also wrote books that presented Lord Chaitanya's doctrine in a waysuitable for both scholars and laymen. Shrila Jiva Gosvami, their nephew anddisciple, continued their work. He supervised the construction of magnificenttemples for the worship of Krishna, wrote exhaustive philosophical treatises onthe philosophy of Krishna consc

  • Parasurama Kunda—A Journey into Unknown India

    A Western pilgrim finds a rare, nearly unknown shrine built in honor of Lord Krishna’s warrior incarnation.

    “You are all the descendants of the kshatriyas [warriors] who ran from the ax of Lord Parashurama.” The words stunned me. It was 1971, and I was sitting just at the feet of Srila Prabhupada, my spiritual master. He was seated royally upon the holy vyasasana (seat of the guru), lecturing to a large gathering at the Brooklyn ISKCON temple. I paused to muse that somehow Srila Prabhupada had the potency to speak astounding never-before- heard things in such a matter-of-fact way that the listener knew at once that whatever he heard was the truth. And I was excited to be hearing, learning, and realizing Krishna consciousness all at once. Sitting at the lotus feet of His Divine Grace, I could see that his abilities came not only through his inner realization of the highest order, but from a power descending via disciplic succession, like electricity through a wire.

    Across Europe and Asia

    Srila Prabhupada continued to explain how Lord Parashu-rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, had single- handedly defeated vast armies of errant warriors, emerging victorious after each encounter. Many of the kshatriyas had escaped and traveled west across Asia, eventually settling in parts of Europe. Later I would realize that this provides one explanation for the Sanskrit influence upon languages of every European tongue—Germanic or Romantic—and upon the names of European countries and regions.

    In only a few thrilling sentences, Srila Prabhupada had linked all of us Westerners to his Vedic culture and civilization. Rebels of the sixties, we were now handed an identity we could be proud of.

    Within a few years I found myself drawn to India. I was traveling by bus and train across Europe and western Asia, in a reversal of the migration of my past “ancestors.” I was moving slowly, keeping Srila Prabhupada’s words in my mind and looking in France, Italy, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan for vestiges of Vedic culture, which resettling kshatriyas might have brought with them ages earlier. It would be no exaggeration to say that I saw hundreds of such reminders along the way.

    In India I learned that temples and holy places connected with the worship of Lord Parashurama are rare. At the Himalayan town of Uttar Kashi, the “northern Benares,” I came across a very small Sri Parashurama Mandir just above the famous temple of Ekadasha Rudra, “the eleven forms of Siva.” A sadhu passing by explained to me that because Lord Parashurama had once performed penance at this spot, a tiny shrine had been built here many hundreds of years ago in his honor. He added that he knew of no other Sri Parashurama shrines except one, a Parashurama Kunda (lake) in Assam. (Unfortunately, a few years later the Brahmaputra River flooded the area, and in the late 1970’s the shrine in Assam was lost.)

    Sitting before the deity of Lord Parashurama and chanting Hare Krishna on my beads, snow-capped Himalayan peaks high above me and the roaring Ganga just below, I felt a strong reverence for this incarnation of Krishna. After all, any demon killed by the Supreme Lord is granted moksha, or liberation. Since my physical lineage is European and therefore from kshatriya roots, I could have had ancestors liberated by the Lor

  • Madhvacarya was born Vasudev, son of Narayan Bhatt and Vedavati in the village of Padakakshetra, near Udupi usually taken as being 1238 AD., on the Vijay Dasami of Lord Rama,. Afer  79 years of wonderful pastimes he passed on to be with his lord, Srila Vyasadev in the year 1317 AD.

    This self realised soul, Mukhyapran (Vayu-deva) from an external point of view, accepted diksa from Acyutapreksha. However, Madhva always accepted only Srila Vyasadeva as his source of inspiration and Lord of his life, and thus his 'siksa guru'. Sri Madhva himself quoted from Brahmanda Purana, "One should have complete faith in the transcendental literature such as Srimad Bhagavatam and other literatures that directly glorifies the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One should also have faith in Vaisnava Tantra, the original Vedas, and Mahabharata which includes Bhagavad Gita, and which is considered the fifth Veda. The Vedic knowledge originally emanated from the breathing of Lord Visnu, and the Vedic literature has been compiled in a literary form by Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of Visnu. Therefore Visnu should be understood to be the personal speaker of all this Vedic literature." (excerpt from purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 11:3:26., translation by Hrdayananda Goswami.)

    As the great incarnation of one of Lord Visnu's greatest preachers, Vayudeva (Madhva) accepted direct instruction from his Lord, Srila Vyasadeva. In the Agni Purana (Chapter 51.) it is mentioned how Vayu is seen sitting on the back of a deer holding a flag. Madhava was also quite often seen seated on a sacred deerskin holding his upraised flag of dualism in the form of his hand sporting two erect fingers protruding. One finger representing the Lord and the other the Jiva. Also in the Vana Parva of Mahabharata (19:22.) it is stated that Vayu is the messenger of the demigods, and in another place, that Vayu resides in the palace of Lord Brahma, continuously praising him for being the surrendered pure representative of the Lord. (Mahabharata, Sabha Parva, chapter 11 Text 20.).

    It is interesting to note that Sri Vayudeva's glories are sung in the Mahabharata, Vana Parva (19:22.) as being the messenger of the "Gods".

    On this matter, Acarya Madhava, as the re-establisher of a practically lost system, became the founder and saviour of the hearts of the devotees. As we have said, though the line did in some shape or form come down, it was not truly effective until Madhava began preaching. On his preaching activities, writing of books, and touring all of Bharat-bhumi, he carried a new strength that was not there before him. He visited the secluded Himalayan ashrama of Srila Vyasadeva, who, to this day, resides high in Uttara-Badri beyond the reach of sinful men. During the two visits it was revealed that even from a distance Madhava had realised the mind of Vyasa. Srila Vyasadeva's comments upon seeing Madhava's commentary on Bhagavad Gita were that he could not fail it! In the sanctuary of the many vaisnava saints and sages that surround Srila Vyasa drinking up His association, Vyasa embrassed Madhava, and latter instructed Madhava to go and preach, and write commentaries on books to save man-kind. This is how Sripad Madhvacarya is accepted as the disciple of Srila Vyasa, not by his own ambitions, but as His pure representitive and so the next in the 'Guru parampara'.

    A nine point summary or mission statement of SripadMmadhvacarya's philosophy is:

    1. Lord Visnu, the Personality of Godhead, is the Absolute Truth, and nothing is higher than Him.
    2. He, the Lord is known by the study of Vedas'sarvasya caham'(Bhagavad Gita 15:15.)
    3. The material world is real, but temporary.
    4. The Jivas (living entities) are different from the Lord ('bimba prati bimba').
    5. The Jivas are, by nature, servants of Lord Visnu's lotus feet.

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