Beyond God

We Gaudiya Vaishnavas accept Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as Krishna Himself on the authority of the Vedic scriptures and the testimony of His superbly qualified associates. Krishna descended as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for a variety of purposes, a chief one being to introduce the spiritual practice for this age as recommended in the Vedic scriptures, namely the congregational chanting of God’s holy names.

While chanting constitutes the core of Lord Chaitanya’s teachings, He also gave elaborate instructions on theology to some of His disciples, including the brothers Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami, who wrote many books based what Lord Chaitanya taught. They also deputed their nephew Jiva Goswami to firmly establish the philosophical underpinnings of Lord Chaitanya’s movement. He dedicated his life to that task by writing many books and scriptural commentaries, his chief work being the shat-sandarbha, or “Six Treatises.”

This work is also known as the Bhagavata-sandarbha because it presents the philosophy and theology of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In Tattva-sandarbha, the first of the six Sandarbhas, Sri Jiva presents a series of arguments for why the Bhagavatam is the ultimate book of Vedic revelation and is thus the authority on which he will make his points throughout the Bhagavata-sandarbha.

Srila Prabhupada often extolled the books of Jiva Goswami and his uncles, declaring them unequaled in religious history. No other works have revealed as much about God, whether in depth, breadth, clarity, or nuance.

The second of the six Sandarbhas is the Bhagavat-sandarbha. Bhagavat here refers to Bhagavan. In this book Jiva Goswami cites the Bhagavatam and other authoritative scriptures to define “Bhagavan” as the original person, the source of unlimited energies and expansions. In his third book, Paramatma-sandarbha, he discusses Bhagavan’s energies (the living entities and the material world) and expansions, specifically the three Vishnus involved in the material creation: Karanodakashayi, Garbhodakashayi, and Kshirodakashayi.

The highest conception of God in what are considered the world’s three great monotheistic traditions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – is of God as the creator. They don’t go beyond that to an understanding of Bhagavan, “the Supreme Personality of Godhead” in our terminology. And more specifically, they don’t know that Krishna is Bhagavan. Sri Jiva’s fourth book, Krishna-sandarbha, presents the evidence in support of Krishna’s ultimacy. The fifth and sixth books (Bhakti- and Priti-sandarbha) are, respectively, about devotional service to Krishna and pure love for Him.

Using material logic, people sometimes challenge, “Well, who created God?”

Jiva Goswami could reply, “Bhagavan Sri Krishna did.”

Of course, the creator Vishnus are eternal expansions of Krishna, so they are God as well. But the point is that what Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught is a vastly expanded, up-close-and-personal picture of God.

Krishna theology is still mostly unknown today, by the public and even among theologians. Scholars may gain academic expertise related to Krishna, but unless they are seekers as well as scholars, their detached academic perspective tends to impede the spiritual benefit they might otherwise gain by learning about Krishna.

Still, Srila Prabhupada was always pleased to hear scholarly appreciation of his books, which strictly adhere to the teachings of Sri Jiva and the other Goswamis. Professors gain spiritual merit by giving their students access to Prabhupada’s enlightening books, which may inspire students to inquire further about Krishna.

Prabhupada encouraged his disciples to introduce as many people as possible to Krishna through his books. He saw that people were abandoning religion, and he was confident that if they got acquainted with Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead – His qualities, pastimes, associates, and so on – their natural spiritual inclinations would be awakened.

 

– Nagaraja Dasa