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Monday, January 29, 2007

bhedābheda - Oneness and difference

On his "Vraja Journal"- Blog Madhavananda Das writes the following:

"You are a free spirit: You belong to where your heart belongs to, and there alone do you belong. Beyond that, no-one can lay any claims on you that would have any substantial spiritual bearing. I remember someone coming to me once and asking whether I was a devotee of ISKCON or a devotee of Gaudiya Math. He was rather dumbstruck when I politely explained that we were devotees of Krishna. Cultivate this understanding as the essence of your life, as all other concepts of belonging will yield you nothing but grief in the end. These superficial impositions are nothing but obstacles in bhajana. It would be better to burn all mathas to ashes if that's what it takes for people to get back to the essence of bhakti and rid themselves of the countless upadhis, the phantom identities they are fondly embracing. "

While on the one hand I wholeheartedly agree, I do believe it is not that simple. There is simultaneous oneness and difference in everything and so also with the perceived divisions in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya. Sādhu Bābā elaborately and strongly stressed the differences in sādhana and siddhānta between the Advaita Parivāra and the other parivāras, let alone with Iskcon and the Gaudiya Math. It is important to stand up and be counted as the convinced follower of one's own Guru and his distinct philosophy, it nourishes bhakti. śrī guru caraṇe rati ei se uttama gati. Having said all that, all branches of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya agree for about 95% on the sādhana and siddhānta, and when we face common opponents like jñānīs or karmīs we stand shoulder to shoulder. It is true that in the past I myself stressed the bheda (difference) more than the abheda (oneness) and would absolutely not associate with members of this or that camp, but a few years ago I left that narrow attitude behind - I now dance in ecstasy in Iskcon's famous powerful kīrtans, have friends in the different Gauḍīya Maṭh-branches, or may listen to the philosophical lectures of Satya Nārāyan Paṇḍit or the rasika lectures of Ananta Dās Paṇḍit. Still I maintain my distinct convictions within the heart, and will preach them whenever possible. That is acintya bhedābheda philosophy in practise.


  1. I appreciate your balanced perspective.

    I hope that in the future various Gaudiya camps will be able to emphasize more of what we have in common, and will be a bit softer when discussing our differences.

  2. Both your comments, Madhavananda's and yours, should be engraved at every frontdoor or entrance-gate at every single Gaudiya temple or math.

    Symbolically speaking...