ABOUT STEVEN ROSEN
Steven Rosen is the author of some twenty
books on Hindu-related subjects.
He is an initiated disciple of Srila A.C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of
Vaishnava Studies, a peer-refereed academic journal that focuses on the
culture and philosophy of Vaishnava-Hinduism.
He and his family live in New York.
AN INTERVIEW BY
STEVEN ROSEN ON
The Sampradaya of Sri Caitanya
(Steven Rosen inverview of William Deadwyler III From ISKON.COM)
The question of sampradaya, or the disciplic
lineage of spiritual teachers, is the basis of authority for all religious
and philosophical teachers and movements arising from the Vedantic
traditions. There is no conception of religious organisation among these
traditions which does not include reference to sampradaya. Therefore,
questions of succession and how the links are made to traditional
successions is the most essential ingredient in understanding authenticity
and integrity in precept and practice among most of the Indian
sub-continent's spiritual movements. Thus, this interview between Steven
Rosen and William Deadwyler is a very important contribution to our
understanding of the Hare Krishna movement and its roots. The research and
information shared in this interview also presents one of the most
comprehensive accounts of the Brahma-Madhava-Gaudiya sampradaya available to
Steven Rosen: Most people who study East Indian philosophy don't know about
the parampara system. They've heard about guru / disciple relationships, of
course, but they generally don't know about the authentic preceptorial
lineages ― the various Vaisnava sampradayas ― and the importance of being
initiated into one of those traditions. So I thought that we could perhaps
begin by explaining, philosophically and scripturally, the importance of the
Dr. Deadwyler: The notion of sampradaya ― also called parampara, which
means, literally, 'one after another' ― is found in the fourth chapter of
Bhagavad-gita. There Krsna says that he originally taught the Bhagavad-gita
to the Sun god Vivasvan, who taught it in turn to Manu. Then Krsna says,
evam parampara praptam imam rajarsayo viduh: this secret teaching was passed
down in this way, one after another, in parampara, and the saintly kings all
understood it in that manner. Here we find the notion that sure and certain
knowledge is revealed. It is transmitted through spiritual sound ― sabda ―
which is only truly given by Krsna or his representatives in disciplic
A tradition, or parampara, is meant to preserve spiritual knowledge, or
truth, through successive links in a chain that carries on over the years,
one generation after another. Krsna implies in the Bhagavad-gita ― in the
same verse from the fourth chapter ― that if and when the disciplic
succession is broken, and the knowledge is consequently lost, he himself
descends to re-establish it.
Philosophically you can call this 'a descending process' (avaroha pantha) ―
the knowledge comes down from Krsna, who is God and therefore perfect. The
purpose of a tradition, or a genuine guru, is to preserve the original and
perfect revelation intact and complete. You can't improve on it. You can't
add to it, but rather you preserve it and teach it.
Steven Rosen: Now, there are a lot of gurus in India, and perhaps elsewhere
in the world as well. But which gurus represent the genuine parampara
system? Or, more important than that ― which lineages are authentic from the
Vaisnava point of view? I mean, if one were looking for a guru, which lines
of disciplic descent should one be aware of?
Dr. Deadwyler: You're asking about the recognised sampradayas. Well, the
word sampradaya literally means 'a community'. A text from the Padma Purana
quoted widely in Vaisnava writings speaks directly about these authorised
communities. It says that 'Those mantras which are not received within a
sampradaya are fruitless; they have no potency'. The text then specifically
names the sampradayas. 'In the Kali-yuga, there will be four sampradayas.' ―
we are talking about Vaisnava sampradayas ― 'They are the Brahma Sampradaya,
originating with Brahma; Sri Sampradaya, starting with Laksmi; Rudra
Sampradaya, starting with Siva; there's another one starting from Sanaka and
the others, the Kumaras'. Those are the four recognised Vaisnava sampradayas.
Each one has their main acarya, or definitive teacher who enunciated the
doctrine for that sampradaya. For the Sri Sampradaya, there is Ramanuja. For
the Brahma Sampradaya, there is Madhvacarya. The Rudra Sampradaya has
Visnusvami. And the sampradaya of the Kumaras has Nimbarka.
Steven Rosen: In regard to the Visnusvami Sampradaya, I've heard something
to the effect that Vallabha and Visnusvami were the same person. True or
Dr. Deadwyler: No, Visnusvami was much earlier than Vallabha, and I believe
that none of his works have survived. Now, Vallabha, who was a contemporary
of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, said that he was associated with the sampradaya of
Visnusvami. But they are not the same person. In fact, Vallabha wrote his
own commentary on Brahma-Sutra (the Anu-bhasya) and on Srimad Bhagavatam
(the Subodhini) and founded his own group called the Pusti-marga, although
he is closely linked with the Rudra Sampradaya. However, he doesn't seem to
have received much specific traditional teaching from the Rudra Sampradaya.
So Visnusvami is the one that we often hear of as being the principle acarya
of the Rudra line, and he's from way back when. No one knows his dates. But
Vallabha was a contemporary of Sri Caitanya. The Vallabha line really has
their own sampradaya; otherwise the Rudra line is not active, as far as
anyone can see.
Steven Rosen: So could you say Pusti-marga is the Rudra Sampradaya?
Dr. Deadwyler: In a sense, yes, although most people just call it the
Vallabha Sampradaya. I've never heard anyone refer to it as relating to the
prior sampradaya or going back beyond Vallabhacarya. But formally they claim
to be in the Rudra Sampradaya of Visnusvami.
Steven Rosen: Have you heard that this verse from the Padma Purana the one
you quoted has been brought into question by Stuart Elkman and even by O. B.
L. Kapoor? They say that they can't actually find it.
Dr. Deadwyler: Yes, present-day scholars have claimed that current editions
of the Padma Purana don't include that verse. That may be so. But it's
quoted by Madhvacarya and other early writers.
Steven Rosen: Kavi Karnapura quotes it.
Dr. Deadwyler: Right. So it may not be in modern editions, but it was found
there somewhere along the way. That's the simplest explanation. Others will
decide that the verse was fabricated or something of that sort ... this is
the virtue of accepting knowledge in disciplic succession. Believers will
accept the verdict of their teachers, as it comes down through the
tradition, the parampara system. Others will be confused about this.
Unfortunately, there are different versions or manuscript traditions of
various puranas ― it's very difficult. There are many editions from various
times and places. The Padma Purana is huge, too. I don't know how many
scholars have personally gone through it verse by verse. And the verse we're
talking about may be tucked away in some edition somewhere for all I know
for all anyone knows.
Steven Rosen: Well, whatever the case may be, we do indeed find to this day
that those four sampradayas are in fact the major traditional lineages of
Vaisnavism in India. So let's move on from the four authorised chains of
knowledge to how the Gaudiya Sampradaya is aligned with them. It is said
that the Gaudiya school is connected to the Brahma-Madhva Sampradaya.
Dr. Deadwyler: Yes. The claim for that is found in a number of places. The
main reference is a list of the guru parampara found in Baladeva
Vidyabhusana's Govinda-bhasya and Prameya-ratnavali. And also in Kavi
Karnapura's Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, the earliest statement. It's also in
another one, a younger contemporary of Caitanya Gopala-guru. His work
doesn't survive, but it's quoted somewhere else.
Steven Rosen: B. B. Majumdar mentions eight.
Dr. Deadwyler: That's right. There are eight places in addition to Baladeva
and Kavi Karnapura where the affiliation is brought out. But the really
significant ones are those that I've mentioned. Gopala-guru was a disciple
of Vakresvara Pandita.
Steven Rosen: I think his work is called Padya.
Dr. Deadwyler: That's it. And it's also mentioned in the Bhakti-ratnakara of
Steven Rosen: Well, the other important place is Visvanatha Cakravarti's
Gauranga-svarupa-tattva-candrika. That's a bit later, but it's an important
reference because he was such a prominent acarya.
Dr. Deadwyler: Now he was an associate of Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Visvanatha
Cakravarti was the very one who sent Baladeva to debate the authenticity of
the Gaudiya Sampradaya. We can conclude that there was some agreement at
that time that this list, with its Madhva connection, was indeed the correct
parampara. At least these two important acaryas Baladeva and Visvanatha
agreed. So, yes, Visvanatha Cakravarti also accepted it.
This comes from the Vrindavana side they all accepted the Gaudiya
affiliation. So there was some consensus of opinion. But the earliest writer
to attest to the affiliation was Kavi Karnapura. In other words, the idea
was there in Orissa as well. Of course, Baladeva was originally form Orissa
himself. There's a work by a Mukherjee called The History of the Caitanya
Faith in Orissa.
Steven Rosen: Oh, Prabhat Mukherjee. He's a very important and well-known
historian of Oriyan Vaisnavism.
Dr. Deadwyler: Prabhat Mukherjee finds a number of Oriyan Vaisnavas who
affiliate themselves with Caitanya and give a guru parampara that includes
Madhva. So it seems to have been accepted in Orissa at a time soon after
Caitanya's disappearance. Thus, there was a firm, early tradition that
Caitanya's disciplic succession descended from Madhvacarya. And so it's
called the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya.
Some scholars, however, have held that the affiliation was an invention of
Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who was originally a Tattvavadi, a Madhvite. Then,
through his spiritual master, Radha-Damodara, he became a Gaudiya Vaisnava.
So some people think he had ideological motives for 'affiliating' the
Caitanya movement with Madhva. S. K. De, one of the big doubters of the
authenticity of the list, even hints that Baladeva himself may have written
the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika and attributed it to Kavi Karnapura, in order to
back-date the affiliation.
Steven Rosen: What is his evidence?
Dr. Deadwyler: There is no evidence whatsoever. S K. De's 'seminal' book,
Early History of the Vaishnava Faith and Movement in Bengal, which is
probably the most comprehensive early history of Gaudiya Vaisnavism in
Bengal, at least in the English language, is full of forced conclusions. Yet
it remains the standard work on the subject, at least for scholars. De seems
to bend over backwards to ape the manners of Western critical scholarship,
and he tries to doubt everything conceivably doubtable. There's almost a
presumption of falsification in the documents guilty until proven innocent.
He questions the historicity of everything.
So he cast doubt on this guru-parampara the linking of the Gaudiya school
with the Brahma-Madhva Sampradaya. Now he's not alone in this, nor did the
idea originate with him. He was following some earlier Bengali writers from
the twenties and thirties. But you will find the first and one of the more
prominent places where the affiliation is rejected is Surendranatha Dasgupta
― History of Indian Philosophy. In the fourth volume of that work, in the
section on Madhva, Dasgupta lists the succession of Madhva gurus, stating
that this is largely at variance with the list given in the introduction of
the commentary on the Brahma-Sutra by Baladeva Vidyabhusana.
After quoting Baladeva's list, Dasgupta tells us (on Page 56 of Volume 4):
'We see that the list given by Baladeva is in total discrepancy with the two
lists given from the Madhva mathas in Belgaum and Poona'. So Dasgupta
But B. N. K. Sharma, in his History of the Advaita School of Vedanta and Its
Literature, brings to light the miscalculation made by Dasgupta. You see,
there are a number of Madhva mathas. The one that Dasgupta quotes is the
disciplic succession of the Uttaradi Matha. That Uttaradi Matha twice
divided and so you end up with three mathas ― the Uttaradi Matha and two
others. But Dasgupta was ignorant of these two splits.
However, one of these offshoot mathas, called the Vyasa-raja Matha, records
a line of disciplic succession that appears quite similar to the one
Baladeva and Kavi Karnapura give. And this is an official Madhva list. I can
go over it with you. Here's what happened. After Madhva, we find listed
Padmanabha, Nrhari, Madhava, and Aksobhya.
Now in the Madhva tradition, these four are frequently regarded as direct
disciples of Madhvacarya, although some places say that Nrhari, Madhava and
Aksobhya were all initiated by Padmanabha. At any rate, they're pretty much
contemporaries. Aksobhya's disciple was Jayatirtha. He was the famous
commentator and systematiser of Madhva's teaching. All of these devotees, by
the way, were the heads of mathas, mahantas or 'pontiffs' as Sharma calls
them. There may have been other advanced acaryas during their time. But the
list only contains the leaders of the matha.
After Jayatirtha, the official Madhva list mentions Vidyadhiraja. The list
from Baladeva, however, has Jnanasindhu, Dayanidhi and then Vidyanidhi. The
list from Kavi Karnapura has Jnanasindhu and, instead of Dayanidhi,
Mahanidhi, and then it also has Vidyanidhi. So if you accept, as Sharma
does, that Vidyanidhi and Vidyadhiraja are the same person ― just a
variation of the same name ― then what you have in Baladeva's and Kavi
Karnapura's list are two names, Jnanasindhu and Dayanidhi or Mahanidhi, that
are introduced between Jayatirtha and Vidyanidhi.
After Vidyadhiraja or Vidyanidhi, assuming
that it's the same person, the branching off from the matha takes place, and
you get the distinctive Vyasa-raja Matha, named after Vyasatirtha, who was a
later head of that matha and became very famous. Next in succession is
Rajendra, who is in Baladeva's list; then the Madhva list has Jayadhvaja
whereas the Gaudiya lists give a variation on that name ― Jayadharma. And
then it's the same: Purusottama, Brahmanyatirtha, Vyasatirtha. So up to that
point, everything's fairly consistent.
There's really not too much to fuss about ― you've got two extra names and a
few variations on names, which is common enough. Now, after Vyasatirtha,
Baladeva lists Laksmipati Tirtha, Madhavendra Puri and Isvara Puri, who was
Caitanya's guru. And those first three names do not appear on any Madhva
list. So this is the problem ...
Steven Rosen: Right. This is where the real controversy begins.
Dr. Deadwyler: Exactly. Well, first of all, there's the controversy that
concerns Surendranatha Dasgupta, which we've looked at ― he didn't even
recognise this list. But as we've shown, following B. N. K. Sharma up until
Laksmipati Tirtha, there's not a whole lot of difference in the two lists.
Steven Rosen: And minor differences shouldn't be all that shocking, because,
for example, if two disciples of different gurus are writing books, let's
say, five hundred years from now, and they make a list of teachers, each
list would be different, leading up to their particular guru. That's
natural. It's like a tree with many branches.
Dr. Deadwyler: That's right. But at this point we should deal with the
second problem, the one that arises after Vyasatirtha.
Steven Rosen: You mean the one involving Laksmipati Tirtha?
Dr. Deadwyler: Right. Although Laksmipati Tirtha is indeed absent from the
Madhva list, there is a simple solution: this Laksmipati Tirtha wasn't a
mahanta. He was an initiated disciple of Vyasatirtha, but he was not at any
time the head of a Madhva matha. I think that's a very simple and likely
Steven Rosen: You're saying that his name isn't on the list because he was
not a leader.
Dr. Deadwyler: Because the Madhva lists don't contain every disciple. They
list only devotees who served for some time as the heads of mathas.
Steven Rosen: I'm interested in something related to this: how would you
explain that Laksmipati appears to be the last of the people with the 'Tirtha'
titles? After him you have Madhavendra Puri.
Dr. Deadwyler: That's the more interesting puzzle. All of those acaryas up
to that point have a 'Tirtha' in their names. Even Madhva's name was
Ananda-tirtha. The 'Tirtha' title originally came from a Sankarite order,
because Madhva was initially initiated in the Sankarite order, and it is
characteristic of Madhva sannyasis. So then you have Madhavendra Puri,
Isvara Puri ― you get a 'Puri' title, which belongs to another Sankarite
order. Now how does that happen?
There are some plausible explanations for it. One of them is that
Madhavendra Puri, in fact, took sannyasa initiation in an Advaita sampradaya
― just as Caitanya Mahaprabhu and, as a matter of fact, Madhva did. And
sometimes when people took sannyasa, especially in those days, it didn't
seem to matter so much. They took from whomever was handy. That seems to be
a reasonable explanation. The change in title doesn't seem a sufficient
reason to reject the lineage. The testimony that there was a Madhva
connection is much older than Baladeva. And at least if you accept Kavi
Karnapura and the similar traditions from Orissa, you can't say they had
some 'ideological motive'.
Another plausible scenario is that Madhavendra Puri could have already been
a Mayavadi sannyasi and then met Laksmipati Tirtha. Vyasatirtha is said to
have died in 1539, so he was also a contemporary of Caitanya. Caitanya's
lifetime was fairly short, but he was born before Vyasatirtha's demise.
Still it was possible for Vyasatirtha to have initiated Laksmipati, and that
succession could have gone on during his lifetime.
According to the Bhakti-ratnakara of Narahari Cakravarti, Nityananda was
actually initiated directly by Laksmipati. Baladeva, on the other hand,
lists him along with Isvara Puri and Advaita Acarya as disciples of
Madhavendra Puri. This can be reconciled with Narahari's account, however,
as Narahari says that although Nityananda was Madhavendra Puri's godbrother,
Nityananda always regarded him as his guru.
Incidentally, Kavi Karnapura states that one of Jayadharma's (or
Jayadhvaja's) disciples was the famous Visnu Puri, author of Bhakti-ratnavali.
In that case, we have the Puri title appearing earlier in the list, as
belonging to an acarya who was not a mahanta. B. N. K. Sharma speculates
that this Visnu Puri may have been the actual teacher of Laksmipati, and so
on, and thus the real link between Madhva and Caitanya. In this way Sharma
and others, like Stuart Elkman, accept an historical Madhva connection,
while having doubts about the exact list of Baladeva or Kavi Karnapura.
Steven Rosen: There is another problem that needs to be addressed: if there
is a connection between the Gaudiya Sampradaya and the Brahma-Madhva
Sampradaya, why is there such a difference in the theology? O. B. L. Kapoor
really brings out some divergent views. How would you explain that?
Dr. Deadwyler: Yes, this has been another reason for doubting the
connection, and modern scholars have sometimes made much of it. But the
differences are of emphasis, really. The essential teachings are in
agreement. Madhavendra Puri, it's true, is credited by the followers of
Caitanya with introducing something new. Let me read you something from the
Caitanya-caritamrta. This is Adi-lila 9.10: 'All glories to Sri Madhavendra
Puri, the storehouse of all devotional service unto Krsna. He is a desire
tree of devotional service and it is in him that the seed of devotional
service first fructified.' It says that he is the 'storehouse of Krsna prema'.
In his commentary, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes, 'Sri Madhavendra
Puri, also known as Sri Madhava Puri, belonged to a disciplic succession
from Madhvacarya, and he was a greatly celebrated sannyasi.' And then
there's this critique: 'The process of worship in the disciplic succession
from Madhvacarya was full of ritualistic ceremonies, with hardly a sign of
love of Godhead; Sri Madhavendra Puri was the first person in that disciplic
succession to exhibit the symptom of love of Godhead ... '
Steven Rosen: Right. I have a few quotes about Madhavendra Puri here:
Vrndavana dasa Thakura, in the Caitanya-bhagavata, refers to him as 'the
prime architect of the devotionalism in Bengal'. Krsnadasa Kaviraja calls
him 'the first sprout of the wishing tree of devotion'. So it seems that
Madhavendra Puri moved the Brahma-Madhva conception from awe and reverence,
or worship of Narayana (which was more common in the Madhva Sampradaya), to
worship in madhurya, or the sweet loving aspect that's found in Radha-Krsna.
Apparently, there's some element here of moving from vaidhi-bhakti to
Dr. Deadwyler: Precisely. That's what the commentary is talking about here.
Madhavendra Puri, the commentator notes, was 'the first to write a poem
beginning with the words, ayi dina-dayardra natha he'. This verse is
recorded in Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, chapter eight, verse
thirty-four. I'll return to the poem later. 'In that poetry,' the commentary
continues, 'is the seed of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's cultivation of love of
Godhead.' So that seed is contained in Madhavendra Puri's verse, and that
verse expresses Radharani's anguished feelings of separation from Krsna.
The Caitanya-caritamrta says that Madhavendra Puri was reciting this very
verse while passing away from the material world. I'll give you the
translation: 'O Lord, O most merciful Master, O Master of Mathura! When
shall I see You again? Because of my not seeing You, my agitated heart has
become unsteady. O most beloved one, what shall I do now?' This is Radharani
speaking, expressing her most intense love in feelings of separation. The
Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya-lila 8.35-6) says, 'In this verse Madhavendra
Puri instructs how to achieve ecstatic love for Krsna (krsna-prema). By
feeling separation from Krsna, one becomes spiritually situated. Madhavendra
Puri sowed the seed of ecstatic love (prema) for Krsna within this material
world, and then departed. That seed later became a great tree in the form of
Steven Rosen: But doesn't it go further? I remember ...
Dr. Deadwyler: Yes! I'm getting to that. You're right, there's another
discussion of this verse in Madhya-lila, Chapter Four, in which Caitanya
explained the story of Madhavendra Puri and Nathaji, or Sri Gopala. Here is
Caitanya-caritamrta, beginning with Verse 192: 'After saying this, Lord
Caitanya Mahaprabhu read the famous verse of Madhavendra Puri. That verse is
just like a full moon. It has spread the illumination all over the world.'
'By continuous rubbing,' the Caitanya-caritamrta goes on, 'the aroma of
Malaya sandalwood increases. Similarly, by considering this verse, its
Steven Rosen: This is a glorification of the verse spoken by Radharani, the
verse that reflects her mood.
Dr. Deadwyler: Yes. Ayi dina-dayardra natha he. The Caitanya-caritamrta
continues: 'As the kaustubha-mani is considered the most precious of
valuable stones, this verse is similarly considered the best of mellow
poems. (rasa-kavya, poetry about rasa). Actually this verse was spoken by
Srimati Radharani Herself, and by Her mercy only was it manifest in the
words of Madhavendra Puri.
So what is this saying? It's saying that Radharani revealed this verse
directly to Madhavendra Puri, or that by Her mercy it was manifest in the
words that emanated form Madhavendra Puri's mouth. And then Krsnadasa
Kaviraja says, 'Only Caitanya Mahaprabhu has tasted the potency of this
verse. No fourth person is capable of understanding it.' That is, only
Srimati Radharani, Madhavendra Puri and Caitanya Mahaprabhu understood this
verse. Then it says, 'Madhavendra Puri recited this verse again and again at
the end of his material existence. Thus uttering this verse, he attained the
ultimate goal of his life.' And then the verse is quoted in Text 197.
Now I want to look at some of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's commentary on
this text here. Prabhupada writes, 'Out of the four sampradayas, the Sri
Madhvacarya Sampradaya was accepted by Madhavendra Puri. Thus he took
sannyasa according to parampara, the disciplic succession.'
Here, we see Prabhupada's statement that it was a sannyasa initiation. If
this is so, the 'Puri' title must have been used in the Madhva order, at
least outside of the formal matha structure. Kavi Karnapura's mention of
Visnu Puri as a disciple of Jayadharma (Jayadhvaja), gives some support for
Anyway, the commentary goes on: 'Beginning from Madhvacarya down to the
spiritual master of Madhavendra Puri, Laksmipati Tirtha, there was no
realisation of devotional service in conjugal love.' Then he says, 'Sri
Madhavendra Puri introduced the conception of conjugal love for the first
time in the Madhvacarya Sampradaya.' So here on the Gaudiya Vaisnava side is
a frank recognition that there was something new with Madhavendra Puri in
Steven Rosen: So is that to say that devotees before the time of Madhavendra
Puri could not attain Goloka Vrndavana? They only went to Vaikuntha?
Dr. Deadwyler: Well, does it say that?
Steven Rosen: That does seem to be the implication ...
Dr. Deadwyler: In the Madhva Sampradaya, the Deity that they were
worshipping was Narayana.
Steven Rosen: So they go to Vaikuntha.
Dr. Deadwyler: That's where they'll go; they'll go to Vaikuntha. And if in
the Sri Sampradaya they were worshipping Sita-Rama, for example, then that's
what they'll attain ― Ayodhya ― which is also Vaikuntha.
Steven Rosen: Well, was anyone worshipping Krsna prior to that time?
Dr. Deadwyler: Of course. But even so, the worship was largely on the
platform of vaidhi-bhakti, that is, formal regulative service. Krsna
worshippers on that platform could attain the majestic feature of Krsna in
Dvaraka or Mathura, but not Goloka Vrndavana. That is obtainable only by
devotion on the spontaneous platform, raganuga-bhakti.
But let me finish reading this commentary on Madhavendra Puri's verse: 'Sri
Madhavendra Puri introduced the conception of conjugal love for the first
time in the Madhva Sampradaya.' Now, the next comment is interesting: 'This
conclusion of the Madhvacarya Sampradaya was revealed by Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu when he toured Southern India and met Tattvavadis, who supposedly
belonged to the Madhva Sampradaya.'
So the idea here, at least from the Madhva-Gaudiya point of view, is that
there were potentialities, spiritual realisations, latent within Madhvacarya,
and these were fully brought out later by Caitanya Mahaprabhu and, before
him, in a less manifest form, by Madhavendra Puri. The implication here is
that, for reasons of time and place, Madhvacarya may not have spoken these
things aloud, or not have made certain things explicit, although they might
have been recognised by followers with realisation.
What the Gaudiya Vaisnavas generally say is that Caitanya's philosophy of
acintya- bhedabheda-tattva, and also his teaching on the madhurya rasa, are
a kind of synthesis and capstone of the philosophies of the four sampradayas.
Yet it's significant that Caitanya himself took initiation in the Madhva
Sampradaya. He singled it out, so to speak, because of his appreciation for
its strong polemic against the Mayavadis. More than anyone else, Madhva and
Jayatirtha really were ferocious in their opposition to the Mayavadis.
Now you can list a number of differences between what's commonly accepted as
the philosophy of Madhvacarya and that of the Six Gosvamis. But you can make
another list of similarities. If you ask me, the similarities are greater.
So it's really a question of what you consider important, and what you
With a teacher as rich and profound as Madhvacarya, it's a question of what
in his writings becomes emphasised, what becomes expounded upon by his
followers, what becomes the prevalent mode of teaching. And there will be
other things latent in those teachings which will not receive much emphasis,
and yet may seem to be of greater importance at a later time. So it's a
question of how you look at it. There are differences. And finally, that's
why Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who's one of the big proponents of the Madhva
affiliation, also had to write a separate commentary on Vedanta-sutra
specifically for the Gaudiya Sampradaya. Because there are certain things in
Madhva's works ― relating to Gaudiya practices ― that you won't find, such
as the worship of Radha-Krsna together. This won't be found in Madhva's
works. The Madhvites worship Narayana, and they generally don't worship
Laksmi-Narayana as well ― just Narayana alone. The fact that there are
differences between the philosophy of the Madhvites and the Gaudiyas is not
argument against historical affiliation.
Steven Rosen: You know, in some ways, it always seemed to me that the Sri
Vaisnavas ― the Ramanujites ― were very close to the Gaudiya idea. At least
as much as the Madhva teaching. You know, when Mahaprabhu met with Vyenkata
Bhatta , they seemed to really get on pretty well. And the sakti thing is
there ― Laksmi-Narayana. So there is a closeness.
Dr. Deadwyler: Right. Well, it depends on what Madhvite you talk to, you
know. I've spoken to some who strongly remind me of a kind of Christian,
actually, in their 'this is the only way' mode of relating. Their emphasis
on duality, a dualism that they have emphasised, also sometimes seems quite
extreme ― 'there's no oneness between God and the living being, no
similarity whatsoever.' Well, I don't know if I can accept that.
On the other hand, a scholar like B. N. K. Sharma, who's a Madhvite scholar,
will say that Caitanya's acintya-bhedabheda-tattva is really just a
variation of Madhva's category of visesa. And he sees a clear development
out of Madhva's teaching. Whereas some other scholar will say, 'You know,
they're two completely different things', and so on.
Steven Rosen: I once read in an early Harmonist that the reason Mahaprabhu
chose the Madhva Sampradaya with which to align himself, as opposed to the
other sampradayas, was because Madhvites emphasised duality ― they taught
that the living being is different to God. And when there's a difference,
there's more of an aptitude for service.
Dr. Deadwyler: That's right.
Steven Rosen: I thought that this was very nicely put.
Dr. Deadwyler: This reminds me of something I wanted to speak about. What
gives some scholars problems ― on the doctrinal level ― with this Madhva
affiliation is the high respect Caitanya Mahaprabhu gives Sridhara Svami's
Bhagavata commentary. Most scholars regard Sridhara Svami as an Advaitin,
and he was regarded in this way by Sankarites, too; they accepted him as one
of them, although he did get into trouble with that community. His
commentary on the Bhagavata was controversial, and it did seem as though it
might not have actually been accepted because Sridhara Svami did recognise a
quantitative difference between the soul and the Supreme Lord. And, of
course, there is a Madhva idea here, as you mentioned.
So the Gaudiya Vaisnavas do not accept him as a real Advaitin. Even though
he was apparently recognised by the Sankara Sampradaya as one of them, they
thought he was trying to stay too close to Vaisnava ideas. As far as the
Vaisnava sampradayas are concerned, we have to recognise a great deal of
overlapping. The four orthodox sampradayas teach basically the same thing,
which is that is one is an eternal servant of Visnu or Krsna, or one of his
many incarnations. The emphasis and the details may differ, but the truth is
This interview was first published in Vaishnavism: Contemporary Scholars
Discuss the Gaudiya Tradition, edited by Steven J. Rosen, Folk Books: New
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