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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta, Canto 1 chapter 1

Book review

This is both a review of Gopī-prāṇadhana Dāsa's rendering of Sanātana Goswāmī's Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta and of the text itself. Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta is a very important book about the progressive stages of rasa and sambandha (relationships with God) by Śrī Sanātana Goswāmī,  appearing in 14 chapters subdivided in 2 khaṇḍas or cantos. The commentary (ṭīkā) on it was written by the selfsame Sanātana Goswāmī.  It is full of important statements that establish Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta. Overall, Gopī-prāṇadhana is a much better translator than Kuśakrath. Unfortunately, whenever he adds his own commentaries to Sanātana Goswāmī's original one, apasiddhāntas tend to creep in.

1.1.5 In the ṭīkā Sanātana Goswāmī quotes SB 10.44.13 :

puṇyā bata vraja-bhuvo yad ayaḿ nṛ-lińga
gūḍhaḥ purāṇa-puruṣo vana-citra-mālyaḥ
gāḥ pālayan saha-balaḥ kvaṇayaḿś ca veṇuḿ
vikrīdayāncati giritra-ramārcitāńghriḥ

'Blessed is this Vraja-bhumi, where the hidden Ancient Man (the original Lord) lives in a human form, moving about, adorned with a garland of sylvan flowers, herding His cows along with Bala(-rāma) and playing His flute, His feet adorned by Shiva and Lakṣmī-devī." The ladies of Mathurā (mathurā nāgarīs) see Kṛṣṇa on the streets of Mathurā and at the same time in the goṣṭha because the verse is in the present case.

1.1.11 Although Sanātana Goswāmī is Rupa Goswami's elder brother he does acknowledge Rūpa's superiority over him here, by saying priya-rūpataḥ  'I realized this through Caitanya-dev's dear Rūpa'.

1.1.12 and 53 have two self-written Christian commentaries by Gopī-prāṇadhana.  In verse 12, Gopī-prāṇadhana writes: "In general we may accept any initiated worshiper of Viṣṇu as a Vaiṣṇava, or even more liberally any monotheist....." This is not spoken by Sanātana Goswāmī, nor is it siddhānta.

In verse 1.1.53 Gopī-prāṇadhana quotes Genesis from the Bible. A Vaiṣṇava, however, is not a Christian, nor vice versa - Haribhakti Vilāsa (1.55) says:

gṛhīta-viṣṇu-dīkṣāko viṣṇu-pūjā-paro naraḥ
vaiṣṇavo’bhihito’bhijñair itaro’smad avaiṣṇavaḥ

'The learned call those human beings who took initiation into Viṣṇu-mantra and are dedicated to Viṣṇu-pūjā 'Vaiṣṇavas', while all others are Avaiṣṇavas."

A cow is an animal but not every animal is a cow. When a bird comes flying by we don't say, 'Hey, a cow comes walking by'. Similarly it is not that every concept of God is Viṣṇu - there are specifics about Viṣṇu. Nowhere in the Quran, Bible or Torah it is described that God is named Hari, Mādhava, etc, has a cloud-complexion, yellow silken cloth, Kaustubha-gem, etc. To call Jesus a Vaiṣṇava is just attachment to one's pre-devotee past. See my blog of May 29, 2009.

The entire purport of verse 53, including the non-Christian second part, is not by Sanātana Goswāmī and no philosophical claims can be made on its basis.

1.1.14, purport: "If we have confidence in this, we shall discover in Śrī Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta more than the subtle sense gratification sometimes called 'nectar' by immature devotees....."
This is Gopī-prāṇadhana's purport only and is an extreme apasiddhānta - can he quote us any ācārya and śāstra to prove this? The Bhāgavata (1.1.3) says at its very opening:

nigama kalpataror galitaṁ phalaṁ
śuka mukhād amṛta dravya samyutam
pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayam
muhur aho rasikāḥ bhuvi bhāvukāḥ

'Oh rasiks and bhāvuks of the earth! Drink the nectar of the Bhāgavat, again and again, until you reach laya (a swoon of ecstasy)! This is the ripened fruit of desire-tree of the Vedic scriptures, becoming nectar due to being touched by the beak of a parrot (the mouth of Śukadeva Muni)!"

This verse will be later quoted and explained by Sanātana Goswāmī in his commentary on Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta 1.1.21-23 below. Sanātana Goswāmī further writes in his ṭīkā of BB 2.2.98-99: śrīmat aśeṣa śobhātiśaya yuktam ataeva sarvāṇīndriyāṇi sva guṇair lābaṇya mādhuryādibhiḥ anakti sukhayatīti tathā tat. yad vā sarvān indriyāṇāṁ guṇān viṣayān añjayati tat tad viṣaya bhoga sukhaṁ saṁyojayatīti -  'He is full of ānanda and beauty. With its luster and sweetness that form and attributes immerse one's senses in an ocean of bliss, or engages all one's senses in the bliss of (transcendental) sense pleasure in all respects."
Gopī-prāṇadhana's [own] commentary continues:
"Śrīla Sanātana is a transcendental genius, an eternal resident of Goloka Vṛndāvana, and an intimate companion of the Personality of Godhead's internal pleasure potency. He can easily perceive anything he wants to, in the past, present, or future, including lost scriptures from previous ages."
This is a sweet glorification of Sanātana Goswāmī,  but there are differing opinions on how the Goswāmīs got all the śāstrik quotations in their books. Some current Vaiṣṇava Gurus claim the Goswāmīs had their own libraries instead.

1.1.21-23 Gopī-prāṇadhana mentions the Garga Saṁhitā in his purport but this is not mentioned in Sanātana Goswāmī's ṭīkā. The Garga Saṁhitā's authority is not firmly established because the Goswāmīs never quoted it. The rest of the commentary, which nicely establishes the Rāsa līlā as the essence of the Bhāgavata, is by Sanātana Goswāmī until:

"The self-realized Vaiṣṇavas must be allowed their preferences, but neophyte devotees should not cheaply imitate them. Devotees not free from faults should strictly follow the complete course of the instructions of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, from the first chapter of Canto One through the last chapter of Canto Twelve. By repeated systematic study of the entire Bhāgavatam and its authorized explanations, devotees can aspire to gradually become fit to taste the immortal nectar hidden within it."

This prudent commentary is justified to some extent, but it would leave out rāgānugā sādhakas that may have anarthas and yet have a desire to attain the feelings of the Vrajabāsīs by studying and relishing the rasa-lila. Hence, despite its good intentions and because these are not Sanātana Goswāmī's words, it cannot be accepted as siddhānta.

1.1.22, Gopī-prāṇadhana's translation: "His compassionate grace inspired the best of His pure devotees in the great effort to extract the nectar of Srimad-Bhagavatam."
Śukadeva did not need great effort as he is siddha, but the word prayatnena in this verse can also mean 'with great expertise or care'.

1.1.39-40 Verse 40 speaks of Rādhikā in relation to Kṛṣṇa, not to Mahāviṣṇu,.
Verse 40 says "Nārada, who is a relisher of the taste of devotion to the Lord, spoke the following words to reveal the dearmost devotee of the Lord." Who that dearmost devotee is, is only revealed in the ṭīkā by Sanātana Goswāmī.

1.1.44 Gopī-prāṇadhana writes in the comment: "The devotee is sorry for having foolishly rebelled against his creator." This piece of fall-vāda is nowhere in Sanātan Goswāmī's original commentary, though.

1.1.73 The word 'flowers' is not mentioned in the śloka - the trees themselves fulfill the desires.


  1. there are differing opinions on how the Goswamis got all the shastrik quotations in their books. Some current Vaisnava Gurus claim the Goswamis had their own libraries instead.

    gopa kumara purana is in their library?

  2. I am not sure I understand. Is this a joke, a question or a remark? Gopakumar is a creation of Sanatan Goswami, acting in a book which is based on shastrik siddhanta, right?

  3. Narayana Maharaja's disciples are currently working on a translation of his lectures from Hindi to English in addition to text translation of Brhad Bhagavatamrta. They are looking at all current English translations, working with native Hindi speakers, and verifying philosophical ideas with Maharaja. We can only hope that this effort does not introduce more problems.

  4. I love this book. My only quarrel was indeed that I could not figure out whether the commentary was really 100% Sanatan Gosvami´s or not. Thanks for separating the water from the milk.

    Despite that troublesome element, I think Gopipranadhana Ji did a great job. The translation flows really well and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Jai Sri Radhe!


  5. Advaitadas you will be doing people who want to understand the real teachings of Rupa-Sanatan a great service if you point out the deviations from the actual commentary of Sri Sanatan Goswami in this badly presented edition of Brhadbhagavatamrtam

    I look forward to seeing your reading of the commentary of 2.2.186

    Muralidhar das

  6. Murali, yes, 2.2.186 is my longest commentary in the whole series. It will take time before we get there, though.

  7. The problem is not that Gopiparandhana is giving his own commentary, but that he is not specifying that it is HIS commentary, distinguished from Sanatan Goswami's.

    There is no problem in contemporary vaishnavas making commentary on our acharya's commentaries, as long as it is understood who is saying what.

  8. Anon, I dont necessarily agree with this. Adhunik vyakhyas (modern commentaries) should be at least compatible with pracin vyakhyas (ancient commentaries). In my view there is no need to add to Sanatan Goswami's commentaries, especially not by persons who have an improper understanding of Gaudiya Siddhanta.

    ".....that he is not specifying that it is HIS commentary, distinguished from Sanatan Goswami's."

    Only in the 1st volume, containing canto 1, it is mentioned which commentary is by Gopipranadhan and which by Sanatan Goswami.

  9. Anyone is free to write their own commentary on anything if they want. Doesn't mean we have to waste our time reading them.

  10. "Anyone is free to write their own commentary on anything if they want. Doesn't mean we have to waste our time reading them."

    No, the point is that a book is published in the name of a nitya siddha apostle of Sri Caitanya and someone is mixing sand with the rasagulla by mixing his own flawed ideas into it. If we can sift them out, it is like sifting the sand out of gold, like in the goldrush days. The gold remains. But better it would be still if someone would just translate Sanatan Goswami's work without adding or subtracting......

  11. Having said that, rest assured this serial review will not be a witch-hunt on Gopipranadhan. He gets a fair trial. Most of his work is just fine.

  12. Thank you so much for this series of reviews.


    1.1.14 Is the commentary all Gopiparandhana's?

    1.1.38 I see no mention of Mahavishnu.

    1.1.40 You're saying that instead of "Narada proclaimed this openly to all, beside himself with eagerness for devotional service to Lord Krsna" the text should read: "Narada, who is a relisher of the taste of devotion to the Lord, spoke the following words to reveal the dearmost devotee of the Lord."?

    1.1.44 Is any of the commentary Sanatana Goswami's?

    Thank you again.

    Your servant,
    Satya devi dasi

  13. Satya,
    Do you have the original book? 1.1.14 From "Janamejaya addresses' onwards the purport is by Sanatan Goswami. Everything else is by GPD.
    1.1.38 should be 39, sorry. It will be edited out.
    1.1.40 Yes, reveal to all the people [loke vikhyApayan].
    1.1.44 no, nothing. 1.1.43-44 are a yugmakam actually, a double-verse. 44's tika says: ahaM kaH - Who am I? bhagavad prAptyAdau katamo bhaveyam 'How many attain the Lord?' api tu na ko'pi But even there is no one. yato varAkaH parama tucchaH tad evAha - dAtum ityAdinA 'I am the most insignificant. What can I give?'

  14. This tika of 1.1.44 is so wonderful, he is answering the questions in the text with such humility. Thank you.