A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of gleanings from the caitanya-caritamrita: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fourth part in the series called the “caitanya and his followers”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 4 - Gleanings from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta

(... on the subject of Caitanya’s Philosophical Views)

Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, otherwise known as Kavirāja Gosvāmī, was not a contemporary of Caitanya; but he came into contact with many of his important followers and it may well be assumed that he was in possession of the traditional account of the episodes of Caitanya’s life as current among them. He gives us an account of Vāsudeva Sārvabhauma’s discussion with Caitanya at Puri, in which the latter tried to refute the monistic view. The supposed conversation shows that, according to Caitanya, Brahman cannot be indeterminate (nirviśeṣa); any attempt to prove the indeterminateness of Brahman would only go the other way, prove His determinate nature and establish the fact that He possesses all possible powers. These powers are threefold in their nature: the Viṣṇu-śakti, the kṣetrajña-śakti, and the avidyā-śakti. The first power, as Viṣṇu-śakti, may further be considered from three points of view, the hlādinī, saudhinī and samvit. These three powers, bliss, being, and consciousness, are held together in the transcendent power (parā-śakti or Viṣṇu-śakti) of God. The kṣetrajña-śakti or jīva-śakti (the power of God as souls of individuals) and the avidyā-śakti (by which the world-appearances are created) do not exist in the transcendent sphere of God. The Brahman is indeed devoid of all prākṛta or phenomenal qualities, but He is indeed full of non-phenomenal qualities. It is from this point of view that the Upaniṣads have described Brahman as nirguṇa (devoid of qualities) and also as devoid of all powers (niḥśaktika). The individual souls are within the control of māyā-śakti ; but God is the controller of the māyā-śakti and through it of the individual souls. God creates the world by His unthinkable powers and yet remains unchanged within Himself. The world thus is not false; but, being a creation, it is destructible. The Śaṅkarite interpretation of the Brahma-sūtra is wrong and is not in consonance with the purport of the Upaniṣads.

In chapter viii of the Madhya-lilā of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta we have the famous dialogue between Caitanya and Rāmānanda regarding the gradual superiority of the ideal of love. Rāmānanda says that devotion to God comes as the result of the performance of caste-duties. We may note here that according to the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu bhakti consists in attaching oneself to Kṛṣṇa for His satisfaction alone, without being in any way influenced by the desire for philosophic knowledge, karma or disinclination from worldly things (vairāgya), and without being associated with any desire for one’s own interests[1].

The Viṣṇu-purāṇa, as quoted in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, holds the view that it is by the performance of caste-duties and āśrama- duties that God can be worshipped. But the point is whether such performance of caste-duties and āśrama- duties can lead one to the attainment of bhakti or not. If bhakti means the service of God for His sake alone (ānukūlyena Kṛṣṇānusevanam), then the performance of caste-duties cannot be regarded as a necessary step towards its attainment; the only contribution that it may make can be the purification of mind, whereby the mind may be made fit to receive the grace of God. Caitanya, not satisfied with the reply of Rāmānanda, urges him to give a better account of bhakti. Rāmānanda in reply says that a still better state is that in which the devotee renounces all his interests in favour of God in all his performance of duties; but there is a still higher state in which one renounces all his duties through love of God. Unless one can renounce all thoughts about one’s own advantage, one cannot proceed in the path of love. The next higher stage is that in which devotion is impregnated with knowledge. Pure devotion should not have, however, any of the obstructive influences of knowledge; philosophical knowledge and mere disinclination obstruct the course of bhakti. Knowledge of God’s nature and wisdom regarding the nature of the intimate relation of man with God may be regarded as unobstructive to bhakti.

The natural and inalienable attachment of our mind to God is called prema-bhakti: it is fivefold:

  1. śānta (peaceful love),
  2. dāsya (servant of God),
  3. sakhya (friendship with God),
  4. vātsalya (filial attitude towards God),
  5. and mādhurya (sweet love, or love of God as one’s lover).

The different types of love may thus be arranged as above in a hierarchy of superiority; love of God as one’s bridegroom or lover is indeed the highest. The love of the gopīs for Kṛṣṇa in the love-stories of Kṛṣṇa in Bṛndāvana typifies this highest form of love and particularly the love of Rādhā for Kṛṣṇa. Rāmānanda closes his discourse with the assertion that in the highest altitude of love, the lover and the beloved melt together into one, and through them both one unique manifestation of love realizes itself. Love attains its highest pitch when both the lover and the beloved lose their individuality in the sweet milky flow of love.

Later on, in Madhya-līlā, chapter XXIX, Caitanya, in describing the nature of śuddhā bhakti (pure devotion), says that pure devotion is that in which the devotee renounces all desires, all formal worship, all knowledge and work, and is attached to Kṛṣṇa with all his sense-faculties. A true devotee does not want anything from God, but is satisfied only in loving Him. It shows the same symptoms as ordinary human love, rising to the highest pitch of excellence.

In chapter XXII of Madhya-līlā it is said that the difference in intensity of devotion depends upon the difference of the depth of emotion. One who is devoted to Kṛṣṇa must possess preliminary moral qualities; he must be kind, truthful, equable to all, non-injurious, magnanimous, tender, pure, selfless, at peace with himself and with others; he must do good to others, must cling to Kṛṣṇa as his only support, must indulge in no other desires, must make no other effort than that of worshipping Kṛṣṇa, must be steady, must be in full control of all his passions; he should not be unmindful, should be always prepared to honour others, be full of humility and prepared to bear with fortitude all sorrows; he should indulge in association with true devotees—it is by such a course that love of Kṛṣṇa will gradually dawn in him. A true Vaiṣṇava should give up the company of women and of all those who are not attached to Kṛṣṇa. He should also give up caste-duties and āśrama-duties and cling to Kṛṣṇa in a helpless manner. To cling to Kṛṣṇa and to give oneself up to Him is the supreme duty of a Vaiṣṇava. Love of Kṛṣṇa is innate in a man’s heart, and it is manifested under encouraging conditions. Love for God is a manifestation of the hlādinī power of God, and by virtue of the fact that it forms a constituent of the individual soul, God’s attraction of individual souls towards Him is a fundamental fact of human life; it may remain dormant for a while, but it is bound to wake under suitable conditions.

The individual souls share both the hlādinī and the samvit śakti of God, and the māyā-śakti typified in matter. Standing between these two groups of power, the individual souls are called the tatastha-śakti. A soul is impelled on one side by material forces and attractions, and urged upwards by the hlādinī-śakti of God. A man must therefore adopt such a course that the force of material attractions and desires may gradually wane, so that he may be pulled forward by the hlādinī-śakti of God.

Footnotes and references:


anyābhilāṣitāśūnyaṃ jñāna-karmāḍy-anāvṛtam.
ānukūlyena Kṛṣṇānusevanaṃ bḥaktiruttamā.
, I. 1. 9.

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