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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tribalism and Absolute Authority

Bhakta - "In Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Antya Lila, chapter 9), Gopīnātha Paṭṭanāyak was saved from capital punishment by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu because he was the brother of Rāmānanda Rāya. Does this justify the favoritism among some, mostly Indian, devotees towards their families or devotees from their own region?"

Advaitadās - I am initiated in a family of acaryas so I do respect and recognize family ties, especially those of great and ancient Vaiṣṇava families, but too often really bad people are favored by major Vaiṣṇavas just  because they are from the same region or family. The story of Gopīnātha Paṭṭanāyaka should not be used for justifying this. It is said in that story [CC Antya 9.37] - rāmānanda rāyer goṣṭhi sob tomār dās - "All the family of Rāmānanda Rāya are your servants." So it was not just a question of birth - they were all devotees. When Gopīnath was led to the scaffold for execution he was chanting hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa [CC Antya 9.56]. He was not just some vagabond who happened to be someone's brother by birth. Also we are chanting before each path - panca putra sanga nāce rāy bhavānanda - "All five sons of Bhavānanda Rāya [those include Rāmānanda Rāy and Gopīnāth] dance in the kīrtan." So the redemption of Gopīnāth Paṭṭanāyak was not some type of tribal cronyism by Mahāprabhu and should also not be used to justify such tribal cronyism as happens so often in the Vaiṣṇava community."

Bhakta - "Is an ācārya always an absolute authority or can we pick and choose what to accept or reject from him?"

Advaitadās - "We must judge some acaryas intelligently, indeed. For instance, Śrīpāda Bhaktisiddhānta Saraswatī published Locan Dās Ṭhākur's Caitanya Mangal while he rejected Locan's practise of Gaur Nāgarī Bhāva. So he partly accepted and partly rejected him. Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta loved Locan's song Parama Karuṇā but also rejected Gaura Nāgari Bhāva, and even higher up, Jīva Goswāmī's svakīya vāda is not accepted by the Gauḍīya devotees, yet his other works, like the Sandarbhas, have received the status of absolute authority in the sampradāya. We need to see what is compatible with śāstra, the sampradāya and with Guru."


  1. I'm curious, what is the general opinion among traditional Gaudiyas in regard to Locana Dasa Thakura? Is it widely accepted that he practiced/advocated gaura-nagari bhava? Or, do some consider it a disproven extrapolation and dispute the claim altogether? Thanks, btw, for the post.

  2. It is widely accepted that he practised Nagari Bhava. Whether it was advocated by either him or Narahari Sarkara I am not sure. They may have been discrete about it because it was already controversial back then.