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From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Wed Sep 01 1999 - 12:53:04 PDT
Dear Srinivasan, You wrote: > In the Gaudiya vaishnava sampradaya, they talk of a Goloka (or > Krsnaloka) as the supreme abode. I had never heard of that in > Srivaishnavism and presumed that Srivaishnavism did not > entertain such a notion. The Gaudiya Vaishnava theology is very different from the Vedanta of Ramanuja. The Gaudiyas, to which sampradAya the Hare Krishnas also belong, make distinctions between Krishna and Narayana, making the former somehow superior to the latter, posit a Radha as being higher than Lakshmi, believe that there was a "fall" from grace, etc. They also have a very complex eschatology that posits many levels of liberation, with different worlds, or "planets" as they like to call them. Most of these theological ideas have little basis in traditional scripture, often facially do not make sense (to me, at least), and are therefore not present in our sampradAya. The Gaudiyas have interpretations which back them up, but they are usually based on non-canonical texts which are not accepted by other traditions of Vedanta. (The Goloka theology is primarily based on the Narada Samhita, to my understanding). > Regarding this I have some doubts. I humbly request our members > to clarify these doubts. > > 1) Are vibhava lokas recognised in Srivaishnavism? There is no such thing as a "vibhava loka" in Sri Vaishnavism. The only terminology that is close is the notion of a "vibhava avatAra", which means a bodily descent taken by Emberumaan at one point in time, for the benefit of his devotees. Rama, Krishna, Narasimha, etc., are examples of vibhava avatAras. But this does not imply anything about a particular "planet" on which these forms reside. The positing of various "lokas" stems from thinking of Vaikuntha primarily as a physical place. I suggest that Vaikuntha should be thought of more as a *state* of consciousness where one has attained God, rather than a particular physical place. Beyond all materiality, Vaikuntha or parama-padam represents the state of moksha, where the jIva stands unfettered by karma due to the grace of God. In this state, how and why should God be limited to one particular form? All forms simultaneously exist in this state, since consciousness itself is unlimited. Or, in other words, for the delight of the individual jIva, any form is present and brought to the attention of the jIva at any time. So, the anubhavam of Krishna in Brindavana would be included in the anubhavam of the jIva in parama-padam. Ramanuja beautifully explains the multiple notions implied by the term parama-padam. He writes in the Vedarthasangraha: In some texts, the term "parama-pada" is used to mean the highest state. In others, it means the true nature of the individual self, freed from contact with matter, and in still some other texts, it refers to the true nature of Bhagavan. ... Now, all these three -- the highest state, the pure state of the self, and God -- are the ultimate goals to be attained. Hence they are described as parama-pada. "How can all three be the ultimate goal?", one may ask. The answer is this. The Lord is primarily the supreme goal to be attained , so therefore he is "parama-pada". The other two are included as constituent factors in the attainment of Bhagavan, so they are also designated "parama-pada". [*] In his entire discussion, Ramanuja never discusses multiple levels of liberation (it is anathema to him), nor does he discuss multiple worlds. After all, only one state (paramam-padam) is mentioned in the Vedas, and that state constitues God-attainment -- why posit anything else? Above all, why posit something so complex? In general, my experience has been that the theology of Ramanuja tends to be very straightforward. Almost always, what Ramanuja writes makes sense immediately, without being contrived, and without violating some basic common sense. I say this without being sycophantic or sentimental, and I am sure that after a reading of his Gitabhashya or Vedarthasangraha nearly anyone would immediately agree, even if in the end they disagree with his conclusions. So, my general rule of thumb is this. If something is unreasonably complex, unnecessarily contrived, or just plain doesn't sit right in my mind, chances are that it is in some way opposed to Ramanuja's exposition of Vedanta. emberumaanaar tiruvaDigaLE SaraNam, Mani P.S. I don't wish to get into a public argument with Hare Krishna devotees on this subject. I am merely trying to present the view of Ramanuja on this subject. [*] Original text: kvacit parasthAnam ca paramapada-Sabdena pratipAdyate; kvacit prakRti-viyukta-AtmasvarUpam; kvacit bhagavat-svarUpam. ... trINyapy etAni paramaprAptyatvena paramapada-Sabdena pratipAdyate. katham trayANAm parama-prApyatvam iti cet, bhagavat-svarUpam paramaprApyatvAd eva paramam padam; itaryor api bhagavat- prAptigarbhatvAd eva parama-padatvam.