WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8404

Date uploaded in London – – – 26 July 2020   

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GAUDIYA VAISHNAVISM : Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

Here it will be useful to understand a bit of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

– It started in the 15th Century with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Bengal- (Gauda desa)-Orissa.

–  Though they claim lineage from the tradition of Madhvacharya, they follow a new system of philosophy. Against the standard divisions of Indian philosophy into Advaita (Sankara), Dvaita ( Madhva)  and Visishtadvaita, (Ramanuja) Gaudiyas follow their own system called Achintya Bhedabhedam. It holds that while Brahman is One, it has also become the many in the world, without losing its Oneness. [ oneness in difference] The world is also real. This is something which the mind cannot comprehend (hence achintya)

–  Theologically also, they differ from other Vaishnavas. For them, Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead ( Bhagavan) – not Narayana or Vishnu.[This is based on the statement : “Krishnas tu Bhagavan Swayam”- Srimad Bhagavatam:1.3.28]. All other Avatars- including Narayana and Vishnu- are expressions of Krishna.

 Lord Krishna is Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. [Bhagavatam: 1.2.11]

– Radha is the Bliss aspect of Krishna- Hladini Shakti- and hence inseparable from Krishna.

-While Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not write anything except just 8 verses,(Sikshashtakam), he instructed and authorised the other Goswamis- , Rupa, Sanatana and Jiva- to develop  their theology and philosophy. And they have done a splendid job, followed by others after them.

– Bhakti is the Supreme path and also the Goal. It is not just a path to Liberation, but above Liberation. 

– Their Maha Mantra is:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

– In the Kali Age, group chanting- Sankirtan – of the Maha mantra and other glories of Krishna is the only way to spiritual liberation. Other methods and practices are not effective..

– It is these Goswamis along with three others who stayed in Vrindavana and identified and restored all the sacred  spots connected with Krishna in the Vraja bhumi.  

Srila Prabhupada represented this tradition truthfully and forcefully without any deviations.


Unlike the other Indian swamis and gurus who go abroad, (and against orthodox tradition) Prabhupada did not hesitate to formally initiate Westerners into the Gaudiya tradition- without starting anything new in his own name. Perhaps such a thing has not happened in the history of Hinduism in the last 2000 years. (The Greeks who came with and after Alexander and remained in India had been absorbed as Hindus)

Prabhupada always glorified his tradition and previous authorities and did not claim any credit on his own. 

Way To Krishna Consciousness

He simplified matters for initiation and only stressed the essentials. He had a magic formula:

3X4 = Krishna Consciousness.

He stressed 3 fundamental disciplines in his followers, each consisting of four sets of understanding/activity.:

Prabhupada openly and forcefully pointed out that:





– these four activities are common to all animals. What distinguishes man is to rise above this, animal level.  Krishna Consciousness is the way.

Krishna Consciousness is fostered by:

– avoiding  meat eating

-avoiding  intoxicating drinks or drugs

– avoiding gambling

– avoiding illicit sex ( sex only within marriage and for puposes of procreation)

He insisted on his followers strictly following these four observances.

To promote/imbibe Krishna Consciousness, one should:

–  Chant the Maha Mantra the required number of times daily

– Worship the Deity in the prescribed way

– Eat only Prasadam, which is Krishna’s mercy, not just consecrated food

– Engage in holy discussions about Krishna and his pastimes, and study of spiritual literature.

It speaks of the tremendous courage and conviction of Prabhupada to make such open  assertions in America which was the mighty fort of rank materialism. He told people boldly, without mincing words, that man was not merely the body, but a spirit soul. He told them that they were immersed in materialism, which only glorified the body, confining them to the animal level. But this left them dissatisfied and frustrated. 

  In the America of the 60s there was extreme unrest among youngsters. They were dissatisfied with life in the mainstream, dry academic  studies, they were against the Vietnam war. They were experimenting with drugs, booze, free-sex and many things in the name of meditation. They were experimenting with music.  There were such movements as Hippies. Prabhupada talked boldly against their civilization. He accepted youngsters coming from all such backgrounds, even Hippies into his fold. And he spoke to them directly about Krishna Consciousness! He  called his community “Happies”.

In all this, Prabhupada was motivated by genuine compassion, he had no hatred. He sincerely wanted to help them rise above mere material preoccupations and taste genuine happiness based on transcendental truth. He offered Krishna Consciousness as the source of real happiness.


Prabhupada understood that the dissatisfaction of these youngsters was basically a yearning for genuine spirituality, which they did not understand. Prabhupada’s message -Chanting in Kirtan clothed in melodious, uncommon music had instant appeal, and it made these young people chant and dance in ecstasy. But Prabhupada was also eager to teach them proper Vaishnava forms and theology. He said that the remedy for the disease of material dissatisfaction was not more of the same material offerings, but a higher transcendental consciousness. He  offered Krishna Consciousness as the solution.

One point repeatedly stressed by Prabhupada was that a sincere aspirant for true spiritual life must take proper instruction or  initiation from a  qualified teacher who belonged to a valid line of approved teachers- a traditional parampara. This he called ‘disciplic succession’. He would proudly tell that his own Chaitanya parampara was such an authentic tradition, which carried on the original teaching of Krishna through Narada, Vyasa, Sukha and others without dilution or alteration. Such a teacher not only represented theoretical knowledge but the accumulated wisdom of centuries of continuous practice and carried a certain authority. Only such teachers were bonafide.

This idea of disciplic succession is important especially in these times when new organizations and groups are springing up everywhere and new interpretations are thrust on old scriptures. Most academic writers on religious subjects lack genuine sympathy or interest in the subject and do not practice any discipline. They lack direct experience. A traditional teacher practices some discipline according to their system and is thus endowed with some authority. We can see the difference even in mundane matters- as between one who merely lectures on law, and one who actually practices in court.  Prabhupada was actually addressing youngsters in Americawhich was infested by so many new movements in the 60s. It so happened that almost all those movements have fizzled out. Hare Krishna has survived, spread and flourished!


Prabhupada did not mince words. He was a consistent, trenchant and uncompromising critic of modern civilization. He boldly called modern civilization demonic.It was totally devoted to the glorification and gratification of the body, but it failed even in that. It was pursuing sensation in the name of happiness, but ended in frustration. It had neglected the spirit. He pointed out that it had reduced human beings to the level of “hogs and dogs”.  It had uprooted human values, destroyed family traditions and finally posed a threat to the future of humanity and its very survival.

Stance against materialist science

He severely criticised scientists for their materialist views. Noting that they have reduced the human body to a few constituent elements and chemicals, he challenged them to produce one human body with these chemicals on their own. He boldly declared that Life came from Life! He criticised the Darwinian theory of evolution and challenged them to account for consciousness in terms of their theory. He did not hesitate to call such scientists who promoted materialism, rascals and their system , rascaldom!

While he did not engage in criticism of other religions, he did not shirk from debate. His one question to Christians was: why did they engage in killing innocent animals and maintained slaughter houses when the Bible said “Thou Shalt Not Kill?” No one Christian representative was able to answer this question. 

                                ***                      to be continued


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