Saturday, July 14, 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 consciousnessdreaming, and dreamless sleep, and the fourth, Turiya, underlying and transcending all three – Awake). 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 philosophical and practical nuances. It is not organized, and has maintained its plural nature, having no central authority to preside over its matters. 

Philosophical concepts

Living beings

According to Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy (and spirituality in general), consciousness is a symptom of the soul. All living beings (souls) are distinct from their current body. Souls which are captivated by the illusory nature of the world (Maya) are repeatedly reborn among the various species of life in accordance to level of consciousness, the laws of karmamentality, and individual desire. 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 spiritual practices. However, within Gaudiya Vaishnavism it is bhakti in its purest state (or "pure love of God") which is given as the ultimate aim, rather than mere liberation from the cycle of rebirth: a post-liberated existence in love with God, the Personal Absolute.

Supreme Person (God)

One of the defining aspects of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is that Krishna is worshiped specifically as the source of all Avataric incarnations of God, the Personal Absolute. This is based on quotations from the Bhagavata Purana, such as "krsnāstu bhagavan svayam", literally "Krishna is God Himself".

Inconceivable oneness and difference

A particularly distinct part of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy espoused by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the concept of Achintya Bheda Abheda, which translates to "inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference" in the context of the soul's relationship with Krishna, and also Krishna's relationship with his other energies (i.e. the material world).
In quality, the soul is described as being identical to God, but in terms of quantity individual souls 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 separate). In practice Gaudiya Vaishnavism has more in common with the dualistic schools, but this "dualism" is experienced as difference rather than separation: a dynamic monism rather than static.

Devotional activities

Bhakti Yoga

The practical process of devotional life is described as bhakti or bhakti-yoga
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu compares the process of bhakti-yoga to that of cleansing a mirror from dust, wherein our consciousness is the object in need of purification. This purification takes place largely through the chanting and singing of Krishna's names, which are understood as non-different from Him – the Absolute and the names of the Absolute are one, and associating with the transcendental sound vibration of these names transforms the practicioner's consciousness and attunes it to Him. 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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