Brahma Sampradaya Tattva


Paramatma: Inconceivable Oneness and Difference
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Oct 30, CANADA (SUN) — A study of the Brahma, Laksmi, Siva, and Kumara Vaisnava Sampradayas, and the Mayavada School.

Lord Caitanya's Tattva - Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the doctrine of Sri Madhvacarya, while at the same time recognizing certain important aspects contained in the tattva of the other three Vaisnava sampradayas. Lord Caitanya brought these teachings together in the perfection of prema dharma.

Lord Caitanya's own words, as quoted by Sri Jiva Goswami:

    "From Madhva I will take two essential teachings: his complete rejection and defeat of the Mayavadi philosophy and his service to the deity of Krishna, accepting Him as an eternal spiritual personality.

    From Ramanuja, I will accept two teachings: the concept of devotional service, unpolluted by karma and jnana, and service to the devotees.

    From Vishnuswami's teachings I will accept two elements: the sentiment of exclusive dependence on Krishna and the path of raga-marga, or spontaneous devotion.

    From Nimbarka, I will take two very important principles: the necessity of taking shelter of Srimati Radharani and the high esteem of the gopi's love for Krishna."

"Lord Caitanya instructed the mass of people in the sankhya philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which maintains that the Supreme Lord is simultaneously one with and different from His creation. Lord Caitanya taught this philosophy through the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. He taught that the holy name of the Lord is the sound incarnation of the Lord and that since the Lord is the absolute whole, there is no difference between His holy name and His transcendental form. Thus by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can directly associate with the Supreme Lord by sound vibration. As one practices this sound vibration, one passes through three stages of development: the offensive stage, the clearing stage and the transcendental stage. In the offensive stage one may desire all kinds of material happiness, but in the second stage one becomes clear of all material contamination. When one is situated on the transcendental stage, one attains the most coveted position--the stage of loving God. Lord Caitanya taught that this is the highest stage of perfection for human beings."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi lila, Preface

"....The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who emanates the material and spiritual worlds, is the Supreme Spirit. As an individual spirit soul is almost identical to his gross and subtle bodies, so the Supreme Lord is almost identical to the material and spiritual worlds. The material world, full of conditioned souls trying to lord it over matter, is a manifestation of the external energy of the Supreme Lord, and the spiritual world, full of perfect servitors of the Lord, is a manifestation of His internal energy. Since all living entities are minute sparks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is the Supreme Soul in both the material and spiritual worlds. The Vaisnavas following Lord Caitanya stress the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which states that the Supreme Lord, being the cause and effect of everything, is inconceivably, simultaneously one with His manifestations of energy and different from them."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi lila 2:37

"....We Gaudiya Vaisnava follow Srila Ramanuja's philosophy almost in the same manner. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gives the identification of jiva soul as the eternal servant of Krishna and is situated as marginal potency of the Lord based on the philosophy of acintya-bheda bheda-tattva. This is almost similar to Visistadvaita vada. Vaisnava philosophy is now being pushed on all over the world under the Hare Krishna movement, and we feel Sripada Ramanuja a great support for the Vaisnava philosophical understanding. It is like a combination of nyaya sruti and smrti prasthans. The Bhagavad-gita supports the Vedanta Sutra brahma-sutra-padais caiva. hetumadbhir viniscitaih. (BG. 13:5.)

To the jiva brahma identification is one part of acintya-bheda bheda-tattva. As spirit soul or identical brahma, or jiva brahma is identical with the Supreme Brahma or the param brahma. In this sense jiva soul is avheda or non-different from the param brahma. But on account of the param brahma being the supreme, the biggest, the identical brahma or jiva brahma being very minute, it is different from the param brahma. The summary is that the simultaneous one and different jiva brahma is simultaneously one with and different from the param brahma. Because it is appreciated simultaneously which is very difficult to comprehend by the common man, this philosophy is called acintya-bheda bheda tattva, inconceivable. This is supported by the Katho Upanisad 2.5.13 nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. This is almost similar to the visista-dvaita vada.

So far I am personally concerned, following the footsteps of my guru maharaj Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, we accept the principles of all the acaryas, although officially we belong to the Madhva sampradaya. Our sampradaya is known as the Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya. We find great shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Ramanujacarya because his lotus feet are the strongest fort to combat the mayavadi philosophy."

Srila Prabhupada Letter to V.S.R. Chakravarti, 11-24-74

The Tattva-vadis

Raghavendra Swami, Madhava Tattva-Vadi Proponent

"The only qualification that I see in your sampradaya is that you accept the form of the Lord as truth."

"Purport: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to point out to the Tattvavadi acarya, who belonged to the Madhvacarya-sampradaya, that the general behavior of the Tattvavadis did not favor pure devotional service, which must be devoid of the taints of fruitive activity and speculative knowledge. As far as fruitive activity is concerned, the contamination is the desire for elevation to a higher standard of life, and for speculative knowledge the contamination is the desire to merge into the existence of the Absolute Truth. The Tattvavada-sampradaya of the Madhvacarya school sticks to the principle of varnasrama-dharma, which involves fruitive activity. Their ultimate goal (mukti) is simply a form of material desire. A pure devotee should be free from all kinds of material desire. He simply engages in the service of the Lord. Nonetheless, Caitanya Mahaprabhu was pleased that the Madhvacarya-sampradaya, or the Tattvavada-sampradaya, accepted the transcendental form of the Lord. This is the great qualification of the Vaisnava sampradayas.

It is the Mayavada-sampradaya that does not accept the transcendental form of the Lord. If a Vaisnava sampradaya is also carried away by that impersonal attitude, that sampradaya has no position at all. It is a fact that there are many so-called Vaisnavas whose ultimate aim is to merge into the existence of the Lord. For example, the sahajiyas' Vaisnava philosophy is to become one with the Supreme. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu points out that Sri Madhavendra Puri accepted Madhvacarya only because his sampradaya accepted the transcendental form of the Lord."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Madyam lila 9:277

"At the time, all the South Indian Vaisnavas were worshipers of Lord Ramacandra. Some were Tattvavadis, and some were followers of Ramanujacarya."

Purport: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura points out that the word "Tattvavadi" refers to the followers of Srila Madhvacarya. To distinguish his disciplic succession from the Mayavadi followers of Sankaracarya, Srila Madhvacarya named his party the Tattvavadis. Impersonal monists are always attacked by these Tattvavadis, who attempt to defeat their philosophy of impersonalism. Generally, they establish the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Actually the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya is known as the Brahma Vaisnava sect; that is the sect coming down from Lord Brahma. Consequently the Tattvavadis, or followers of Madhvacarya, do not accept the incident of Lord Brahma's illusion, which is recorded in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srila Madhvacarya has purposefully avoided commenting on that portion of Srimad-Bhagavatam in which brahma-mohana, the illusion of Lord Brahma, is mentioned. Srila Madhavendra Puri was one of the acaryas in the Tattvavada disciplic succession, and he established the ultimate goal of transcendentalism to be attainment of pure devotional service, love of Godhead. Those Vaisnavas belonging to the Gaudiya-sampradaya, the disciplic succession following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, are distinct from the Tattvavadis, although they belong to the same Tattvavada-sampradaya. The followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are therefore known as the Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya.

The word pasandi refers to those who are opposed to pure devotional service. In particular, these are the Mayavadis, the impersonalists. A definition of pasandi is given in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa (1.73), wherein it is stated:

yas tu narayanam devam
samatvenaiva vikseta
sa pasandi bhaved dhruvam

A pasandi is one who thinks that the Supreme Lord Narayana, the Personality of Godhead, is on the same level with the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma and Lord Siva. The devotee never considers Lord Narayana to be on the same platform with Lord Brahma and Lord Siva. The Madhvacarya-sampradaya and Ramanuja-sampradaya are mainly worshipers of Lord Ramacandra, although the Sri Vaisnavas are supposed to be worshipers of Lord Narayana and Laksmi and the Tattvavadis are supposed to be worshipers of Lord Krsna. At present, in most of the monasteries belonging to the Madhva-sampradaya, Lord Ramacandra is worshiped.

In the book known as Adhyatma-ramayana, there are statements in Chapters Twelve to Fifteen about the worship of the Deities Sri Ramacandra and Sita. There it is stated that during Lord Ramacandra's time there was a brahmana who took a vow to fast until he saw Lord Ramacandra. Sometimes, due to business, Lord Ramacandra was absent from His capital for a full week and could not be seen by citizens during that time. Because of his vow, the brahmana could not take even a drop of water during that week. Later, after eight or nine days, when the brahmana could see Lord Ramacandra personally, he would break his fast. Upon observing the brahmana's rigid vow, Lord Sri Ramacandra ordered His younger brother Laksmana to deliver a pair of Sita-Rama Deities to the brahmana. The brahmana received the Deities from Sri Laksmanaji and worshiped Them faithfully as long as he lived. At the time of his death, he delivered the Deities to Sri Hanumanji, who, for many years, hung Them around his neck and served Them with all devotion. After many years, when Hanumanji departed on the hill known as Gandha-madana, he delivered the Deities to Bhimasena, one of the Pandavas, and Bhimasena brought Them to his palace, where he kept Them very carefully. The last king of the Pandavas, Ksemakanta, worshiped the Deities in that palace. Later, the same Deities were kept in the custody of the kings of Orissa known as Gajapatis. One of the acaryas, known as Narahari Tirtha, who was in the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya, received these Deities from the King of Orissa.

It may be noted that these particular Deities of Rama and Sita have been worshiped from the time of King Iksvaku. Indeed, they were worshiped by the royal princes even before the appearance of Lord Ramacandra. Later, during Lord Ramacandra's presence, the Deities were worshiped by Laksmana. It is said that just three months before his disappearance, Sri Madhvacarya received these Deities and installed them in the Udupi temple. Since then the Deities have been worshiped by the Madhvacarya-sampradaya at that monastery. As far as the Sri Vaisnavas are concerned, beginning with Ramanujacarya, they also worshiped Deities of Sita-Rama. Sita-Rama Deities are also being worshiped in Tirupati and other places. From the Sri Ramanuja-sampradaya there is another branch known as Ramanandi or Ramat, and the followers of that branch also worship Deities of Sita-Rama very rigidly. The Ramanuja-sampradaya Vaisnavas prefer the worship of Lord Ramacandra to that of Radha-Krsna."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Madyam lila 9:11

Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.


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