Malolan Cadambi mcadambi at YAHOO.COM
Mon Jan 21 01:55:14 CST 2002

srimathe nArAyanAya namaha

Dear Advaita-L Members,

Upon further consultation with a visisthadvaita scholar in Chennai, I will now write on the philosophical differences between Shri Vaishnavas and Gaudiya Vaishnavas (ISKCON). The views presented here are strictly from a visisthadvaita point of view, although i am highly interested in learning what the advaita sampradaya has to say about this. There is an excellent position paper written about the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya from a Dvaita point of view. This can be viewed at: http://www.dvaita.org/shaastra/iskcon.shtml

This Article is a bit long, and it helps if one has a little knowledge of Sanskrit (although not absolutely required).

For straters, ISKCON considers Krishnaa to be the principal bhagavaan and that all others (including Naarayana, Rama and Narasimha) to be only Amsa avataaras of Krishna. Krishna, according to ISKCON, is consider the "supreme personality of godhead". This kind of classification is in direct contradiction to the Shruti, Smruthis and pancharaatra agamas. It stems from a mis-understanding of tarka sastras (logic) and nyAyam (analogy) used extensively to understand the Shurthis and Smruthis. 

ISKCON gives principle importance to Prabhupaadas's purport of Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita, over the Shrutis and the Brahma Sootram.
The bone of the contention comes in the interpretation of the following verse from Srimad Bhagavatam:

"ete ca amsha kalaaH pumsaH kR^shhNaH tu bhagavaan svayam | 
indra-ari vyaakulam lokam mR^Dayanti yuge yuge || "[1.3.28] 

Translation by Sri A.C.BhaktivEdAnta swAmi : 
"All of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord shrii Krishnaa is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists." 

According to Gaudiya Vaishnavas(ISKCON), Krishnaa (the form with a flute, two handed, as a child, etc) is considered as the Supreme and Original form of God Head. All other avataaras (including Naarayana, Rama and Narasimha) are only consider as amshas. 

Now, please consider the following verse from the Maha-nArAyanOpanishad. (This is just an example of the contradictions given my the purport of the above sloka of Prabhupada to the vAkhyams of the Shruthi and Smruthi).

For instance, MahOpanishad (1.1) says " yekO ha vai nArAyaNa aasIt" 
 { "Only nArAyaNA existed (in the beginning ie. during praLayam) }". ( This is however a visisthadvaita interpretation. I do realise there is a difference in the advaita sampradaya).

Obvisouly, the Srimad Bhagavatam  being only secondary in it's pramAna status and enjyoing only derivative authority from the vedas, cannot contradict the vedas. Here, tarka sastras, vyAkarna and nyaya sastras are employed to understand the purport.

Here i quote the scholar as he wrote in his article itself:

"The answer to the question lies in the "chatri nyAyam" used in sanskrit. It is described as follows : "chatrinO gacchanti" => a group of people having umbrellAs are going. Actually, not everyone in that group needs to hold an umbrellA. This usage, though addresses the group as a whole, it doesn't convey that everyone in that group has an umbrella. Thus, according to "chatri nyAyam", eventhough the adressing be done to the whole group, as if everyone has the same characteristic (eg: holding the umbrella), still, it needn't convey that _everyone_ in that group has that characteristic ie. the intention is to just refer to those who actually posses that characteristic (holding an umbrella), though adressing is done to the whole group as such. 

Lets see how "chatri nyAyam" is employed in this verse (1.3.28). All avatArams of the type NrusimhA , RAmA are Poorna avatArams only, since they are taken by the same person nArAyaNA. Eventhough all the poorna avatArms ( no umbrellA) seems to be grouped with that of many other avatArams (anupravesA / amsAvatAra etc; with umbrellA ) by the word "ete", its actual import from the application of "chatri nyAyam" is that the word "ete" refers only to the amsa avatArams (with umbrella). So, the comparison of KrishNAvatAram is strictly not with _all_ the avatArams that has been listed before, but only with other amsa avatArams. The word "ete", though addresses the whole group of avatArams that has been listed so far, the intention is to refer to only those avatArams that are 
amsAvatArams (with umbrella). If one fails to recognize the "chatri nyAyam " employed, it leads him/her into a contradiction ."

Logically speaking, there simply *cannot* be any contradiction between Srimad Bhagavatam and the mahA-nArAyanOpanishad or as a matter of fact with any other Shruthi.

Let us dwell now on the Circumstances which lead  Sukabrahman to utter the verse "krshnAstu bhagavAn swayam". I further expand this email by directly quoting from the author's orginal post. (I had previously corresponded with the author and, it was the author's request that i maintain the authorship of the original post in private). The author granted me permission to reproduce the original article in an edited format for the sake of discussions over the list. If you wish to get in touch with the author or want more information, please feel free to email me. I shall be blessed to forward your correspondence to the author.

Begin Quote:

The next issue is to whether his can be further explained in the light of the "context" in which Sage sUtar uttered this verse ? 

Actually , the sages were very eager to know about many things . First of all , they payed their salutations to Sage sUtar who was a great rishi having immense knowledge and the fruit of that knowledge viz. ardent devotion unto Sriman nArAyaNA. Sage sUtar was in such a position because he did lot of kainkaryams to his achAryA and got his blessings (in form of kAlakshebams etc). Since the katAkshA of a sadAchAryA fell unto Sage sUtar , he could understand all the imports of the vedAs correctly and easily ( All these things are in a way told by the sages themselves to Sage sUtar while glorifying him) 

 Sages told Sage sUtar that , since the kali yugA will be filled with people who have mandha buddhi (lack of spiritual knowledge ) & short life, lack of aisvaryam etc & will be immersed in samsArA (materialistic pleasures) , the upadesam of the sAram (essence) of scriptures needs to be done (ie. Kali yugA people have mandha buddhi => perform lot of speculations instead of understanding the tattvA properly under the guidance of a "sadAchAryA " => they can't understand the 
 essence of vedAs ). They wanted to know the things which would be of ultimate benifit to all the jIvAtmAs , acts that needs to be followed by jIvAtmAs so that it will please bhagavAn , _about the incarnation of bhagavAn as son of Devaki_, leelAs performed by bhagavAn in various incarnations, glories of nAma sankeertanam, glories of parama bhAgavathOthamAs whose mere katAkshA will sanctify a person . 

The sages being ardent devotees of KrishNAvatAram , which got winded up quite recently , they eagerly asked Sage sUtar to especially describe that avatAram in detail in which bhagavAn as KrishNA alongwith BalarAmA did various super human acts. They also wanted to know the person unto whom dharmA has taken shelter off after the departure of KrishNA to Sri VaikuNTham . 

So , among all the vibhava avatArams , their __focus__ is on KrishNAvatAram , though they wanted to know about all the avatArams of bhagavAn Sriman nArAyaNA . 

Sage sUtar after briefly explaining about nArAyaNA's divyAtma svaroopam , He being antaryAmi of chit & achit , He being the sarIrI of chit & achit (ie. Chit & achit are His sarIrA) & allied tattvAs , starts enlisting various avatArams of Sriman nArAyaNA viz. Yoga nidrA form , BrahmA , 4 kumArAs, 
 Naradar , Nara NArAyaNA , KapilA , DattAtreyA , ya~jnA (son of son of sage ruchi & his wife Ahuti ) , King rushabA , King pruthu , matsyavatAram , koormAvatAram , Dhanvantari , Mohini , NrusimhA , vAmanA , parasurAmA , VyAsA , rAmA , BalarAmA , KrishNA , BuddhA & Kalki . 

Then Suta pourAnikar continued that the number of  incarnations of Sriman nArAyaNA (Hari) are innumerable like thousands of rivulets flowing from a river & goes on to say that RishIs & devAs (demigods), Manus & prajApatis are all amsAs of Lord Hari (1.3.26-27) . 

 Now the stage is set for the verse 1.3.28 in our discussion. Note that there were innumerable amsAvatArAs that has been enlisted in comparison with the svayam avatArAs. 

If the word "ete" is interpreted to refer to the amsAvatArams of the verse 1.3.27, then, it makes proper sense. 

 Even if the word "ete" be interpreted to apply to all the incarnations enlisted sofar, then by "chatri nyAyam" we can understand the actual implication of the word "ete" (ie. it refers only to the amsAvatArAs listed so far). 

 Now, a good representative from the list of poorna avatArams has to be chosen in order to differentiate from the amsAvatArams. 
 The question is to why was "KrishNA" selected here and said as "krishNAstu bhagavAN svayam" and not "rAmA is bhagavAn svayam" 
 OR "nrusimha is bhagavAn svayam", etc, though krishNA, rAmA, nrusimha are all the same nArAyaNA (poorna avatArams ; svayam bhagavAn; not amsAvatArAs) ?? 

 SUtar chose "KrishNA" because all the sages were very much eager to know a lot about KrishNA ie. the focus of their questions was with that avatAram. Also, KrishNA is well known for the shadguna paripoornam. Also, the sages being KrishNA's ardent devotees (ie. who wishes to relish the pastimes KrishNA ; pretty obvious from their questions to sUtar), should be doubly assured that their darling KrishNA is neverthless "svayam bhagavAn" Sriman nArAyaNA and is not a amsAvatArA (namba krishnan svayam bhagavAn; manu, rishi, pruthu ...avAlalAm pOla amsAvatAram illai ). So, Suta pourAnikar chose to use "KrishnA" in the verse 1.3.28 instead of other svayam avatArams like rAmA and nrusimha. 

Now, let us consider Shri Vivek Anand Ganesan's questions:

>Hare krishna-s interpret the gita as though bhagavan is speaking in first person, while traditions that I am familiar with have always taught me >that bhagavan does not >speak as krishna per se, but as God ( vishnu ).How do shri vaishnavas interpret this?

Scholars have always refered to Krishna as Parthasarathy and more so during the Giitopadesham as GiitA-charya. Vishnu, in his poorna-avatara of Krishna, in full shadguna paripoornam gives the supreme essence of the vedas to Arjuna(partha). Krishna is here nonetheless "svayam bhagavan". Sriman Naarayana (Vishnu) is not an amshA avatara.

>Hare krishna-s also maintain that somehow krishna is even higher than vishnu ( which is absurd considering krishna is an avatar of vishnu ). >So, in what sense, are >they vaishnavas? Perhaps, you can touch on this point as well.

This is already explained above. Krishna is considered as a pari-poorna avataram of Naarayana, but not Naarayana himself. Sriman Naarayana is definetly higher than Krishna in the purest sense of the term.

Hope this post helps devotees in understanding the difference between Sri Vaishnava School and that of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school. I do realise that all the above views are from a visisthadvaita point of view and I do not intend to start a polemical thread on the same. Thanks a lot for your time. If you wish to get in touch with the scholar I was refering to, please feel free to send me an email.


Adiyen Ramanuja Dasan,

Malolan Cadambi

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