Friday, July 27, 2007

Gaudiya Vaishnavism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gaudiya Vaishnavism is a Vaishnava spiritual movement founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in India in the 16th century.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism was preceded by the Advaita Vedanta spiritual movement in the 8th century, which espoused Turiya and the Fourth Dimension of consciousness (the first three being waking consciousness, dreaming, and deep sleep, and the fourth, Turiya, underlying and transcending all three – Awakened). Gaudiya Vaishnavism is interested in Turiya-titah gopala. This is the Fifth Dimension, in which one comes face to face with Gopala Krishna. From God consciousness (the nonduality of Advaita Vedanta) to Krishna consciousness (differentiated nonduality).
Gaudiya Vaishnavism concludes that Love is greater than ourselves, and it is the greatest aspect of God, one that he himself is motivated by. For them, the nondual consciousness of Vedanta philosophy is realized when we know that we do not belong to ourselves, what to speak of anything belonging to us.
Turiya-titah is the experience of the ultimate reality, known as the Fifth Dimension:
If there is any time at which we can accurately say that something belongs to us, it is when, having given ourselves in love to God, we can say that 'God is ours'. This is the Krishna conception of Godhead, one in which God appears not as God, nor finite souls as finite souls. Both interrelate intimately as Lover and Beloved, Krishna and his Gopis, beyond any sense of each others' ontological reality, yet beyond the material illusion as well. This dimension of Love of Godhead is thus justifiably termed by the Gaudiya Vaisnavas as the Fifth Dimension, turiya-titah, the dimension of the soul's Soul. 
Entering the fifth dimension, Swami B.V. Tripurari

The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition consists of many different branches and missions, with their respective theological and practical nuances. It is only loosely organized, and has maintained its plural nature, having no central authority to preside over its matters. 

Philosophical concepts

Living beings and the ultimate aim 

According to Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy, consciousness is a symptom of the soul.[2] All living beings (jivas) are distinct from their current body – the nature of the soul being eternal, immutable, and indestructible without any particular beginning or end.[3] Souls which are captivated by the illusory nature of the world (Maya) are repeatedly reborn among the various species of life. This is consistent with the concept of samsara found throughout Hindu belief.
Release from the process of samsara (known as moksha) is believed to be achievable through a variety of yoga processes. However, within Gaudiya Vaishnavism it is bhakti in its purest state (prema, or "pure love of God") which is given as the ultimate aim, rather than just liberation from the cycle of rebirth.[4]

Supreme Person (God)

Gaudiya Vaishnavas believe that God, the personal Absolute, has many forms and names, but that the name "Krishna" is the fullest description because it means "He who is all-attractive",[5] covering all of God's aspects, such as being all-powerful, supremely merciful and all-loving. God is worshiped as the all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful and all-attractive Supreme Person. Names of God from other religious traditions are also accepted as bona fide titles of the same Supreme Person.[6]
One of the defining aspects of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is that Krishna is worshiped specifically as the source of all Avataric incarnations of God. This is based on quotations from the Bhagavata Purana, such as "krsnās tu bhagavan svayam", literally "Krishna is God Himself".

Simultaneous oneness and difference

A particularly distinct part of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy espoused by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the concept of Achintya Bheda Abheda, which translates to "inconceivable oneness and difference" in the context of the soul's relationship with Krishna,[11] and also Krishna's relationship with his other energies (i.e. the material world).[12]
In quality, the soul (jiva) is described as being identical to God, but in terms of quantity individual jivas are said to be infinitesimal in comparison to the unlimited Supreme Being. The exact nature of this relationship (being simultaneously one with and different from Krishna) is inconceivable to the human mind, but can be experienced through the process of Bhakti yoga.
This philosophy serves as a meeting of two opposing schools of Hindu philosophy, pure monism (God and the soul as one entity) and pure dualism (God and the soul as absolutely separate). In practice Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy has more in common with the dualistic schools, as Krishna is worshiped as a Supreme person. But this "dualism" is formulated as difference rather than separateness, within the concept of oneness – a dynamic monism rather than static.

Devotional activities

Bhakti Yoga 

The practical process of devotional life is described as bhakti or bhakti-yoga, and is based on the chanting or singing of Krishna's names.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu compares the process of bhakti-yoga to that of cleansing a dirty place of dust, wherein our consciousness is the object in need of purification.[20] This purification takes place largely through the chanting and singing of Krishna's names. Krishna and his names are understood to be nondifferent, and the purification takes place by the association with the sound-vibration of his names. Specifically the Hare Krishna mantra is chanted and sung by practitioners on a daily basis, sometimes for many hours each day.

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