Gopiparanadhana Dasa was both a scholar of Sanskrit and a practitioner of devotional service to Lord Krsna. Under the guidance of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, he developed an expertise in San-skrit and served for many years as an editor for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. When Srila Prabhupada passed away, Gopiparafiadhana served on the three-man team that completed Prabhupada's edition of S-rimad-Bhagavatam. In 1998 he and his family moved to Govardhana, the place of Sri Krsna's pastimes located in northern India, and an important place of pilgrimage for the followers of the VaiFpva tradition. There he spent the last twelve years of his life, translating and training a new generation of devotional scholars at the S'rimad-bhagavata Vidydpitham, a school he established for this purpose. Among his most significant literary contributions are the translations of the Tiatva-sandarbha, Brhad-blytigvattimta, and Krsna-Ma-stava.
Medieval India saw a dynamic and far-reaching efflorescence of popular devotion to Lord Krsna, sometimes called "the bhakti renaissance:' This movement was largely propagated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534 AD), whom the faithful accept as Lord Krsna Himself, manifested in the form of a devotee who taught the chanting of His own names. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu directly inspired in His followers a tremendous out-pouring of works in Sanskrit on philosophy and theology, as well as devo-tional songs, poetry, drama, and hagiography. The Laghu-Bhagavatamrta is one such theological work, by 8rila Rupa Gosvami, a chief disciple of Lord Caitanya and one of the most important Gaucliya Vaisnava acaryas.
There is much in the present day that may be compared to that medieval Indian renaissance of Vaisnava bhakti, and recent decades have also wit-nessed a similar explosion of devotion to Krsna - though it is now world-wide. This was effected mainly by the foremost modern representative of the same Gaucliya tradition, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (isiccoN), popularly known as the Hare Krsna movement.
When Srila Rupa Gosvami authored the Laghu-Bhagavatamrta in the sixteenth century, there was a great need to prove that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Most Vaisnavas accepted Lord Visnu as the original form of the Supreme Lord, considering Kona merely one of His avataras - albeit the most beloved of the Lord's many forms. Much has changed since Rupa Gosvami wrote this book, but the need to demonstrate how Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead remains urgent to-day, when so few believe in any God at all - much less in a God who is a dark-complexioned flute-playing cowherd boy named Krsna. Srila Rupa Gosvami herein provides a compelling scriptural exegesis of that asser-tion. In a modern world permeated by varieties of atheism, voidism, and impersonalism, this book thus has great relevance for the spiritual lives of all sincere seekers, especially aspiring devotees of Krsna.
The essential teachings of the Vedas are found in the Upanisads, whose philosophical content Vyasadeva codified as the Vedanta-sutras. While many Vaispavas therefore focus their theological scholarship on these sutras, others consider grimad-Bhagavatam to be Vyasadeva's own com-mentary on the Vedanta-sutras, and thus the Bhagavatam has long been the paramount scripture for Vaisnavas, especially in North India. Its essential teaching, as understood by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is summarized in this traditional verse:
aradhyo bhagavan vrajeta-tanayas tad-dhama vrndavanam
ramya kacid upasana vraja-vadhu-vargena ya kalpita
srimad-bhagavatath pramanam amalam prema pum artho mahan
sri-caitanya-mahaprabhor matam idarh tatradaro nah parah
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead to be worshiped is Krsna, the son of Vraja's king; His eternal abode is Vrndavana; the mode of worship most pleasing to Him is that practiced by the women of Vraja; rimad-Bhagavatam is the pristine scriptural evidence; and pure love of God is the highest objective of mankind. This is the doctrine of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, which we hold in utmost regard:''
The Brhad-bhagavatamrta of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Ittipa Gosvami's elder brother and another chief disciple of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, high-lights the pure devotees mentioned in grimad-Bhagavatam and the various forms of the Lord they worship, as well as their respective abodes, thus ex-panding the Bhagavatam's ocean of nectar.2 Srila Rupa Gosvami composed Laghu-Bhagavatamrta as a sequel to Brhad-bhagavatamrta, highlighting the Lord Himself.
Rupa Gosvami is one of six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, one of the six ascetic devotional scholars entrusted with intellectually systematizing the popular revival of krsna-bhakti by the sixteenth-century charismatic Sri Caitanya. Considered an incarnation of Kona by His followers, Sri Caitanya triggered a wave of Kona devotionality across parts of India featuring medi-tations on Kona's early pastimes in the grimad-Bhagavatam's Tenth Canto and its derived literature. Although Sri Caitanya personally recorded only eight verses in writing, He inculcated to some of His followers, most especially Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, an elaborate theology of krsna-bhakti featuring the various types of moods and relationships with Kona that could be cultivated through devotional practices. Thus a school was formed around Sri Caitanya's life and teachings that came to be known as the Caitanya Vaisnava tradition, also known as the GamIlya Vaisnava tradition.
The Six Gosvamis, especially Rupa and his elder brother Sanatana, were entrusted with recording the teachings of Sri Caitanya and, along with their nephew Jiva Gosvami, became the primary theologians and most prolific authors of the tradition. They produced a textual corpus of literary and philosophical works dedicated to Kona and, in effect, created the entire primary canon that lies at the core of the Gaucliya Vaisnava scholastic tradition. Rupa is perhaps best known for his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, a treatise on the moods (bhavas) and devotional experiences (rasas) attainable at the highest stages of krsna-bhakti, as well as for its sequel, the Ujjvala-nilamani, on the highest bhava, madhurya. He also wrote a small handbook on bhakti practice, the Upaddamrta. His brother Sanatana produced a large tome called the Brhad-bhagavatamrta - a book that moved Rupa to write this shorter sequel, the Laghu-bhagavatamrta.
As we will see from this text, the task of the theologian - and this is the raison d'être of theology in any tradition - is not just to record a new set of religious revelations, but to situate these in the intellectual context and scholarly milieu of the day and age. This entails engaging the estab-lished epistemologies and scholarly methods and protocols of the time. In other words, for an emerging tradition to be taken seriously by outsiders, it needs to establish its credentials. For the Vedanta tradition, within which the Gaudiyas locate themselves, this entails hermeneutics: interpreting the established body of scripture recognized as authoritative by the greater Vedanta tradition in such a way as to accommodate the new revelations. Put differently, the Gaudiya tradition lays claim to previously unrevealed truths imparted by Sri Caitanya to the Gosvamis, especially Rupa and Sanatana. Since Sri Caitanya is deemed an incarnation of Krsna by His followers, His teachings are considered supremely authoritative in their own right. But Sri Caitanya and His followers were not simply committed to promoting and propagating a new revelation on its own merits, but to proving that this revelation is not only fully supported by the enormous existing classical Sanskrit textual tradition - Veda, Itihasa, Purana, and sutra - but is actually its culmination. The Gosvamis were entrusted with demonstrating this.
This is no easy feat - the highly elaborate network of devotional relationships and moods that can be exchanged and cultivated between various categories of devotees and Krsna as taught by Sri Caitanya is nowhere explicitly set out even in the tradition's primary text, the srimad-Bhagavatam Purana. Nor does the text clearly schematize the complex web of relation-ships between the multiplicity of divine manifestations and avataras of Krsna Himself, nor present a comprehensively systematic hierarchical map of the various abodes and divine realms they inhabit. Indeed, even the di-vine Brahman realm of Goloka - the ultimate destination of the entire tradition, where devotees strive to gain residence so as to engage in eternal rasa with Krsna - receives only a cursory mention in the Bhagavata, the scripture par excellence of the tradition. And what then to speak of locating this entire vast and highly intricate spiritual universe in the larger textual corpus of the s'ruti and smrti, which a Vedantist would need to do in order to be taken seriously outside the community of believers?
Taking on such a project requires remarkable exegetical skill and erudition. The new revelations must be presented as being implicit and concealed in the Bhagavata - just as Krsna himself is concealed in the gruti corpus, specifically, the Vedas and Upanisads.
This edition of Srila Rupa Gosvami's Laghu-bhagavatamrta is divided into two sections, as is the original text: Krsnamrta, dealing with Krsna and His expansions, and Bhaktamrta, dealing with His most prominent devo-tees. The translator, Gopiparanadhana Dasa, comments at text 1.2.7 on the general style used in this work:
"Srila Riipa Gosvami presents the Laghu-bhagavatamrta in the typ-ically concise style of philosophical thstras: short definitions and statements of fact with the support of quotations from authoritative scriptures, which are then often followed by the author's own karikas, or explanatory verses:'
The Krsnamrta section consists of five chapters. After offering obeisances and defining the methodology he used for his work,' Srila Rupa Gosvami states that his purpose is to demonstrate that Krsna is the most worshipable Supreme Personality of Godhead (Liao). To do so, he describes a hierarchy of the Lord's diverse forms and distinguishes the original (Sri Krsna) from His parts or plenary expansions, largely on the basis of the qualities and potencies each form displays.' He illustrates clearly why srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.26 depicts the Lord's incarnations as limitless. The commentary informs us that, unlike srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3), the Laghu-bhagavatamrta (1.3.2) lists these avataras in the order of Their appearance. The text also describes three paravastha forms of the Lord - Nrsithha, Rama, and Krsna - who display increasing degrees of supreme opulence, culminating in the complete manifestation of opulence in Krsna, the Supreme Personality of God-head. Such statements corroborate those of another text central to Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, Sri Brahma-sathhitri, which declares that Sri Krsna is the ultimate form, the origin of all, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Notably, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu brought this Brahma-sarithita back to Bengal from South India, indicating that these conclusions were to be found then even in the region of Kanyakumari, far from the birthplace of Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
The manner in which the Laghu-bhagavatamrta classifies this tremendous variety of divine forms may help readers deepen their appreciation for the theological context of another key Gaudiya Vaisnava assertion: that Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the nonblackish form of Lord Krsna Him-self, descending in this Kali-yuga (as per the traditional interpretation of grimad-Bhrigavatam 11.5.32):3
yajanti hi su-medhasah
In this age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions.
Chapter five is nearly triple the length of all the other chapters combined. In it, Srila Rupa Gosvami explains his essential assertion (based on srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.28) that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He says that Krsna is the amsi (emanator) and that all other forms of God-head are His arhgas (emanations). He refutes the views of various thinkers who dispute the identity of Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, overturning scriptural misinterpretations that obscure or adulterate the conclusion of Bhagavatam 1.3.28. Quoting diverse scriptures,5 Srila Riipa Gosvami logically shows how Kona is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead because He fully exhibits all perfections. Thus Rupa Gosvami obliges even worshipers of other forms of Lord Visnu to at least seriously consider the ramifications of this assertion - or ignore the scriptural authority he cites. Likewise, his line of argument refutes what might other-wise appear to be credible assertions within the misinterpretations given by learned impersonalises.
Citing the Visnu Purana, Srila Rupa Gosvami shows how the uniquely attractive love displayed only by Lord Kona distinguishes Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead - especially in the momentous epiphany by which He delivered the demon SiSupala. Therein (1.5.4o-84) he explains how Lord Krsna's liberating the demons He kills proves that He is the original Personality of Godhead. Jaya and Vijaya weren't liberated when, in the forms of HiranyakaSipu and Hiranyaksa, they were killed by Nrsimha and Varaha, respectively, nor when they were killed by Rama in their forms as Ravana and Kumbhakarna, but only when they were finally killed by Krsna in their forms as 8gupala and Dantavakra. It is also noteworthy that for SiSupala this was effected largely by his chanting of Krsna's holy names (1.5.46-49), even in the mood of enmity toward Krsna. This example suggests Krsna's supremacy in two ways that Srila Rupa Gosvami explains elsewhere: First, Lord Krsna alone allows His devotees to serve Him in all twelve rasas (devotional feelings), thereby meriting the designation akhila-rasa- mrta-mCirti, "the reservoir of all devotional mellows." Secondly, the unique sweetness of Lord Krsna's love and beauty inspire such intense at-traction for Him that pure devotees curse the creator for making eyelids that blink, thus momentarily obscuring sight of Him.
Srila Riipa Gosvami also explains the great mystery of Krsna's appear-ance. He reveals the dual nature of Krsna's pastimes (manifest and un-manifest), and explains how they are all eternal, even though they seem to begin and end. Inconceivable to mundane minds, all these pastimes are conducted by His pastime potency, who impels Krsna's devotees to act ac-cording to His will. Some of these devotees have mundane expansions that merge with themselves when they incarnate as earthly relatives during the Lord's manifest pastimes. Of course, Krsna also reciprocates with the de-sires of His devotees, and this reciprocation is the definitive principle in all His spiritual relationships. Thus, unlike ordinary living entities, whose birth and subsequent relationships are impelled by needs, events, causes, and effects subject to physical laws such as karma, it is by His own sweet will that Krsna takes birth from both YaSoda and Devaki, who eternally personify the perfection of maternal sentiment Mainly to protect the intrinsic confidentiality of such intimate relationships, great authorities only hint at these events in various scriptures. Krsna similarly departs from and returns to Vraja, which itself can expand or contract to accommodate any pastimes Lord Krsna desires; time and space are rendered elastic by the Lord's inconceivable potency. The geography of Vraja, being nondifferent from the Lord, is limitlessly malleable, much as Krsna is inconceivably able to perform any function using any of His transcendental senses. All these wonders are in-visible to those lacking pure devotion; their revelation depends entirely on Krsna's unfettered desire. As Srila Rupa Gosvami writes (1.5.515):
Thus nothing is impossible for the Supreme Lord, His dear devotees, His abode, and His own course of time. They all possess inconceivable power.
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