Question: Who are the ācāryas we take as final authorities to settle differing opinions?
Answer: Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the propounder of our sampradāya. Therefore, Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the ultimate authority. But He did not write any philosophical works, as is seen in the case of the propounders of other sampradāyas, such as Śrī Rāmānujācārya. However, he personally instructed Rūpa Gosvāmī, and Sanātana Gosvāmī who wrote many books on the basis of His instructions. Therefore, they are our original authorities. Closely following them is Śrī Gopala Bhaṭṭ Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī and then Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. What they say is the siddhānta because they are the ones who had the direct link to Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī did not personally meet Caitanya Mahāprabhu but he is the direct disciple of Śrī Rupa Gosvāmī, besides being his nephew. Anyone who is aligned with them, such as ŚrI Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja, is accepted as authority.
Question: So, based on this statement, how are we to accommodate the fact that none of the six Gosvāmīs said that there is a Gaura-aprakaṭa-līlā? Because sādhus like Gopāla Guru, Dhyānacandra, Viśvanātha Cakravartī, and so on did indeed say that, but as far as my knowledge goes, I don’t know of any direct statement from the six Gosvāmīs about this point. And in that regard, I know devotees from, for example, the Advaita Parivāra, who state that according to abhāva-pramāṇa it is proven that there is no Gaura-aprakaṭa-līlā. So, I would like to know your opinion in this regard. Do you consider the Gosvāmī-grantha as our ultimate pramāṇa, and how do we establish the eternality of Gaura-aprakaṭa-līlā, if they didn’t openly speak about it?
Answer: Rūpa, Sanātana, Jīva Gosvāmīs did not write on Gaura-līlā—prakaṭa or aprakaṭa. They did compose some verses in praise of Caitanya Mahāprabhu but did not specifically write any book describing His līlā. But we know from their writings that all avatāras, such as Rāma, have their spiritual abode. The word avatāra means descent, which signifies that He descends into the material world. That is possible if He is already present in the spiritual world. In numerous salutary verses, Mahāprabhu is also acknowledged as avatāra by the Gosvāmīs. So, He must have His own abode, otherwise, the word avatāra would be misleading or meaningless.
One logic that Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī gives about the eternality of Kṛṣṇa, His associates, and abode is that Kṛṣṇa is described as worshipable, i.e., as an object of achievement. Anything that is not eternal cannot be the goal of worship. You attain whom you worship. This is also stated in the Bhagavad Gītā (9.25). The Gosvāmīs accept Mahāprabhu as an object of worship or the ultimate object of achievement. So, He must have an eternal abode. Otherwise, all prescriptions to worship Him, chant His name, and meditate on Him would be futile. One may object that devas like Indra are also stated as worshipable. But they are prescribed as objects of worship for material gain. Nowhere it is prescribed to worship them to attain mukti or a final destination.
The Veda is the supreme authority. But there are many things that are not clearly explained in the Vedas. We understand those topics from the Purāṇas and Itihāsas. Similarly, things that are not clearly explained by the six Gosvāmīs are understood from the writings of later ācāryas like Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda. When I say that Rūpa, Sanāntana, and the other Gosvāmīs are the pramāṇa, I mean anything that they say or that matches with what they say is acceptable. Anything that contradicts them is not acceptable. So if later ācāryas like Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda say that Gaura has a prakaṭa–līlā, then it is acceptable because it does not contradict our original ācāryas and moreover, it is in line with their writings in relation to other avatāras.
What is abhāva-pramāṇa? I have never heard of such a pramāṇa. So I am not clear what is really meant by it. I know that Pūrva-mīmāṁsā and Advaita-Vedanta accept anupalabdhi pramāṇa. However, the way you have used it is not a pramāṇa. The Gosvāmīs hardly wrote about Gaura–prakaṭa–līlā. Then by abhāva-pramāṇa, I should reject Gaura–prakaṭa–līlā also. It is like saying that because I do not see Kṛṣṇa (abhāva), there is no Kṛṣṇa. This is applicable only to those things that are objects of our sense perception. For example, if I do not see a book on the table, then because of non-perception of a book, I understand that there is non-existence of the book on the table. But I cannot apply the same process to something that is imperceptible to the eyes. For example, I do not see air in my room, so I cannot conclude that there is no air. This is because air is not perceptible to the eyes.
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