Chakra Discussions

Multiple Vaisnava commentaries deepen understanding of Bhagavad-gita

by Bhakta Ivar

Posted October 26, 2003

Editor's Note:

Recently, Danavir Goswami wrote an article, "Battlefield Fancy", posted on www.dipika.org, which reviewed a book written by Tripurari Swami. That reviwew was not submitted to Chakra, and would not have been published in any case, as it did not meet our editorial guidelines. The reviewer did not mention the name of the book or its author, and Umapati Swami, the editor of the Dipika site, writes, "I did not know the book was written by Tripurari Maharaja."

Umapati Maharaja contends that Danavir Maharaja properly concealed the name of the author from him, and from his readers, "because he was only interested in defeating a philosophical point of view that he fears may be creeping into ISKCON." Umapati Maharaja has offered devotees an opportunity to rebut Danavir Maharaja's analysis, though carefully delineating the terms of acceptable replies. Here is one such response from a Dutch devotee, also sent to Chakra:


Dear Umapati Maharaja,

Pranams. You wrote:

Here is what I will print: statements showing that the book does not encourage such mixing of rasas or proof that Srila Prabhupada did indeed allow it. Danavir Maharaja made two points: that the book encourages this mixing and that Srila Prabhupada was opposed to it. If you cannot refute either of these points, you have no valid objection.

I'm just a young bhakta, not interested in a debate. But when in 1997 I was working on a new Dutch translation of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I started collecting different translations from different authors, among whom were Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and others, such as the medieval Sridhara Swami and also Srila Prabhupada's godbrother Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja. In this period I learnt that it's possible to translate Bhagavad-gita in different ways, yet all within the boundaries of the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception.

Being a collector of Vaisnava Bhagavad-gita translations, I naturally also obtained a copy of Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy, This book is not intended to replace Bhagavad-gita As It Is, just like the Gitamrta Reading by Purnacandra dasa was not intended as such. That reading, which is still available in many ISKCON shops, contains references to Krishna's feelings and relationship with the gopis.

Nor is Swami Tripurari's book trying to prove that Bhagavad-gita is only about Vraja-lila and not about yoga or the war of Kuruksetra. It simply invites us to consider the possible feelings behind the words, as indicated by those Acaryas of the past who had learnt to see Krishna's intimate love everywhere.

The term "mixing of rasas", if applied to the words of acaryas like Bhaktivinoda and Visvanatha Thakura, is of course offensive. Because the translation and commentary of Tripurari Maharaja's book are directly based on the insights of such highly regarded Gaudiya preachers, the term "mixing of rasas" should also not be used. In other words: the book does not engage in "the mixing of rasas." Whoever wants to conclude otherwise is unfortunately "overstepping" the previous Acaryas and therefore making a grave offence.

The second statement, namely that Srila Prabhupada was not opposed to mixing of rasas is meaningless. Yes, Srila Prabhupada was against mixing of rasas, but he was in favour of those translations and commentaries based on the insights of previous Acaryas. Since Bhagavad-gita, Its Feeling and Philosophy doesn't contain mixing of rasas, this issue need not be addressed further.

Why should we oppose the idea that Mother Sarasvati can inspire poets to express multiple meanings through a particular verse or poem? Why suggest that lord Sri Krishna cannot do so? Indeed, if Lord Sri Krishna found it necessary to again descend personally as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in order to propagate sankirtana in the mood of the gopis of Vrindavan (Siksastaka verses 7 & 8, or most of Caitanya-caritamrta madhya and antya lila), why wouldn't He have (indirectly) expressed this confidential abhideya and prayojana in Bhagavad-gita, the topmost yoga-sastra?

Your servant,
Bhakta Ivar