Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

True Gentlemen

One thing that sticks out when I think about Vaishnavas is how a Vaishnava is supposed to be the embodiment of good qualities. I cannot find it right now, but there are sections in BG, SB and CC where the essential qualities of Vaishnavas are listed, and how Vaishnavas should strive to achieve these qualities in order to fulfil the dual purpose of pleasing God and being an example to society. As well as one's own progress, of course!

Something I was reflecting on today was the tumultuous nature of some of the debates we used to have on GD. Typically these arguments revolved around the issue of the diksa-parampara and other issues where ISKCON/Gaudiya Math (IGM) comes into conflict with traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism. I cannot say that I behaved very well myself during these debates. From an honest viewpoint, if I ever offended anybody in my trenchant expressions of what I considered to be the "truth" then I am deeply sorry. Truth may be truth, but also, 'satyam briyat priyam bruyat' - the truth can also be spoken in a palatable manner to prevent hurt feelings and the like.

And, of course, it is in the nature of human beings to point out faults in other people and ignoring the very same faults within themselves (which we must strive to overcome), and so it always used to surprise me how the other participants in such trenchant debates did not behave in a manner expected of a Vaishnava. At far as my vision was concerned anyway. There is really no need to make people feel bad about which line they're in, what kind of bhava they have, and other issues that may cause friction. I used to talk in private with some of these people, and the pain they felt at having their views largely dismissed as too much to bear at times. It is very important to behave as a proper Vaishnava.

In this vein, I've already said that I would ask representatives of various traditions to recommend editions of Vedanta Sutra. After joining some of their online groups (rather, re-activating my subscriptions), I found that one group in particular continues to poke fun of Gaudiyas at every given opportunity. Even if they believe that they are correct in their evaluations, there is really no need to be so vocal about it. This bad behaviour (unrepresentatives of Vaishnavas who are supposedly in the "proper sampradayas") was most disturbing to see and it is still the same now as it was then. However, it did remind me of an example of Sri Vaishnavas (followers of Ramanuja) and how proper Vaishnavas they are. Truly, I have yet to come across a Sri Vaishnava who pokes fun at other traditions. Sri Vaishnavas are really sweet people and really understand the meaning of Vaishnavism, and what it is to be a Vaishnava.

Here is an example of where Sri Vaishnavas of the famous Bhakti List group had every opportunity to malign the Gaudiyas if they wanted to, but they didn't. I have corrected all spelling errors for easy reading:

Thu Apr 10, 2003 8:04 am

What is the difference between Gaudiya sampradaya and Ramanuja sampradaya? Which sampradaya is useful in understanding Lord Vishnu in less time?

And the answer follows:

"Mr krishna das"
Fri Apr 11, 2003 6:34 pm


Throughout the Bharatadesa 9 different sampradayas or traditions of Vaishnavism are being followed. They areof :Sri Adisankara, SriRamanuja, Madhva, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nimbarka, Hitha Harivamsa, Vallabhacharya, Gnaneswara, Ramananda. Out of these the Srivaishnava or Ramanuja cult is oldest to the age of Alwars. The cult based on the life experiences & teachings of 12 alwars as reflected in their divine compositions in praise of Lord Vishnu viz the Divyaprabandams which was nourished by the commentaries of Acharyas of South India & propagated & administered by Acharya SriRamanuja is Ramanuja sampradaya or Srivaishnavacult. The cult gains its status through the bhashyams done by Ramanuja on Brahmasutras, Upanishads, & Bagawat Geeta.

The Gaudiya tradition is that started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that which is based on the life & teachings of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, commentaries to Vedic & Puranic literatures & compositions of His disciplic successors, viz Brindavana 6 Goswamis 7 others ,all belonging to the regions comprising Bengal, Orissa, Bihar & some parts of U.P, the area called as Gaudiya desa.

The sampradaya gained its religious & social status through the commentaries given for the three Vedantic works prasnotrathrayam by Baladeva Vidhya Bhushana. It was propagated & brought easily to the public of modern age by Bhakthi Vinoda Thakur, Bhakthisiddanda Saraswathi & Srila A.C. Bhaktivedantha Swami Prabhupada (Iskcon founder).

The difference between Ramanuja sampradaya & Gaudiya sampradaya of Mahaprabhu is that in the latter one Lord Krishna is conidered to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead & Lord Vishnu is regarded as His Amsa, whereas in Srivaisnavism Lord Vishnu is supreme & Krishna is one of His avathara. But the significance of Vishnu & Krishna is equally acknowledged in both. There are many philosophical differences between these sampradayas. But devotees may not go for those things. Devotees are free to take the path of any of the sampradayas of proper origin & good leadership Acharyaparampara of their choice since all are equally good and significant ones. Both are simple & essence of both are: true devotion to the Lord, Bhakthas, singing the Glory of the Lord & chanting His name. So both are simple and easy to be followed.



Well,.. WOW! Whether this person is/was sympathetic to IGM is unknown since he clearly doesn't know very much about traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism as a whole, but I find it remarkable that he can casually and plainly list one or two major philosophical differences between the two sampradayas and not say something mean or bitter in the slightest!

At the time I read this, I used this example as a marked contrast of how certain people/schools of Vaishnavism would react if the same question was put to them regarding their differences with other schools. Would they behave as well as this individual, explaining the differences in a calm and dispassionate way and free from any mention whatsoever of any disputes? History has sadly shown the answer to be a shameful 'no'.

There's always something to be learnt from other people. It's about time that conflict resolution (if any still exist) should be undertaken in a calm and diplomatic manner. That applies across the board; from interactions with members of other groups to relationships between individual Vaishnavas.


  • At 07 September, 2006 05:34, Blogger advaitadas said…

    As for dealing with IGM - I had good experiences with a tolerant environment as I found it in Switzerland. Where there is tolerance one can actually make friendships across the sectarian divide. Intolerant fanatics should be shunned (on both sides of the fence). Tolerance doesnt mean becoming a wishywashy who takes everyone on board, though. To those who are ready for your message you should certainly speak out boldly. A lot of our preaching in the past was merely arrogant triumphalism and some of it wasnt even philosophically sound either.

  • At 07 September, 2006 14:25, Anonymous Yadupati said…

    ...and 'across the board' also includes the followers of other religions IMHO. As Advaitadasji says fanatics should be shunned (but not abused). This raises the well known question of how tolerant we can be of intolerance.


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